Vitalik Buterin Wants To “Make Ethereum Cypherpunk Again”

BY Lorepunk

December 29, 2023

On Dec. 28, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin wrote a blog post, “Make Ethereum Cypherpunk Again,” in which he reflected on the early ideals of the blockchain movement, their connection with the open source software movement, and where the Ethereum Virtual Machine is headed. “We are not here to just create isolated tools and games, but rather [to] build holistically toward a more free and open society and economy, where the different parts—technological, social and economic—fit into each other,” he wrote.

“Today, even if the underlying code of an application is open and free, your data gets routed through a centralized server run by a corporation…And so if we want to extend the spirit of open source software to the world of today, we need programs to have access to a shared hard drive to store things that multiple people need to modify and access,” Buterin wrote.

Vitalik Buterin.
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Cypherpunk” is a movement that began in the late 1980s, advocating the use of technology to promote privacy and freedom for all. According to Buterin, he and his co-founder Gavin Wood thought of Ethereum as more than “Bitcoin plus smart contracts” but as part of a set of cypherpunk tools that could create a global, distributed, permissionless open Internet stack.

To them, this was a natural extension of the ethos of open-source software. While OSS was conceived in a far less connected world, making changes on a single computer, blockchain technology makes the open source ethos practical on today’s Internet.

He sees the EVM, together with technologies like decentralized file storage (IPFS), as a public, shared hard drive—but is frustrated by the predominance of “degen gamblers” in the Ethereum space. To him, that’s because of the high fees on the network.

“When the cost of writing to the chain is $0.001, or even $0.1, you could imagine people making all kinds of applications that use blockchains in various ways, including non-financial ways. But when transaction fees go to over $100, as they have during the peak of the bull markets, there is exactly one audience that remains willing to play.”

Vitalik Buterin

Buterin remains hopeful that Ethereum can go back to this initial vision—particularly as rollups, post-Tornado Cash privacy solutions, and zero-knowledge proofs come into wide use. “The growing awareness that unchecked centralization and over-financialization cannot be what “crypto is about,” and the key technologies mentioned above that are finally coming to fruition together present us with an opportunity to take things in a different direction. Namely, to make at least a part of the Ethereum ecosystem actually be the permissionless, decentralized, censorship-resistant, open source ecosystem that we originally came to build,” he wrote.

Buterin hopes that projects coming into Ethereum focus on core values such as permissionlessness, open access to participation, auditability, credible neutrality, and censorship resistance—even when so many come in for the money. “Resisting these pressures is hard, but if we do not do so, then we risk losing the unique value of the crypto ecosystem and recreating a clone of the existing web2 ecosystem with extra inefficiencies and extra steps,” he continued.

Web3 community members received the post warmly, but a few people noticed a passage that could be seen as a dig at Blur’s recently announced native-yield L2, Blast. “It is very possible to build things within the crypto ecosystem that do not follow these [decentralized] values. One can build a system that one calls a “layer 2”, but which is actually a highly centralized system secured by a multisig, with no plans to ever switch to something more secure,” Buterin wrote.

Dive Deep

Features & Guides