Vitalik Buterin is the co-founder of Ethereum and an important public figure in the cryptocurrency industry. Although Vitalik has distanced himself as the de-facto leader of Ethereum, he nonetheless has an important influence on Ethereum’s direction and continues to contribute to the ongoing development of the protocol.
We’ve ranked Vitalik at the top of our Exodus top 10 most influential people in crypto series, since his work on Ethereum and ongoing advocacy of blockchain technology continues to move the industry forward.
Although it overlooks the contributions of other co-founders like Charles Hoskinson and Gavin Wood, Vitalik is widely credited with inventing Ethereum. This image of him as the sole creator is reinforced by the role that Vitalik continues to play in the Ethereum community.
Even though Vitalik owns enough Ethereum to make him a billionaire, one of the more interesting reasons for his ongoing influence is that he embodies the slogan: in it for the tech.
Often “in it for the tech” is a phrase that’s used sarcastically on Reddit and other forums, where people joke about being in crypto for the technology when all they care about is making money. However, Vitalik is obviously more interested in the transformative capabilities of blockchain than in enlarging his pocketbook.
Giving it Away
In a move that some have likened to “paying tribute to the Don”, the SHIB and AKITA projects airdropped hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens to one of Vitalik’s known Ethereum addresses.
Actions speak louder than words, and rather than hold onto the coins or sell them, Vitalik donated the tokens to GitHub and the India Relief Covid Fund. At the time the coins were worth more than $1 billion, although due to an illiquid market* their actual value may have been in the hundreds of millions rather than billions.
Donating the tokens was an epic example of someone giving up a huge chunk of material wealth to put it to better use.
*An illiquid market means that there are not many buyers and sellers. Because there’s a lack of supply and demand, any significant buying/selling can drastically move the price. High market cap coins like Bitcoin are extremely liquid, while the 300th largest token by market cap is probably quite illiquid.
How Vitalik Describes Ethereum
Vitalik Buterin has given dozens of interviews, and these provide us with the opportunity to hear him describe Ethereum in his own words. According to Vitalik, in an interview given to the Harvard International Review, “The idea behind the world computer metaphor is that Ethereum is this common global platform; it's a platform where anyone can upload these pieces of code that we call smart contracts. Anyone can publish these smart contracts, anyone can send transactions to interact with them, and code can run on the blockchain.”
Although smart contracts are useful, interoperability is the primary advantage of a permissionless blockchain like Ethereum. Vitalik goes on to explain how an interconnected set of smart contracts, running on the same blockchain, can function as a “world computer.”
“The idea is that it feels very similar to just being one computer. It's a network that's made up of many thousands of computers, but because it creates this environment where all of these programs are talking to each other and can be so closely connected to each other, the experience feels like everyone is putting and building things on the same computer. That's what the idea of a world computer is about.”
As Ethereum expands, there’s a growing idea that the platform could become a new base layer for the internet of value. According to Vitalik the key feature that will allow this to happen is trust.
“The internet has touched everything. Quite a lot of people say that this [Ethereum] is the next generation of the internet and that it will touch quite a lot of things, too. - Why would you do anything with blockchain that you can also do with the internet? The main answer is trust. Ultimately, everything you can do with a blockchain you can already do with the internet if you can find people you trust. I see blockchains as expanding people’s ability to do things that already exist and opening the doors for new ways for people to economically interact with each other.”
The killer innovation of blockchain technology, Ethereum in particular, is that it allows two people to transact even if they don’t live in the same country. Smart contracts are immutable and everyone can see the rules they execute on. Just as important, blockchain transactions cannot be reverted. Once the crypto is in your wallet, it’s there for good. That’s different from PayPal or bank transactions, which can be rolled back at any time.
Ethereum Growth Statistics
No matter how you measure it, Ethereum is growing at a breakneck pace. There are all sorts of new developments taking place on Ethereum, the most recent of which is the booming NFT market. To put Ethereum’s growth into context, the blockchain has 170 million unique addresses, up from 116 million a year ago. Although the number changes frequently, there are roughly 1 million daily transactions happening on Ethereum.
Those transactions are supported by about 500,000 active daily addresses, up from about 350,000 active daily addresses a year ago.
In 2020 Ethereum transferred more than $1 trillion in value. Ethereum is alread moving significantly more value than PayPal, even though PayPal is 22 years old and one of the most popular financial platforms in the world. Ethereum is growing quickly too, and the jump from $1 trillion to $10 trillion in value transferred per year might not take as long as people expect.
In terms of the Ethereum network, the introduction of Ethereum Improvement Proposal-1559 means that a portion of all transaction fees are now getting burned. Ethereum has already burned 419,000 ETH, worth about $1.4 billion at the time of writing.
Within the next six months Ethereum will transition to Proof of Stake (POS), which will all but erase the blockchain’s carbon footprint. It will also bring more security to the network, since Ethereum won’t depend on mining rigs for security. All in all, a lot is happening on Ethereum and Vitalik continues to play an active role in development.
Vitalik’s Philosophy Towards Crypto
Vitalik has a unique set of beliefs about crypto, some of which are at odds with the rest of the community. When asked whether he expects cryptocurrency to replace fiat, Vitalik suggested that crypto would be more likely to act as an alternative rather than a replacement.
“I don't expect cryptocurrencies, or especially the kinds of relatively fixed supply cryptocurrencies that exist today, to really replace fiat currencies. I do expect them to exist as an alternative. I do expect them to provide important things that existing fiat currencies don't. But at the same time, the fiat currencies do provide things that cryptocurrencies don't, and price stability is one of those really important ones.”
Another one of Vitalik’s ideas that might run contrary to prevailing crypto wisdom, is that the US dollar isn’t going to collapse anytime soon. “I also disagree with some of the more radical cryptocurrency people in that I don't expect the US dollar to collapse within two decades. My viewpoint is that in the future both fiat and crypto are going to be needed.”
In terms of governments banning crypto, Vitalik has said that, “I don't think governments have the ability to ban crypto to the extent of just completely preventing blockchains from existing. But they definitely have the ability to really marginalize it."
How governments react to crypto is going to be very important in the coming years. It could be advantageous for everyone in the community to pay more attention to the political narrative, rather than just say crypto can’t be banned.
Concluding our Exodus Top 10 Most Influential People in Crypto Series
Even though he’s had an outsized influence on the world, Vitalik Buterin is still a young guy. With decades of productive work ahead of him, here’s what Vitalik thinks he might want to engage with after Ethereum is more fully developed.
“There are projects I would be interested in working on after or on top of Ethereum. There are interesting problems I would like to attack. For instance, there’s the phenomenon I consider to be modern information warfare. If you just look at what happened at the last round of elections, you have these very powerful actors engaging in these online propaganda wars.”
Vitalik goes on to say that online narratives shape our perceptions, and he believes that there could be better ways for people to have effective discussions that don’t break down into disorder. If Vitalik’s contributions to information warfare are half as good as what he's contributed to the cryptocurrency community, we’ll all be better off for it.
And with that, we come to the end of our Exodus top 10 most influential people in crypto series. If you’re just joining us now and haven’t had a chance to check out all of the articles, here’s a recap of everyone we’ve written about so far.
Top 10 Most Influential People in Crypto; the countdown:
10) Vinny Lingham
9) Kathleen Breitman
8) Gavin Wood
7) Elizabeth Stark
6) Andre Cronje
5) Michael Saylor
4) Brian Armstrong
3) Charles Hoskinson
1) Vitalik Buterin
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.