Ethereum Classic Review: The Original Ethereum Blockchain
Although Ethereum Classic is a well known Ethereum fork, there are a number of things that are making this project stand out in its own right.
There are benefits to Etheruem Classic from being a fork. Given the similarities to Ethereum, exchange integration is that much easier and this is what has spurred a widescale adoption of Ethereum Classic and its native ETC token.
However, is it really worth considering?
In this Ethereum Classic review I will attempt to answer that. I will also analyse the long term adoption and price potential of ETC tokens.
What is Ethereum Classic?
Ethereum Classic is a blockchain-based decentralized cryptocurrency platform, and the oldest to run smart contracts, although it isn’t the most well known to include these self-executing autonomous applications.
The Ethereum platform, which is the blockchain that forked to create Ethereum Classic, is probably the best known smart contract platform, but many don’t know it isn’t the oldest.
Smart contracts on Ethereum Classic are used to give the benefit of a decentralized governance system. Through the use of smart contracts, Ethereum Classic guarantees that there is no possibility of any censorship, manipulation, monitoring, or external interference in its governance system.
This was the original intent for smart contracts, and Ethereum Classic held to it after the June 2016 split in the Ethereum blockchain that created Ethereum Classic. That split occurred as a response to the DAO hack that saw $70 million stolen in a matter of minutes.
Ethereum Classic is the continuation of the unaltered history of the original Ethereum chain. The ETC network exists to preserve the principle of "Code is Law".
Ethereum Classic Fork
The group that championed the fork had as their intention to roll back the blockchain to a point prior to the hack, thus restoring the lost funds. Those championing Ethereum Classic, which is the original Ethereum blockchain all the way back to the genesis block, felt that while it initially seemed right to restore the stolen funds, there was a very good reason not to do so.
According to the ETC Declaration of Independence, there were several grievances held against the founding members of Ethereum, most of which revolved around actions taken that were against the principles of decentralization.
Most importantly though they claimed that a hardfork to restore the lost DAO funds violated two key aspects of what gives peer-to-peer cash and smart contract-based systems value: fungibility and immutability.
Fungibility is the feature in any money whereby one unit of the currency is equal to any other unit of the currency. So, one dollar is equal to any other dollar, and one Bitcoin is equal to any other Bitcoin.
In the case of Ethereum, the Ethereum Classic backers claim that by rolling back the blockchain one ETH is no longer equal to one ETH. The rollback made the $70 million in ETH stolen not as good as other ETH, and deemed worthy of censorship.
Immutability means that a blockchain in unchanging and inviolable. The transactions that have been deemed valid are those which have been accepted by the network through the mathematical cryptographic protocol.
This allows transactions to be unquestioned, and if this is broken we have to consider that all transactions are now questionable, since a mutable blockchain means any transaction might be modified. This leaves the blockchain open to fraud, and calls into question all of the distributed applications running on top of the blockchain.
Why Ethereum Classic
Despite being overlooked by many, Ethereum Classic consistently has some of the largest blockchain network activity. The activity is on-par with that of Litecoin, and is greater than what we see from Bitcoin Cash.
In addition to the network activity, Ethereum Classic also has a large number of commited developers. In fact, there are three different developer teams committed to the long-term vision of Ethereum Classic.
Added to all of this are numerous outside funding sources, and a commitment to creating a secure network anyone can use, which helps Ethereum Classic continue to grow a little more each day, each week, and each month.
Guiding Principles of Ethereum Classic
Ethereum classic is run on the principles of immutability, community, and technology. As the longest running smart contract blockchain in existence, you can have confidence that the Ethereum Classic blockchain will continue to exist as a store of value, not be swept away by some errant developers vision.
Ethereum Classic Technology
Ethereum Classic runs on the mathematically verified Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and is a highly efficient means for transferring value and running Internet of Things (IoT) applications. All together this makes Ethereum Classic a highly efficient means of exchange that is capable of connecting all the world’s IoT devices.
