Last week was pretty rough for proponents of immutable Proof of Work Turing-complete blockchains, as the development teams of Ethereum Classic have split into ideological camps which concern the acceptance or rejection of financing from the Digital Finance Group. In this regard, seemingly-unrelated cheap shots and subtle references to past events culminated with a shocking announcement: due to financial issues, ETCDEV had to shut down its operations.
However, one FUD factor should be clarified from he very beginning – the closing of one development team doesn’t mean that the ETC project is dead or that it has run out of manpower to push it forward. If you’ve watched Donald McIntyre’s exclusive interviews, then you already know that Ethereum Classic is developed by ETCDEV (for which he used to work), ETC Cooperative (whose director is Anthony Lusardi, whom we also interviewed), IOHK (which also develops Cardano and works on inter-operability between the two blockchains), and ETC Labs (an incubator for ETC projects which is funded by ).
For a better understanding of the situation, let’s put it in these terms: if Blockstream ran out of business, some software engineers would lose their jobs. However, in spite of this unfortunate event, there are plenty of different organizations to take an active role in development and fulfil the goals on the proposed roadmap.
Unfortunately ETCDEV cannot continue to work in the current situation and has to announce shutdown of our current activities pic.twitter.com/N6xWnpBNJJ
— ETCDEV (@etcdev) December 3, 2018
Nevertheless, one can’t act as if the news doesn’t affect the reputation of Ethereum Classic at all, or that ETCDEV’s work didn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, this is a clear roadblock and unless the tensions and suspicions disappear and lead to some kind of agreement, a lot of useful development might get stalled. Not to mention that the price of ETC has dropped to $4.28 as of December 5th 2018, the lowest since April 2017.
Two sides of the debate: ETCDEV vs ETC Labs (and possibly ETC Cooperative)
In order to provide a broader perspective on the events, the two conflicting parties have been scrutinized and consulted. At press time, the ETCDEV side has gone on record to answer all the questions, while the ETC Labs representatives are yet to respond in the same fashion. The people interviewed formally are Igor Artamonov (lead developer of ETCDEV), Donald McIntyre (business development at ETCDEV), and Anthony Lusardi (director at the ETC Cooperative). The first two have agreed to provide public comments that have been published in this article, while the latter has been more diplomatic by distancing himself from conclusions until all the conflicts get resolved.
Yet thanks to the good will of Mr. Lusardi and some other community members, I was allowed to read some of the discussions on the project’s Discord channel. Due to ethical and privacy purposes, no screenshots or direct quotations will get published here. And since the debates still seem to be heated and ideological/sentimental, the rest of the investigation will focus on facts rather than spreading unnecessary FUD.
The central character of this story is Igor Artamonov, a software engineer who has been with the Ethereum project for a long time, has opposed the community split via hard fork during the DAO hack, and has stuck to the principles of immutability ever since. He has also served as founder and CTO of the now-defunct ETCDEV team, and he’s contributed to much of the ETC infrastructure which helped it get listed on exchanges (wallets, security protocols, et al).
It was under Igor’s leadership that the project received universal acknowledgement earlier this year with the coin’s addition to Coinbase, and the project for Orbita sidechains which enable greater scalability also belongs to ETCDEV. However, as pointed out by some of his critics (and subtly implied in the official Twitter announcement), the team has run out of funding and an unfortunate series of events also led to the deletion of the team’s GitHub.
Moreover, since November 27th 2018 Mr. Artamonov has posted two Medium articles which clarify details about his reluctance to accept funding from parties whose rationale he questioned, while also providing insider information about his interactions with the DFG (Digital Finance Group). The first one is a detailed insight on how the budget has been managed and the requirement for more funding, while the second piece is a plain accusation of plans to take over Ethereum Classic.
As he also mentions in the exclusive interview he’s done for Crypto Insider, Mr. Artamonov thinks that the migration of engineers from ETCDEV to ETC Labs, the funding problems, the deletion of the GitHub after all administrators have been removed, and the elimination of the Medium blog are all parts of an ongoing corporate takeover. Donald McIntyre backs up the statement by adding that ETCDEV was the conservative force of the ETC family, and without it around there are higher odds for the project to become more centralized.
