Ethereum’s long lost sibling

Can aeternity walk the difficult path between centralization and scalability?

The wait for Aeternity has taken, well, a while. After the blockchain platform–which promises scalability and smart contracts that can interact with real-world data sets–started its testnet in spring of 2017, it missed the mainnet launch date of July, 2018 due to security concerns. However, as of 09:19 PM on November 27, the mainnet, known as Roma, is now live.

While the currency itself sits outside the coveted top 20 in terms of market cap, Aeternity has a bit of a cult following. While most projects are still grappling with where to store smart contracts–either on or off-chain–Aeternity is galavanting ahead with two-tiered oracles, smart, and hybrid proof-of-work/proof-of-stake consensus protocols. However, while Aeternity’s bells and whistles have attracted plaudits, there are also critics: the focus of which is around just how centralized the network plans to be. But the CEO at Aeternity, Yanislav Malahov–who refers to himself as the godfather of Ethereum–claims the old systems simply will not work.

“One thing that can’t really work is keeping every smart contract on-chain. It’s impossible,” says Malahov. He takes aim at Ethereum for building smart contracts on its blockchain rather than taking them off-chain. Aeternity on the other hand, uses state channels, a system where records are kept off-chain and only the final version of the contract is uploaded, to minimize the load on the network. Malahov argues that Ethereum has become too bloated to integrate state channels, where as Aeternity is, “small, agile and moving more quickly to adopt technology.”

We have to point out Malahov’s loathing of Ethereum goes back to before the network was even a sparkle in Vitalik Buterin’s eye. Malahov argues he was part of the inspiration behind Ethereum in the first place. But it seems, all the sage advice he may or may not have imparted went unheeded, and Aeternity was born to correct its deficiencies.  

But in this move to right all wrongs, Aeternity seems to have left the community behind. According to Malahov, only 30 percent of tokens have been migrated onto the mainnet–where owners of Aeternity’s ERC-20 token can swap their old tokens for the equivalent on the new blockchain. For those who haven’t yet migrated, they will now have to wait until the next hard fork in February, 2019 because token migration requires a change in the blockchain which has to be agreed upon by the majority of miners.

Exchanges, too have been slow to accept the new tokens. Malahov says that no exchanges have announced they will be supporting the mainnet move. This means that users have to manually change their tokens themselves, which may explain the low adoption rate. He argues that the blockchain should not be rushed out across these services as it needs to be cared for “like a baby.” So which is it, Malahov, small and agile, or small and fragile?

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