Book Review: “Out of the Ether”

I recently finished reading the hardback version of “Out of the Ether” by Matt Leising. This marks the 12th blockchain and cryptocurrency-related book I have reviewed. See the full list here.

The book was first published in September 2020, so my review is criminally belated. In my defense, 2020 was a bad year (for just about everyone) and it got boxed up during one of several moves during that time.

Overall I think it is a good book and would recommend it to anyone keen to explore and understand the key figures behind the creation of Ethereum and the Ethereum universe.

Prior to his quest to discover The DAO “attacker,” I had a chance to meet the author, Leising, on several different occasions and from time-to-time introduced him to potential sources for news articles (when he was a reporter at Bloomberg).

In the book he states he is a “believer” in Ethereum but I do think he does a pretty decent job balancing out his excitement without coming across as a shill or sellout. 1

I didn’t notice any major issues, certainly nothing that would require a second edition.2 While I do have a few quibbles here and there, on balance I thought he did a really good job explaining core technical ideas in laymen’s terms.

One last comment before diving in: back in January 2014 I joined several Ethereum Skype rooms in order to write a short book that I published a couple of months later.3 It is interesting that Leising was able to capture so many details (and drama!) that was taking place behind the scenes, that never really surfaced into the public Skype rooms (or maybe I just wasn’t lurking in the right ones).

Simultaneously, I attended a number of Ethereum-related events (including the first Silicon Valley Ethereum meetup); yet even with all of the acquaintances I made over that time frame, I still learned new things from this book. That is a testament of how good the author is at first-hand reporting, which is in stark contrast to the two anti-coiner books I reviewed last summer who partly relied on trafficking second-hand conspiracies.

As usual, all transcription errors are my own.

Chapter Zero

On p. 5 he writes:

I’d been at Bloomberg for 12 years, reporting on Wall Street and energy and oil markets, and then, for most of that time, my beat became the financial infrastructure that keeps the whole system humming but that no one talks about. How exchanges work, for example, or the ins and outs of US Treasury bond trading. Then the world went through the worst financial crisis since the Depression. I covered the Dodd-Frank Act’s debate and passage: legislation written in hopes of reining in the financial world to stave off another crisis. I never thought I’d end up being a financial reporter – it just sort of happened, and then I found myself involved in one of the biggest stories of the century.

Unlike most reporters – especially the ideological variety (anti-coiners and maximalists) – what Leising brings to the table isn’t just credibility but knowledge. He actually knows what systemically important financial infrastructures (SIFIs) are and mentions them a couple of times. Only a small handful of books I have reviewed thus far have even paid SIFIs lip service. Why is this important? Because if a SIFI collapsed, it is almost the equivalent of a WMD attack on a population center. That’s why there are multiple oversight boards for them around the world; such as the FSB.

On p. 8 he writes:

While this criticism doesn’t blow a hole in the idea of digital applications, it does call into question the nearly two-year-long orgy known as the initial coin offering market that took place from about 2016 to early 2018. Billions of dollars were raised by legitimate and completely fraudulent dev teams alike. Everyone was welcome at this scamfest. And all of it can be seen in hindsight as an enormous waste of time, energy, and the little creativity that went into most ICO projects. It was a folly but only one of many to come.

This is a solid paragraph. What is a bit frustrating is that many of the folks who were enriched during this time frame – such as ICO issuers and their cheerleaders- have recycled those ill-gotten gains into both a permanent lavish lifestyle and cemented themselves as “coinfluencers.” Basically, the bad guys got rich and we’re stuck with them. Probably forever.

On p. 9 he writes:

In the world of finance the applications for Ethereum are particularly ripe, as Wall Street is – at its core – the insanely well-entrenched pure expression of middlemen profit-takers, making their money from other’s people money solely by virtue of sitting in between transactions.