In addition, Ethereum Classic has several developer teams working on improving the technology and creating partnerships that will spread Ethereum Classic usage to every area where blockchain technology can be beneficial.
Ethereum Classic Immutability
Any Ethereum Classic account cannot be modified by anyone but the owner. This is a philosophy shared by cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin. Other blockchains use another philosophy known as governance whereby the holders of the cryptocurrency are able to use economic or social power on the blockchain to vote on changes that affect everyone’s account.
Ethereum Classic’s developers don’t believe in this model. Imagine if banks allowed account holders to vote on account changes based on how much money each person had in their account. It means the richest account holders could vote for changes that effectively took the money from the smaller account holders.
Governance is a system where the rich and powerful, those who have the most fame and notoriety, are the ones who have the final say over the monetary system. Ethereum Classic has been designed so that this will never happen.
Ethereum Classic Community
Even though blockchains are predominantly known as decentralized ledgers, the truth is that many have centralized communities and leadership. This means there are a relatively few number of people making decisions for everyone.
Ethereum Classic has been purposefully structured so this cannot happen. Development responsibilities are spread out among many different parties, which avoids the hidden centralization that other blockchains fall victim to.
The Thanos Hard Fork
The original intent of including a directed acyclic graph (DAG) in ethash coins like Ethereum Classic was to provide ASIC resistance for the mining protocol. The reasoning was to provide protection from mining distribution centralization ad to ensure that tokens are fairly distributed.
It’s been made obvious that the DAG is working based on ASICs being developed that are capable of matching current GPU mining rigs, while also being more energy efficient, and yet the playing field remains level as ASICs have not been able to take over and dominate mining. This has led to the growth of a large and diverse mining ecosystem.
However in 2020 the Ethereum Classic developers found that the original set parameters for the DAG were too aggressive, which led to the obseleting support for GPU miners still in use. The decision was made to recalibrate the parameters to better reflect the available hardware and Ethereum Classic mining ecosystem, thus bringing DAG growth back in-line with the most commonly used GPUs in mining.
This was the Thanos hard fork, and its purpose was to allow the DAG system to continue serving the purpose of providing ASIC resistance.
The problem was that the DAG size had reached 3.91 GB, effectively obsoleting the 4GB GPUs that are still widely used in mining rigs. The Thanos hard fork reduced the DAG size to 2.47 GB, and with the additional growth rate now added the 4 GB GPUs will remain supported through 2023.
As a result of the hard fork the hash rate on Ethereum Classic increased dramatically (from 4 Th to 6 TH) almost immediately following the fork. Almost 6 months later the hash rate has climbed dramatically and is sitting near 25 TH.
Improvements Proposals (ECIPs)
Ethereum Classic Improvements Proposals (ECIPs) are the technical proposals made to suggest changes to the Ethereum Classic network and protocol.
These proposals are discussed by the core and volunteer developers, as well as implementers and other users of the Ethereum Classic mainnet and if approved are then implemented into the protocol by the core developer team.
Each pull request can have input from anyone who has a well reasoned opinion. If the proposal isn’t accepted the feedback generated by discussions can be used to draft a second proposal that incorporates the feedback. This process can be repeated ad infinitum until the developer community agrees to add the pull request.
Those interested in seeing the change proposals can look at the full list at the ECIPs Github.
Adding an Ethereum Classic Treasury
Ironically enough, as of early 2021 there are some members of the Ethereum Classic community who are looking to add a Treasury to the project. I call this ironic because of the circumstances that led to the creation of Ethereum Classic, and the possibility of a similar occurence if a Treasury is created.
Indeed there are some who are fighting against the implementation of a Treasury, claiming that it will only bring centralization to the project. Instead, they argue that adding something along the lines of a 5-year “tax” to the network to obtain funding for ongoing development would be a superior solution.
The proponents of adding a Treasury do seem to be in the majority, and their proposal rests on the fact that Ethereum Classic has found increasingly difficult to continue development by relying on donations and volunteer developers. They also claim that adding a Treasury will promote diversification in the network, which would certainly be welcome.
