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Ethereum’s fourth birthday is today. Here’s how it’s growing


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They grow up so fast.

Ethereum is turning four today, and it's already looking a lot bigger than it was this time last year by many metrics.

The number of distinct Ethereum addresses has almost doubled in the last 12 months.

Number of Ethereum addresses

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Source: Etherscan

And the number of total dapps has kept on growing constantly – up from roughly 1,750 this time last year to almost 3,000 today.

Ethereum dapp count

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Source: State of the Dapps

But those are just cumulative growth metrics. They don't really tell us whether growth rates are increasing or decreasing or how many people are actually using Ethereum.

After reaching its peak in December 2018, the number of new dapps created on Ethereum each month has steadily declined. Fewer new Ethereum dapps are being created now than were being created this time last year.

Ethereum transaction count vs price

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Source: CoinMetrics

As you can see, transaction count (purple line) traces along with price (purple blob). It probably comes as little surprise that the bulk of Ethereum's on-chain transaction activity is still being driven by speculation.

And how about that scaling?

Ethereum's scaling solutions and proof-of-stake migration also remain elusive. Then again, so does any tried and tested proof-of-stake system.

The bad news is that forking overhauls into a live blockchain of Ethereum's scale isn't easy. But the good news, depending on how you look at it, is that Ethereum genuinely appears to be limited by its capacity right now.

There are a lot of high throughput projects with desolate userbases, but Ethereum isn't one of them. Its network utilisation rate has remained relatively steady over the last 12 months, while its block size has remained near capacity throughout July.

The table below shows average block size (purple line) next to fees (purple blob).

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On the whole, it looks like fees and capacity are keeping a lid on how much action Ethereum is actually seeing.

It's a somewhat awkward position though. People are waiting for Ethereum to scale up before going all out with real-world applications, but others are pointing at the lack of real-world use to justify a lack of interest.

At the same time, the rapid pace of development elsewhere stands to leave Ethereum behind. Four years is a long time, and there are now solutions available that didn't exist at the time Ethereum was laying out its initial roadmap. A 10,000 TPS 51% resistant proof-of-work blockchain here, a handful of 300,000+ TPS DAGs there – it all adds up.

If builders are waiting for Ethereum to scale up before they start wowing the world with practical blockchain applications, and the world is waiting for practical applications before being wowed by blockchain, then that would mean Ethereum's pace of development is one of the main obstacles in the wider blockchain space.

We should be faster than this"

"Ethereum’s anniversary should be somewhat bittersweet for folks in the crypto community," says Sky Guo, CEO and co-founder of Cypherium, which is another highly scalable smart contract platform powered by a consensus mechanism that didn't exist at the time Ethereum was created.

"On the one hand, it is a celebration of the advent of this technology, which will certainly prove to be a milestone in the history of computing. However, on the other hand, this should also make us aware of the true difficulties we face in deploying decentralized technology. One thing we don't like to admit in the crypto world is that we should be faster than this. In order for the best tech to win out, our brightest projects need to show their utility to the public through all means available."

Work with the gate keepers amenable to our project, and when the time calls for it, ignore their admonitions and knock down the doors."

"A popular refrain we hear in this space tells us that while the markets froth up and deflate, our best minds continue to tinker with the technology," Guo adds. "But the truth is that our industry has proliferated with wonderfully complex and various projects, which may serve a vast number of use cases in both the public and private sectors."

The projects are out there, the base-level blockchain protocols are out there. So why is it so hard to put them together to create real-world change? It might be because Bitcoin, Ethereum and other giants are just so big, Guo suggests.

"We need more executive leadership in this space, thinkers and product managers who can work with the gate keepers amenable to our project, and when the time calls for it, ignore their admonitions and knock down the doors.

"We can’t keep depending on the biggest names within the industry, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, waiting for our giants to supersede the giants that came before. Instead, we need projects that will recognize these monumental achievements, and then move deftly enough to fully integrate into the endeavors and enterprises of everyday life."

Happy birthday, Ethereum, and many happy returns.

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Disclosure: The author holds BNB and BTC at the time of writing.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

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