If I had my druthers, while I agree with what Leising wrote here, I would have followed it up with a specific stat or figure. For instance, in 2022, credit card companies in the U.S. earned $126.4 billion from processing fees charged to merchants.4

On p. 9 he writes:

When I cowrote a story for Bloomberg Markets magazine in 2015 about Blythe Masters, a former JPMorgan executive who was now heading a blockchain startup, I didn’t even mention Ethereum. This is not a knock against Ethereum – I certainly could’ve known more about it at the time – but it’s also true that it was simply too early to be taking Ethereum seriously in a financial markets’ sense. So I didn’t dig into the story of the $55 million hack when I went back to work. It was fascinating, yes, but for Bloomberg readers it didn’t have enough of a connection to Wall Street or finance to justify me chasing it.

Also, readers should keep in mind one other thing: Ethereum was envisioned as a “world computer” and not specifically a fabric for finance.5 That’s not to say it can’t be specifically used for financial-focused applications (it clearly is) but the immediate goals (and the roadmap) of 2015 era Ethereum were elsewhere.

Plus, using proof-of-work (PoW) was probably never going to fly for regulated financial institutions that need settlement finality. PoW only provides probabilistic finality. Switching to proof-of-stake provides better assurances and guarantees which is part of the reason why “permissioned” real-world assets likely have been deployed onto these chains versus say, a proprietary permissioned chain.6

On p. 11 he writes:

People often claim that blockchain allows users to remain anonymous, but this is wrong. It’s pseudonymous, because it’s possible to know the identity of the person behind an address.

Ding ding, correct! A number of other books I have reviewed have implied that user activity on most public chains is “anonymous” when it’s technically pseudonymous.7

On p. 15 he writes about Bitcoin mining:

All of this lives entirely free and clear of Wall Street and government regulators. That’s a big key to why Bitcoin is valued as it is. People want it to have value; they want it to work and exist in a world wholly separate from Bank of America ATMs as well as governments and their central banks that set monetary policy.

That may be the case for some Bitcoin holder, maybe even a majority, but empirically not all of them. 8

On pgs. 16-17 he writes about some accomplishments for Ethereum as of early 2020. There was a typo in one (Ava should be Avalanche).

And at least one achievement wasn’t permanent, on p. 17:

Reddit, one of the most popular destinations for US internet users, integrated Ethereum smart contracts and wallets into its service in 2020 to grant “community points.” These can be used as a type of reputation metric, as they’re given for posting and contributing to reddit discussions. The points are stored in an Ethereum wallet, which could lead to a significant jump in Ethereum users.

About three months ago, Reddit announced it was winding down the “community points” initiative. Even before it was cancelled, it moved this project to an L2 (Arbitrum) because mainnet fees were too high for its userbase.

On p. 17 he writes:

Financial markets are now using Ethereum in real-world trading and settlement for assets such as stocks, credit default swaps, bonds, and equity derivatives. The Bank of France used Ethereum to replace a key component of its payment system.

Leising discusses these example later in his book. However, since we’re over 3 years into the future from when the book was released, apart from a few projects kept spinning by large intermediaries, very few capital markets have adopted any form of blockchain as of this writing. It seems for every new JP Morgan + Apollo Asset Managements project announced, there are existing projects like Contour that wind down. Perhaps that will change, and it would be inappropriate to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

On p. 20 he writes:

Much more complicated systems are also possible. It’s not unrealistic to say almost the entire global oil market could be shifted onto Ethereum using smart contracts. Oil output could be monitored and secured on the blockchain. Private trading would be simple to set up because of the small number of participants. What Ethereum is not yet ready for is the speed at which electronic oil markets, like the crude futures traded at the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York, work. Yet OPEC production cuts or gains would transmit via an automatic information feed to the Ethereum network via what’s known as an oracle. The oil tanker industry could move its supply chain to Ethereum as well.

I have heard similar pitched before, and just googling “oil gas blockchain” generates a lot of articles and papers from consultancies. With that cynical comment aside, komgo (a spin-off from ConsenSys) is one of the last remaining consortia focused on trade finance but they basically stopped using a blockchain a couple of years ago.910

On p. 21 he writes:

Bitcoin never did a pre-mine: every Bitcoin in existence has been earned by the computers on its network that ensure transaction are valid.

While technically true, there are a couple of small caveats:

1. Satoshi possibly mined ~1.1 million bitcoins in 2009 back when an individual CPU could still be used to generate the “winning solution.” Sure that’s not a real pre-mine, but if true that means she owns ~6% of the total mined supply at a cost of running a desktop PC for a year.