Four step instruction how to remove an owner on GitHub pic.twitter.com/1ATICQ5bLy
— Igor Artamonov (@splix) November 30, 2018
The biggest issue at stake is the GitHub repository which contained all the development efforts of ETCDEV has been deleted after DFG representative Krykoder was granted owner role. Every other administrator has been removed and this action has attracted a lot of speculation: the ETCDEV side points out to sabotage, while the ETC Labs and ETC Cooperative perspective is that a misunderstanding has taken place somewhere in the communication process between the US and Shanghai stakeholders.
In the brief off-the-record conversation I’ve had with ETC Cooperative director Anthony Lusardi, he seemed genuinely convinced that there is no malevolence involved and all the GitHub situation is due to misunderstood instructions. He expressed hope that the ETCDEV folks would carry on with their work for the project, implied that he doesn’t want the roadmap to be affected in any way, and didn’t make any bad remarks in relation to DFG. Some of these positive and diplomatic views can also be found in his Twitter activity.
There seems to be a mistake here – Igor had added an owner at their request which is correct and fine. That new owner seems to have reverted existing owners to members by some accident or misunderstanding. That user has said that they will revert the change today.
— darcy.reno (@darcydangerreno) November 30, 2018
On the ETC Labs side, the situation seems to be slightly quieter in public terms. Yaz Khouri has written an article to thank the ETCDEV efforts throughout the years and express his positive feelings in regards to the future of Ethereum Classic, while Darcy Reno presents the deletion of the GitHub by “accident or misunderstanding”. No official statement has been made in order to address the situation, and it seems like only a few team members openly express their views on the situation. Maybe that they still await clarification from DFG and won’t come out with a message as soon as the GitHub repository gets restored and returned to their rightful owners (as clearly stated, the files have been copied into another account and no work has been lost).
It would be interesting to receive more information from the ETC Labs and ETC Cooperative to clarify several details regarding the incident, but at press time Igor Artamonov doesn’t want to return to Ethereum Classic, a large majority of ETCDEV employees still hasn’t signed a contract with another team, and Donald McIntyre doesn’t plan to reprise his role under a different leadership.
Since Crypto Insider is a platform for open debate which aims to focus on facts, this article can serve as an open invitation to further discuss the events.
Best information we have is that it was a misunderstanding between a US and a Shanghai office. Not an accident. Someone misunderstood directions and how GitHub works.
The issue will be corrected. It's also 3 steps for Igor to send an email after he noticed this issue.
— Anthony Ȼlassic (@pyskell) December 1, 2018
Regardless of what happens with ETCDEV, Ethereum Classic lives on
Though some speculators were quick to declare the death of the project due to the bankruptcy of the most prominent development team, this is clearly not the case. ETC Cooperative is financed by Barry Silbert’s DCG, ETC Labs receives funds from DFG, and IOHK has some of its own sources to get money. The plan to have an immutable Turing-complete blockchain which scales through sidechains is still on, and at most we can regard the ETCDEV situation as an inconvenience which can slow down some elements on the roadmap.
In his exclusive interview, Donald McIntyre has expressed his rather pessimistic views about ETC Labs taking a more prominent role in the Ethereum Classic project, as he regards the takeover as an increase of centralization. At the same time, he acknowledged that ETH, TRON, NEO, and many other smart contract platforms are even more centralized and they’re successful on the market, so this probably won’t be an inconvenience for investors and those who want to keep on building dedicated software.
On the other hand, if ETC Labs shows enough enthusiasm, energy and commitment to handle all the plans on the roadmap, they might surprise us all. They currently benefit from all the funding they need, are in the process of hiring more manpower, and may take the Ethereum Classic project to new highs. Part of this optimism can be read in the article of Yaz Khoury, and we can only hope that a positive attitude ends up delivering unexpected results.
Immutability and a focus on decentralization are the core values of this estranged community of the Ethereum project, and it would be a pity if none of the ambitious plans presented on the ETCDEV roadmap come to fruition. Ultimately, as ETCDEV fades, the torch gets passed to other teams so they can help this vision grow. Ethereum Classic doesn’t have the manpower its sibling project, and nor does it benefit from the hype of EOS or TRON. Nevertheless, it’s unique in its own way and it’s going to continue to exist as long as there is somebody to develop for it.