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ETC-ETH Cooperation Amid Blockchain Tribalism




Ethereum Classic and Ethereum have their differences, ideological or otherwise, but do these differences preclude collaboration between the two communities? Tracing my own journey with tribalism and misperception, I believe the two groups are better off unified than opposed.

Several million Ether were stolen from The DAO in 2016, precipitating an Ethereum fork to restore users' funds. Some then-members of the Ethereum community opposed the fork, citing immutability and the concept that "code is law." Various dissidents ultimately rejected the change and, in doing so, established Ethereum Classic (though it's important to note that ETC didn't technically establish anything – it remained the same while Ethereum forked).

When I initially learned of ETC's genesis, I imagined it like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Ethereum was a community in harmony until ETC attacked. A once-unified group had devolved into two warring tribes, uncompromising in their ideologies and unwilling to cooperate.

Although my interpretation of the split is admittedly overdramatic, it represents a sentiment I've seen expressed elsewhere, especially among those of us within the Ethereum community. I've seen anti-ETC comments throughout my Twitter feed, some of them originating from trolls, of course, but also from well-respected Ethereum community members. Further, I've seen accusations that ETC doesn't have developers or is a glorified scam.

With this overwhelming amount of criticism, it seemed that ETC development was antithetical to the advancement of Ethereum. If so many individuals, particularly Ethereans, disliked or were skeptical of ETC, then I thought there must be some truth to what they're claiming on social media forums like Twitter and reddit.

Then I heard about the Kotti testnet, equivalent to Ethereum's Görli cross-client testnet but on ETC. What appeared to be an unlikely collaboration between the ETC and Ethereum communities arose naturally from discussions between the ETC Cooperative's Anthony Lusardi and Parity's Afri Schoedon. Especially surprising to me was learning that Lusardi approached Schoedon, not the other way around.

"It was maybe five or six months ago, and just on Twitter, I saw Afri had posted about needing funding for this project [Görli]," Lusardi told ETHNews. "There were all these very dedicated people for a project that, when I read about it, it just sounded very important. That's basically what led to us [the ETC Cooperative] funding it. It's just a very important piece of infrastructure work that needs to be done."

Why would a supposedly uncooperative group of immutability maximalists intentionally fund an open-source Ethereum project, one that may not directly benefit ETC? While Lusardi noted that ETC needed a better testnet anyway, those funds could've been allocated toward a separate project run entirely by ETC stakeholders. The decision to support a "competitor," for a lack of a better word, must stem from more than self-interest.

Indeed, Lusardi emphasized the community-building aspect of the partnership. "ETC benefits a good deal from a lot of work that people do on the Ethereum side," he said. "On the Ethereum side, they benefit from work that ETC does, so this was just another way to do it, and particularly a far more direct way." Görli and Kotti exemplify this sort of mutual benefit.

Moreover, Lusardi places ETC and Ethereum under an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) umbrella. Although there are a few small opcode differences between the two chains, most of the divide is ideological, not technological. In many ways, infrastructure-related developments like Görli benefit all EVM projects, whether they be ETC- or Ethereum-focused, because much of the underlying code is the same. For example, a project incubated at ETC Labs called Ethernode runs an ETC variant of Geth that features many similarities to Ethereum's Geth client.

After talking to Lusardi, my own sense of tribalism became apparent. I had acquiesced much of the negative sentiment toward ETC because it emerged from my community, Ethereum. I had allowed myself to subconsciously side with the anti-ETC critics because I was so entrenched in Ethereum's community-oriented, (generally) inclusive, fun-loving culture. In my mind, any group that didn't clearly understand and agree with the virtues of Ethereum must've been flawed.

But then came the Kotti testnet, the funds the ETC Cooperative intentionally provided to Schoedon, and the positive relationships that have been built between the Görli team (including members of the Department of Decentralization) and ETC. I don't agree with complete immutability or code as law, but the Görli-Kotti collaboration has undoubtedly changed my misinformed view about the ETC community.

To dispel any uncertainty I still felt, I also saw that Bob Summerwill, a man historically outspoken about cross-blockchain collaboration, had joined the ETC Cooperative. He hosted a Twitter AMA on February 4 wherein he specifically espoused ETC-Ethereum collaboration. Responding to the question "Is funding the only way to collaborate?" from Golem's María Paula Fernández, Summerwill said he "would love to see cooperation in all and any sensible way." He continued:

"At the most basic level, that can happen at conferences, hackathons and meetups. Turn up. Talk to each other. Realize all the commonality that we have."

Summerwill went on to say he doesn't subscribe to the dichotomy of ETC vs. Ethereum, nor does he believe the two chains to be "mortal enemies."

These answers resonated with me and solidified my newfound understanding of ETC's synergistic role in the greater blockchain ecosystem. With folks like Summerwill onboard – those who avidly support bridge-building whenever possible across projects seemingly in competition with one another – it was no longer possible for me to maintain an us-versus-them mentality about ETC and Ethereum. There's even an ETC project called peaceBridge meant to promote ETC-Ethereum interoperability by allowing representations of each coin to exist on the other chain.

All that said, I still love Ethereum – I'm firmly part of the community and will likely remain within it. But why can't I be part of both the ETC and Ethereum communities? Why must we ally ourselves to a monolithic group when the crypto ecosystem is so vast and multifaceted?

ETC Labs' Dean Pappas says it best when it comes to cross-blockchain cooperation:

"There's zero to gain for anyone in the entire blockchain ecosystem to be fighting amongst each other. This is such a niche technology still; the population related to this is so small. We've got plenty to do to prove ourselves. We need to be working together. It's completely stupid not to be. Every time somebody's tweeting anything about this project being a shit project because X, Y, and Z, let people build. They're not bothering you. Stay focused. Too much time is wasted on the rhetoric that is negative."

Dani Putney

Dani is a full-time writer for ETHNews. They received their bachelor's degree in English writing from the University of Nevada, Reno, where they also studied journalism and queer theory. In their free time, they write poetry, play the piano, and fangirl over fictional characters. They live with their partner, three dogs, and two cats in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.

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