In the case of critical consensus failures and bugs, a supermajority client can be a single point of failure that cannot be afforded. ETC experienced this first hand when the Parity family of clients split from the network during a 51% attack because it had different parameters for handling reorganizations and did not have technical support to maintain ETC compatibility. Parity had a share of around 50% of nodes which as you can imagine — was basically half the network lost in space.
A treasury with multiple core development teams inclusive of community voting would make sure no single entity can have a monopoly or franchise over the ecosystem. Of course, the community should have the power to remove and add members from the treasury. Eventually, the independent developers or anyone who has provided a successful proposal for that matter would be eligible to receive funding.
Those opposed to the Treasury system point out that it is important for the ETC community to understand that if ETC is to be a $6 trillion dollar system in the future; used globally by governments, corporations, international entities, and individuals from all cultures, regions, and backgrounds; it is imperative that Ethereum Classic be as decentralized as Bitcoin.
The only security model possible is the maximum security possibly attainable by a blockchain. Nothing less.
The only honest way to regard the treasury in ETC is to understand that, while the blockchain has that device to prop it up while it gains market share and liquidity, it is a centralized system under the guise of a blockchain. A community fiat system like all the networks that use proof of stake, treasuries, and voting.
Unlike many other blockchain projects, the development of Ethereum Classic is not under one single team. There is a core team under Ethereum Classic Labs, but there are other groups undertaking parts of the Ethereum Classic ecosystem. All these groups work together to further the growth and adoption of the Ethereum Classic protocol.
Ethereum Classic Labs (ETC Labs)
The team at ETC Labs is where the Core development team resides, and itprovieds the office space for projects as well as developing industry connections, and providing funding for the Ethereum Classic project.
The ETC Labs has office space in San Francisco and Singapore and operates with the long-term goal of accelerating the development of all Ethereum Classic projects as well as supporting the Ethereum Classic ecosystem and community.
The ETC Labs Core team does the bulk of development for Ethereum Classic projects. It is also involved in supporting the needs of the blockchain and providing the necessary tooling for dApp development, mining and blockchain services. The ETC Labs Core team works under a mission statement that values backward compatibility, decentralization, and state immutability.
ETC Cooperative (ECC)
The ECC was created as a financial support for the development of Ethereum Classic. It provides funding for three key aspects of the Ethereum Classic ecosystem, namely marketing, development, and community.
To achieve their objectives they also act as a liason between the different teams, as well as maintaining some of the community-based software, and also reaching out to other Ethereum-based communities.
This branch of the Ethereum Clssic development team is focused on creating a strong Ethereum Classic ecosystem, with immutability as the core foundation of the blockchain. The team primarily consists of math and science driven developers and engineers, some of whom have been with Ethereum Classic since the beginning.
The primary focus of the team’s development is the node client Mantis, which provides a simple connection to the IOHK Daedalus Wallet UI, so that users may easily manage their ETC tokens.
ETC Core delivers infrastructure tooling, specifications, and resources to the Ethereum Classic ecosytem. They strongly believe in high quality software, readability, and cross-chain compatibility. They maintain the Core-Geth client and the EVM-LLVM backend project, while actively participating in protocol research, upgrades, and events.
Other blockchain development and software engineering companies contributing to Ethereum Classic include:
- POA Network
- Second State
- Byzantine Fault
- Godel Labs
- Storj Labs
As a fork of Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency, and with a history going back to 2016, it’s not surprising to see the size of some of the communities based around Ethereum Classic.
The largest of these is their Twitter presence, where they have 230,000 followers. They participate heavily on Twitter as well, with multiple daily tweets and re-tweets from other notable cryptocurrency projects.
The sub-Reddit for the project is also pretty impressive, with just under 25,000 followers. There is also quite a bit of activity here, with several posts on most days, and numerous replies to many of those posts. It is definitely a vibrant and active community.
