Vitalik Says Ethereum Must Achieve Mainstream Adoption Within Five Years

Buterin pointed to stablecoins and non-financial applications like social and identity as key opportunities for Ethereum to reach new users.

By: Samuel Haig Loading...

Vitalik Says Ethereum Must Achieve Mainstream Adoption Within Five Years

Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s co-founder and chief scientist, believes the next five years will be critical in determining whether the network can achieve mainstream adoption.

Speaking during an interview at the ETHTaipei conference on March 20, Buterin predicted that the next half-decade will prove whether Ethereum is ready for “real-world” adoption.

Buterin said stablecoins have emerged as the leading use case for crypto in recent years. Indeed, stable tokens facilitate frictionless payments, protection from price fluctuations and inflation for users residing in countries with volatile fiat currencies, and a popular on-and-off ramp to the broader web3 ecosystem.

Buterin asserted that low fees and high-quality user interfaces are critical to ensure that stablecoins continue to reach new audiences.

“Historically, Ethereum has not had those things, but, over the next five years, Ethereum will start to have those things,” Buterin said. “We’re already seeing Layer 2s… starting to get there... I expect Ethereum to be a very leading player in helping to make stablecoin accessible to people in a way that actually is open, actually is decentralized, and actually doesn’t require trusting fragile third-parties.”

Buterin’s comments came a little over one week after Ethereum’s highly-anticipated Dencun hard fork went live, ushering in a huge reduction in Layer 2 transactions through the activation of EIP-4844.

Data from GrowThePie shows the average transaction fees on leading L2s plummeting by up to 98% since Dencun’s deployment, making Ethereum’s Layer 2 ecosystem competitive with low-cost Layer 1s like Tron and BNB Chain while inheriting the decentralization of Ethereum’s base layer.

Tron and BNB Chain, networks that offer low fees at the expense of adopting a highly centralized network architecture, currently dominate on-chain stablecoin activity.

A recent report from the Brevan Howard hedge fund found that 49% of weekly active wallets using stablecoins resided on Tron at 2.41 million, followed by BNB Chain with 1.37 million users or a 28% dominance. Ethereum came in third with just 379,769 or a 7.7% market share.

Data from DeFi Llama also suggests Tether (USDT) on Tron boasts a 70% dominance with $104 billion of the on-chain stablecoin sector’s $148 billion market cap.

Non-financial applications

Buterin also predicted that “‘non-financial applications” will have a significant “impact” as a vehicle driving mainstream adoption, noting the success of decentralized social platforms including Farcaster and Lens.

“There is a big desire to have alternatives to things like Twitter and Facebook at the moment,” he said. “Farcaster has] managed to be used by non-crypto people in a way that a lot of other applications have not. I think that’s an important success to build on and for other applications to try to replicate.”

Vitalik also highlighted the growing interest in decentralized identity and proof-of-personhood protocols on Ethereum amid the backdrop of increasing concerns regarding the rise of artificial intelligence.

“One of the big challenges that people are worrying about right now is how to prove that an account on some platform is a person, as opposed to being a bot,” Buterin said. “The big risk I see is that when people need to solve that problem, people will jump to centralized solutions, and centralized solutions… are going to have very bad risks in terms of excluding all kinds of people.”

Buterin also noted that prominent ideas underpinning the ethos of web3 are also beginning to penetrate the mainstream. He cited the upcoming initial public offering from Reddit, the popular social media platform, which will give highly active users including contributors and moderators “the ability to participate on the same terms as institutional investors.”

Reddit likely drew inspiration from the airdrop model that rewards early adopters of web3 dApps.

Expanding Ethereum’s validator ecosystem

Looking forward, Vitalik emphasized his excitement for Verkle Trees, which will be implemented as part of Ethereum’s next hard fork, Pectra. Buterin noted that technical barriers are persistently cited as a major factor discouraging ETH holders from staking.

“With Verkle Trees, as a node, you would not have to store the state locally. And with EIP-4444: History Expiry, you would not have to store most of the history locally,” Buterin said. “The amount of data that you would need to be a node would decrease from multiple terabytes to... being able to run a node in RAM.”

Vitalik continued that the future introduction of zk-SNARKs will reduce the data burden for nodes even further.

“In the long term, running a node will feel like… a few very simple computations that will be very easy to do as a background process on any computer, maybe even a phone, even inside a browser,” Buterin said. “There’s a pre-existing technology roadmap to get to that point.”