DENVER—This morning, on the opening day of ETHDenver, devs who needed a break from the “BUIDLathon” had several choices where to go: Bean bag chairs, chillout rooms with DJs, and bodywork stations. Or talks about Ethereum’s future.

A cheery Bob Summerwill made the case to the latter why Ethereum Classic (ETC) deserved to have a say in that.

Summerwill, executive director of the public charity Ethereum Classic Cooperative, began his talk by getting one thing straight: “The truth is there’s always been two different Ethereums.” One vision was of Bitcoin with smart contracts. The other was of a world computer. The DAO hack, in which user funds were moved thanks to a flaw in a smart-contract code, just brought those two visions to a head.


“I saw this firsthand. I was working at the [Ethereum] Foundation at the time,” Summerwill said. “You’d have people who had been working together for two years, saying, ‘You think we should intervene. What? You think we shouldn’t?’” 

The two concepts weren’t compatible on one chain: “If your goal was Bitcoin with smart contracts, then obviously you don’t intervene. If your goal was to build a world computer, well, it’s just a bug in the application platform—of course you’d fix it.”

Now, three and a half years after a hard fork split the network into two camps, Summerwill said ideology is no longer the only reason to keep trudging along with ETC, which has historically had fewer users, fewer developers, and (uncoincidentally) a smaller market cap than ETH. Instead, he said, the network has become useful.

Its years of lower activity may have been a benefit. Summerwill presented Ethereum Classic as a sort of demilitarized zone where the CryptoKitties craze and Ponzi games never bloated the network. Now, with money and development pouring in, users get the benefits of ETH without the baggage.

Indeed, Ethereum Classic has been on a tear. In September, it rolled out its first major protocol update since the split. The network quickly updated to Agharta this January, which brought it up to speed with Ethereum’s Constantinople fork. They’ve got multiple block explorers. And state channels are on their way to ETC within the next month, Summerwill said, the first of several layer-two scaling mechanisms coming to the network.


That all makes it attractive to the favorite blockchain use case of the moment: “You haven’t got the Infura addiction, and you have the hard money native token, so ETC is a fantastic platform for DeFi programmable money.”

Still, Summerwill’s session wasn’t a plea for people to jump ship from ETH. Instead, it’s about thinking ahead to intercompatibility in a future where “switching between ETC and ETH will be as simple as switching between ETH and Goerli or other testnets.”

After the talk, the devs went back to BUIDLing, perhaps with a stop for afternoon yoga. Summerwill gave nearly everyone he recognized a hug. This isn’t Bitcoin versus Bitcoin Cash, after all.

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