2. As mentioned in a couple of previous posts, by July 2014:

  • There were 84,580 blocks with “empty” blocks containing just coinbase transactions
  • 83,867 blocks were rewarded 50 bitcoins each prior to the first halving day in November 2012, the remaining 713 blocks received 25 bitcoins
  • There are an additional 12,404 blocks with 2 transactions (the coinbase transaction + one other)
  • 12,223 of these blocks came prior to the block reward halving in November 2012 which equates to 611,150 and another 181 blocks each received 25 bitcoins (amounting to 4,525 bitcoins)

This comes to around 4.8 million bitcoins, or ~37% of the total Bitcoin supply at that time.

In other words, “Earn” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence considering – at that time – no one needed to buy a powerplant or build a warehouse to fill with ASIC hashing equipment. 11

On p. 21 he wrote about

A slock is an Ethereum-enabled lock, which you could put on your bike, for example. Someone with the app on their phone could come along and read a QR code that links to the bike’s slock. The interaction is managed by a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain. If the passerby pays the required amount of ether, the slock unslocks and the bike can be rented for a period of time. This is similar to how Bird scooters and the bikesharing systems that took over American cities in 2019 work, but preceded them by many years and is decentralized.

Later in the book Leising goes into detail over what the company was, The DAO, the hack, the fork(s), and the immediate aftermath. One detail I didn’t notice (perhaps I missed it), was that the GmbH company itself was acquired by Blockchains LLC in 2019. But the Blockchains twitter account has been inactive since November 2021.

Also, the venture craze into ridesharing blew up shortly after this book was published. For instance, the Bird e-scooter company was delisted from the NYSE in September 2023. Not super important to his point about remotely locking up (and renting) physical property.

On p. 25 he writes about something I do not believe was public information until the book was published: an encrypted message to the Robin Hood Group (the white hat hackers that parlayed with The DAO hacker):

As public support for a soft fork grew, the second attacker grew angry. He sent an encrypted message to the RHG on June 27, 2016. Here it is, verbatim, including the possibly purposefully broken English and odd syntax.

“This soft fork, and the dao-wars situation is a waste of time for everyone,” the ether thief wrote. “I’m supporting the idea that code is law at smart contract, but also the network consensus is law on blockchain.” He then pointed to the contract that had attacked the DAO on June 21, and said he’d give the money back if the RHG would as well. “Don’t you do it also to see productive future?” the thief wrote.

This is interesting insomuch as I was unaware the alleged thief attempted to negotiate the “return” of funds by all parties (it was not accepted). I wonder if the thief would go on to become an ETC supporter?

Speaking of which, days after the ETH/ETC hardfork, I gave a presentation at an Ethereum meetup entitled “Code is not Law.” It is kind of weird to see some of the older knee-jerk reactions on reddit considering how – at the time – anti-fork supporters frequently trotted out the line “code is law,” something we saw a lot a year later with the Bitcoin civil war (around block sizes). I think in retrospect, a hard fork may have been the lesser of two evils and – politics aside – paved a path showing other chain developers how to implement a successful hard fork.12

Chapter One

This chapter discusses Vitalik Buterin’s early life, his upbringing in Russia and Canada.

On p. 33 he writes:

Vitalik’s favorited stuffed animal at the time was a rabbit he’d brought with him from Russia. He’d fallen in love with the creatures and by the time he was seven he’d written a 17-page document called “The Encyclopedia of Bunnies.” It contained jokes and pictures drawn in Excel and scientific assessments, such as a periodic table of various bunny qualities.

From the section titled “Bunnies speed”:

On Oct. 19, 2001, 6:07 p.m., the bunnies run 3745.284 million km/sec. Probably on New Year 2002, they will run 0.77 light-years per second.

This is awesome. Doubly so since my daughter is about to turn 5 and I now need to tell her to watch out for bunnies travelling around at luminal speeds.

