Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin gave investors cause for concern yesterday when he revealed that he is far less involved in the development of the project than expected, fueling fears he is on the verge of stepping away from it. In an interview with MIT Technology Review at the Devcon conference, Buterin stated that he was “out of the decision-making in a lot of ways” and the focus was currently on a collective approach. He described this as “something that I think is really really important for the ecosystem to thrive and become more decentralized.”
Buterin seems to have taken on board some of the criticism aimed at him, particularly a 2017 Medium article that labeled him a “benevolent dictator”. He seems to have accepted there may be some truth in this, feeling that his presence risks Ethereum not being seen as the truly decentralized project he wants it to be while he still remains attached. Reports emerged at the start of October that he was preparing for a break from the project, and his comments yesterday only amplify this theory.
Ethereum at a Crossroads
Ethereum is currently at a critical point in its development, with the transition from proof-of-work to proof-of stake proving to be very complicated, and the Constantinople upgrade being postponed after a testnet failure. Despite his heavy presence in the initial stages of these developments, Vitalik says he now has “a significantly smaller share of the work than I had two or three years ago” and that the Ethereum team are actively downsizing his influence.
While it may seem that Ethereum without Vitalik would be like cookies without milk, it might be in the project’s best interests to have him step back and allow a new identity to emerge. Ideally, this would be a fresh face that reflects the project itself and not just its infamous leader.