Ethereum is a social, political, cultural & financial protocol

December 16th, 2021

I have been asking myself a simple question since 2014: What is Ethereum for?

After a few years of turning this question over in my mind, I have found a few answers that make sense to me. The revolve around a few esoteric acronyms:

  • ENS - Ethereum Name Service > Social 🫂
  • DAO - Distributed Autonomous Organisation > Political 🗳
  • ERC-721 - Non-Fungible Tokens > Cultural 🖼
  • ERC-20 - Fungible Tokens > Financial 🏦

In each case, Ethereum has bent humanity to its will. Ethereum’s standards are becoming humanity’s standards. Code that runs above the political system is more powerful than the countries beneath it.

Even though I knew this was the intent behind Ethereum, I only just started to appreciate the power of this protocol. The protocol defines how people interact on the internet. It gave us property rights, governance systems and a digital jurisdiction for every online soul.

🫂 Sociable Protocol: ENS

The domain name system allowed us to lay claim to space on the web. ENS allows any person, entity, or piece of code to identify itself to everyone else. It has become a programmatic fabric for new kinds of sociable applications. Payments between people prove trust. Co-voting on proposals aligns interests. Linking your ENS to various dapps is a strong signal for others. A sociable protocol is emerging around ENS. It just needs to be exposed by wallets.

Sneak peak of the new Balance Wallet
Sneak peak of the new Balance Wallet

🗳 Political Protocol: DAO

Aragon saw this coming years ago. They understood the power of people coming together to reach decisions on the internet. Today, we vote on interest rates, treasury management and token mints. Tomorrow, we will decide on much bigger matters:

🖼 Cultural Protocol: NFT

When we first added unique tokens to Balance in 2018 (our term for NFTs) we had no idea what would happen. Nothing did. It was too early. Watching this standard take off has been an absolute joy. The disintermediation of art houses, record labels and streaming services has been a long time in the making. ERC-721 is changing humanity’s cultural system forever.

🏦 Financial Protocol: ERC-20

When Balance incubated Uniswap and built out the first interface for it, we knew we were onto something. Decentralised Finance was starting to take off with projects like Maker and Compound launching their systems. What I didn’t fully appreciate is just how powerful stablecoins would be. A single standard—ERC-20—has grown its dollar volume faster than Stripe. That is truly extraordinary!

Shapeshifting and getting Uniswapped
Shapeshifting and getting Uniswapped

What is Ethereum to you?

The beautiful thing about this protocol is this: it is what you make it. The real question is: what do you want to make and why? Figuring out your own answer to that is the path that every interesting Etherean I know must take.

I cannot wait to see what we build.


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