Chapter Two

On p. 41 he writes:

Like so many days in Seattle, Friday, June 17, 2016, was slightly overcast with the chance of rain. That afternoon on the edge of town, Dax Hansen left the city on the ferry for Bainbridge Island where he lives. Hansen was one of the earliest lawyers to get involved in blockchain technology and helped shape the early industry through his work as a partner at Perkins Coie. So news of the DAO hack had reached him. When he arrived on Bainbridge Island he saw his friend Peter Vessenes waiting to take the ferry back to Seattle. Vessenes had long been in the blockchain world, and Dax knew he’d have heard too.

I have had limited interactions with both in the distant past, but I wrote “what a coincidence” in the margins.13 Leising discusses some of Vessenes’ colorful history later in the book but one thing that was missing was that Vessenes almost single handedly held up the liquidation – and restitution – of Mt. Gox (post-bankruptcy) due to his spurious claims of being owed ~$16 billion.

On p. 43 he writes:

Three thousand miles away on the East Coast, another researcher had been looking at security flaws in the DAO. Emin Gün Sirer is an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. In 2002, he devised a decentralized system for rewarding good behavior he called Karma. It was the first currency to use proof of work to establish the validity of transactions. Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor invented the idea of proof of work in 1993 as a means to reduce email spam. The concept was later adopted for cryptocurrencies by people such as Adam Back, and most famously by Satoshi Nakamoto in his design for Bitcoin.

In the margins I wrote “Finally someone wrote about Karma.” I’m sure EGS does a grimace anytime someone incorrectly credits either Adam Back or Satoshi for having invented proof-of-work. I myself have had to correct around a half dozen books thus far for misattributing the creation of PoW, or failing to cite its origins. One common overlap between anti-coin shills and coin shills is that many seem to not understand the history of the thing they are lionizing or attacking.

Chapter Three

On p. 48 he writes about a podcast:

For the next 20 minutes or so he describes how Bitcoin solved the idea of digital scarcity. This is a very important part of the story to understand: that is, how do you protect something that is represented digitally, that can be reproduced an infinite number of times? Think of what Napster did to the music industry. Before Napster’s decentralized marketplace for digital music, sure, I could’ve burned a CD for my friend (and did) or later on been able to upload the new Pearl Jam record and email it to someone (yep). There was nothing protecting those MP3s because of their digital nature; they became a commodity once turned into ones and zeros. Then Napster came along and connected anyone around the world who wanted the new Pearl Jam record, devastating the recording industry.

This is mostly correct however Napster had a quasi-centralized model: it provided an index of files and that is why it was a relatively easy target for lawsuits by the music industry (RIAA) and law enforcement.

And to be pedantic, while Napster arose at a time when traditional physical sales were declining – and it may have played a large hand in that decline – the recording industry has seen a seen a new segment of sales over the past decade: streaming.

On p. 50 he writes about Vitalik’s interest in World of Warcraft, a game he played for a couple of years. And how one day Blizzard nerfed a spell his character relied on, leading him to disdain centralized services.

Has anyone made one of those little-to-big domino memes?

See also my related presentation from the March 2023 collapse of Credit Suisse.

On p. 55 he writes:

There were also Bitcoin development projects that needed help and would pay to code. One area was known as colored coins – a term used to describe an application that is connected to the Bitcoin blockchain but that doesn’t necessarily run in the same way. For example, a stock or bond can be digitally represented as a colored coin, allowing its owner to sell it to a buyer in the same manner they’d sell Bitcoin. In 2012 and 2013, this area of experimentation was gaining a lot of attention, as it implied that Bitcoin could be used for more than just sending value from user A to user B.

Bravo. In the margins I wrote: “Good to mention this, pretty concise explanation.” Most books that I have reviewed on this topic either neglect this small but important part of history or describe colored coins as an Israeli ICO project (it is neither). 14 Colored coin efforts were some of the earliest attempts at “tokenization” of real-world assets.15

On p. 55 he writes:

The idea for Ripple was spun directly out of what Bitcoin had accomplished in 2009 when it proved a global computer system could be utilized to send money between two parties anywhere in the world. But Bitcoin was decentralized, meaning no individual or group controlled it. Ripple envisioned itself as a central party in the network it wanted to create to compete with the global correspondent banking system. That’s the network of banks that every day send $76 billion zipping around the world as companies and individuals need to make payments in foreign currency.