A less active space is the Ethereum Classic forums, but that’s likely because people tend to gravitate towards the well-known sub-Reddit for their questions and discussions. Still, the forum has activity on a daily basis, and is far from defunct.
The ETC Token
When ETC launched in July 2016 it was just under $1. The day after it launched it hit its all-time low of $0.452446 and hasn’t looked back. It quickly jumped higher, and reached $3.53 within a week. It couldn’t hold that level though, and slowly crept lower until trading back under $1 by October 2016.
It remained between $0.80 and $2 until March 2017, and then began a rally that saw it climbing in leaps and bounds over the coming months. By May it was over $7 and by the end of that month, it had topped $20. It continued around the $20 level for most of the summer of 2017.
By September it had cooled somewhat and spent the next two months trading between $10 and $12 for the most part. The rally resumed in November and ETC quickly climbed through the $20 level, then the $30 level, and the $40 level, finally hitting an all-time high of $47.77 on December 21, 2017.
After struggling to maintain higher levels, and briefly topping $40 again in February 2018 the token dropped, spending most of the next six months trading between $15 and $20.
From there it continued to trade lower, not bottoming until it got below $5 in early 2019. It was able to recover by June, nearly tapping $10 again. It slipped in July and August and as of September 2019 is trading at $6.30.
After that the price remained in a range of roughly $4 to $7 until January 2021, when a new broad based rally in cryptocurrencies sent ETC shooting higher. By May 6, 2021 the price had reached a new all-time high of $176.16.
However just two weeks later and price has retreated back to $69.73. While that’s roughly 60% off the all-time high for ETC it is also more than 1,500% above the starting price of $4.25 at the beginning of 2021.
Buying & Storing ETC
If you’re looking to purchase ETC it is available on nearly all the major exchanges, and most of the smaller exchanges as well.
Taking a look at the broader market volume, it appears to be quite high and well spread out across the range of exchanges. This means that the liquidity is not dependent on a single exchange which bodes well for the trading of the token.
Taking a bit of a closer look on the individual exchange order books, they appear to be quite healthy. For example, on Binance the ETC / BTC order book appears to be quite deep and there is strong turnover here. Hence, there is unlikely to be a great deal of slippage on the orders.
Once you have bought your ETC you are going to want to take it off the exchange and keep it in a secure offline wallet. There are a number of wallets that support the token. We have previously covered a list of the best Ethereum classic wallets which will no doubt have the right wallet solution for you.
While there has been a great deal about the development of Ethereum Classic in the press, are the actual results borne out?
One of the best ways to determine raw development output on an open source project is by taking a look at their public code repositories. Hence, I decided to move on over to the Etheruem Classic GitHub.
In their GitHub I took a look at the number of code commits that have been pushed over the past year. Below are the total commits to three of their most relevant repositories.
As you can see, there has not been that much activity in these repositories. This is only a mere fraction of the code that is being pushed in the Ethereum GitHub. Admittedly though, there are way more developers working on Ethereum.
You also have to consider that a great deal of the Ethereum Classic development is taking place in other repositories like that of ETC labs for example. You also have a whole host of development that is being done on top of the Ethereum Classic protocol. You can head on over to their website and see all the projects building on it.
Ethereum Classic was created by a group of developers and community members who felt that Ethereum wasn’t staying true to the principles of decentralized cryptocurrencies when the leadership decided to roll the blockchain back in order to return stolen funds to users from the DAO hack.
While it seems noble on the surface, it undermines the very qualities of fungibility and immutability that cryptocurrencies are valued for.
Since the split from Ethereum the Ethereum Classic project has continued to grow and prosper, showing that it wasn’t just a whim that led the founding members to split from Ethereum. Whether it can continue to grow and expand its reach remains to be seen, and such a question is always a big unknown in the new frontiers of blockchain development.
While we aren’t certain Ethereum Classic brings anything new, other than its “Code is Law” philosophy, it brings enough that it can be one of the surviving blockchains once the inevitable consolidation in the space begins.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.