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Buterin vs Cohen: Ethereum and BitTorrent creators feud on Twitter

Elliot Hill

BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen has sparked a Twitter feud with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin after posting a thread of negative tweets criticising Buterin’s thoughts on scalability, sharding, code obfuscation, and the proof-of-stake consensus.

BitTorrent is one of the most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing protocols ever made and was acquired by blockchain protocol Tron last year, with Cohen then moving on to his own project – the Chia Network.

Last Friday, Buterin posted a lengthy blog post to his personal website, entitled “Hard Problems in Cryptocurrency: Five Years Later”, where he laid out some of the most difficult challenges cryptocurrency researchers have faced ranked according to how much work had been done on them.

However, Cohen disagreed with Buterin’s view of the industry, calling much of his analysis “wrong-headed” and launching a lengthy thread calling out problems in Buterin’s post.

Addressing Buterin’s thoughts on scalability and sharding, Cohen said:


Instead, Cohen claims that Ethereum’s approach to sharding doesn’t significantly improve scalability but does compromise on security and erodes the original role of a full node on the network.

Cohen also called out the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, which he believes causes unnecessary security flaws.


Buterin provided responses to some of Cohen’s claims, replying to Cohen’s criticism of sharding by asserting that the Ethereum protocol is designed to minimise economies of scale:


Cohen also likened Buterin’s blockchain economics, and his proposals on how to manage open source protocols, to tech giants such as Facebook and Google, remarking that the governance Buterin proposed was like something “out of the dark ages”.


Instead, Cohen argued that working on governance at all was a “step backward”, as Satoshi Nakamoto’s consensus detailed in the original Bitcoin whitepaper was an effort to avoid human governance.

More criticism for Ethereum’s young founder

Adam Back, co-founder and CEO of Blockstream, also chimed in to put down Buterin. Back scathingly remarked that looking to Vitalik Buterin for advice about blockchain was like looking to Elizabeth Holmes, founder of now-defunct blood-testing company Theranos, for advice about the state of biotech.


Buterin neglected to provide detailed responses to all of Cohen’s criticisms, instead choosing to focus on how he had been “personally insulted” by two separate blockchain personalities in the last day.


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