Vitalik Buterin – co-founder of Ethereum – wrote an uncharacteristic blog post on his site today titled “In Defence of Bitcoin Maximalism”. The post argues why a healthy level of “toxicity” towards cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin might be justified.
However, considering the date, it’s unclear how seriously we should take the developer’s words.
What Makes Bitcoin Different
Vitalik’s arguments primarily address two unique aspects of Bitcoin that other crypto users often fret about. The first surrounds Bitcoin’s simplistic design choices, while the second surrounds its relatively hostile and intolerant community.
Firstly, he argues that blockchain technology is optimized for security only. Though not fast or flashy, it does the job it needs to when facing the “toughest challenges of your life.” Those blockchains must be resilient in a hostile world of institutions that don’t want to serve your basic financial needs.
“Excelling at that task requires two key ingredients,” he writes. “A robust and defensible technology stack and a robust and defensible culture.”
This is why, he argues, Bitcoin maintains a 1MB block limit and a simple Nakamoto consensus mechanism. It must be understandable and justifiable generations down the line.
It’s also why Bitcoiners must be resilient to new ideas for changing the system. Through “steadfast minimalism” it must constantly defend itself against outsiders trying to co-opt the system for personal gain.
The creator also claims that currency is a far more important application for blockchain than anything else right now. Unlike Ethereum and other smart contract platforms, Bitcoin is optimized specifically to be money. This, in turn, makes it “better money”, by giving it security through simplicity and not risking overzealous, centralizing protocol changes.
Vitalik even asserts that the first crypto projects are generally the most “genuine”, whereas later projects are more likely to be scams. He cites the correlation between the size of a blockchain’s pre-mine and its date of inception as evidence for this claim. For example, Bitcoin launched in 2009 and had no pre-mine, whereas Binance Smart Chain launched in 2020 with a 50% pre-mine.
How Serious is Vitalik?
The post, made on April Fools, contradicts a lot of what Vitalik has previously asserted about Bitcoin maximalists. For example, he derided the group last year for over-praising El Salvador President Nayib Bukele’s Bitcoin law.
Some of his points are also clearly full of sarcasm. For example, he speaks in the third person when referring to himself about his motivations when speaking with controversial leaders:
“Vitalik is a hippy-happy globetrotting pleasure and status-seeker, and he deeply enjoys meeting and feeling respected by people who are important,” he says.
Yet some of Vitalik’s points for Bitcoiners arguably have merit. For example, an Ethereum developer recently called out many of the over-complexity issues that Vitalik references in his piece.
Jack Dorsey – co-founder of Twitter – has also expressed similar “intolerance” to what Vitalik defends in his article. He has referred to the conditions that created Bitcoin as particularly “special” and “precious” compared to other coins.