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Vitalik Buterin is a man who can’t win. The more code he writes and the more he contributes, the more his critics say he’s “in charge” of a “centralized Ethereum.” This week brought a fresh round of speculation about his role at the company he helped to create.
Some news sites have said Buterin is stepping back, with spectators going to so far as to suggest he’s stepping down. Buterin, ever the diplomat, blamed the whole thing on Bitcoin maximalists, and declared the rumors had “zero credibility.”
But these questions around his status, and Ethereum’s ability to survive without him aren’t anything new--a debate has been ongoing on Twitter (where else) since the summer of 2017. It's not difficult to see why the debate is so fierce--a piece of fake news in June 2018 saying that he'd died wiped $4 billion off the value of ether.
At Devcon however, the annual developers conference taking place in Prague this week, one person seemed to understand his plight. Joseph Lubin, founder of ConsenSys, an Ethereum production studio–which Decrypt Media is a part of, but editorially independent from–took to the stage in Prague to say what a smashing job he was doing.
When we asked Lubin for further comment, he said “the guy’s pretty awesome, he deserves a lot of respect.” Looking back to the creation of Ethereum, he said Buterin–and others–have been doing their best to empower the community.
“If we consider the responsibility the world has heaped on his shoulders and the shit the trolls and the idiots on the internet sling at him, it’s one of the most heroic stories I know,” says Lubin. Meanwhile, the Buterin will he/won’t he debate wages on--meaning there’s a thread that won’t end on Reddit about the whole thing you're welcome to lose an afternoon over.
According to Lubin, Buterin has been deliberately trying to stay out of the limelight for certain decisions because of the concern that “his words might be weighted too heavily.” Indeed, after the now notorious TechCrunch article, his comments caused a sharp dip in ether prices.
Vitalik tweeted that he has already made progress in detaching himself from the cryptocurrency he founded, pointing to several other developers who are taking on more of the code-writing load.
Many crypto founders have walked away from their projects: Satoshi Nakamoto, four of the five original founders of EOS, the founders of Augur, Jed McCaleb from Ripple, and the list will probably keep growing. But a hell of a lot haven't. To outsiders the argument seems to be ludicrous, for everyone with even a passing interest in Ethereum, it's a debate that strikes at the heart of their very existence.