Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, has responded to several bitcoin developers who claimed Ethereum was only designed as an independent blockchain network to pre-mine tokens for the financial benefits of its founders.
Several years ago, there was a conflict between Counterparty and bitcoin developers. Counterparty was using Bitcoin’s OP_RETURN function which enabled anyone to store any type of data in transactions. By using OP_RETURN Counterparty was able to operate as the first decentralized digital asset exchange using blockchain technology.
A few months after the Counterparty developers started using OP_RETURN, bitcoin developers decreased the size of OP_RETURN from 80 bytes to 40 bytes. The sudden decrease in the size of the OP_RETURN function stopped networks launched on top of bitcoin from operating properly. As a result, Counterparty had to move away from the OP_RETURN function and other blockchain projects which were initially planned to launch on the Bitcoin protocol.
Buterin emphasized that he did not attempt to launch Ethereum on the Bitcoin blockchain protocol because of the OP_RETURN function conflict between Counterparty developers and bitcoin developers. Instead, Buterin initially planned on designing Ethereum on top of Primecoin.
“The OP_RETURN drama preemptively pushed me toward building ethereum on Primecoin instead of Bitcoin. The primecoin plan was scrapped because we ended up getting more attention and resources than we expected, and so we could build our own base layer and add upgrades like ASIC-resistant PoW and state trees,” explained Buterin.
Greg Maxwell, a Bitcoin Core developer, wrote,
“can you show even a single piece of evidence supporting this? How would OP_RETURN have anything to do with ethereum, it does nothing by definition,” implying the Ethereum development team did not consider using bitcoin’s OP_RETURN function in the beginning.
In response, Buterin stated:
“You don’t remember the OP_RETURN drama? The point is that I took things like the reduction to 40 bytes as an act of war against Mastercoin-like meta-protocols using the bitcoin blockchain (which is what Ethereum would have been). Fortunately, Mastercoin ended up never being fully censored, but at the time it was not clear that this would be the outcome.”
With two statements, Buterin reaffirmed the necessity of an independent blockchain protocol and explained the importance of the Ethereum team operating an entirely new infrastructure to support decentralized applications. Structurally, bitcoin and Ethereum are significantly different. Today, the Ethereum network is settling over a million transactions per day, more than all blockchain networks in the market combined, including bitcoin.
If Ethereum was launched on top of bitcoin or any other blockchain network like Primecoin, it would never have had the flexibility to develop unique scaling solutions and tools to support decentralized applications that demand large blockchain capacity to process big amounts of data on a regular basis.