Leising goes on to describe a bit more of how Ripple / XRP worked at the time. It’s worth pointing out that the original name for “Ripple” was… RipplePay. RipplePay was the name of a non-crypto project run out of L.A. by Ryan Fugger in the early 2000s. Its IP was acquired by Jed McCaleb and Chris Larsen who had created OpenCoin.16 Before OpenCoin, Jed McCaleb openly brainstormed about “Bitcoin without mining.”

On p. 56 he writes:

Jed McCaleb is a cofounder of Ripple, and he’d come to know Vitalik’s work in Bitcoin Magazine. He remembered Vitalik as eager and smart and he was excited to have him work for him over the summer. At that point, however, Ripple had only been a company for nine months, and to get a work visa for a summer intern, a company needs to have been in business for at least a year. The tantalizing prospect of what would’ve come from Vitalik and McCaleb working together will have to be left to a footnote in crypto history: “The world could’ve turned out quite differently if he’d come here to Ripple,” McCaleb said.

One of blockchain histories “what-ifs…”

On p. 58 he writes:

Mihai had his hands full putting out a monthly magazine, but he also wanted to dive into the more technical side of the Bitcoin world. Bitcoin wallets – the interface where users buy and sell coins – were still cumbersome in 2013, and Mihai wanted to make the process of actually buying something with Bitcoin simple and easy. His idea was to create Egora, a sort of eBay where only digital currency was accepted, and he knew just the person to help him develop it. Here was a chance for Vitalik to help build a project from the start and not to just jump into an existing one as he’d done as a work-for-hire on the colored coin project.

Does anyone else remember OpenBazaar? I’m old enough to remember when some Bitcoin-focused VCs said it would crush eBay; wonder what they would’ve said about Egora.17

Chapter Four

On p. 68 he writes:

It’s a funny quirk of history that the Internet began this way. The lack of system-wide infrastructure meant many pioneers hosted their own servers in order to put web pages up. It was decentralized by necessity, networks jury-rigged all over the place.

I agree with this observation and wrote something on this topic a few years ago: Intranets and the Internet

On p. 68 he writes:

In contrast, a decentralized version of Spotify using Ethereum would likely be built such that I interact with a smart contract to play the music I want to hear from the contract’s music library. It’s peer-to-peer in a way that Spotify isn’t, so the decentralized version would never ask to reconfigure my computer or have more access than I allow. I would be in charge, not the program.

There are more than a handful of Web3-based streaming platforms that artists can use to monetize their songs. Will they ever grow beyond a niche? What would incentivize mainstream artists to use these platforms instead of Spotify or Apple Music?

On p. 69 he writes:

Microsoft and Facebook and Google, as well as the corporate interests that benefit from them, like advertisers, all want the biggest user base they can get, Wood said in a Third Web podcast recorded in 2019. The number of users a company has equates directly with how much it will be valued by venture capitalists, for example. A social media company with five million users might get a $50 million valuation.

While the author clearly has an affinity for Ethereum-related topics, he doesn’t carry water for everyone (or everything) in that ecosystem. And unlike the anti-coiner books I reviewed this past summer, he does a decent job explaining how the Web2 world works, with domination from Big Tech – their centralized platforms – and a privileged set of individuals: VCs.18 All without handwringing or pearl clutching.

With that said, I’m not sure I buy his thesis that Web3 infrastructure can solve the cancerous misinformation / disinformation hurdles we face today.

On p. 72 he mentions Geoffrey Golberg at length. I’ve interacted with Golberg a number of times in the past and he is one of the good guys in the fight against the astroturfing bot epidemic on social media.

Chapter Five

On p. 75 he writes:

The refrain that Bitcoin will change the world is almost universal when you talk to early adherents. For one thing, it’s unstoppable, and appears to many to be an honest arbiter compared with a system of commerce they view as broken – that is, the existing financial system with central banks and commercial lenders like JPMorgan and Citigroup in charge of the money supply. Bitcoin’s hardcore follower are known as maximalists because the are unwilling to accept any other cryptocurrency as valid. Bitcoin, to a maximalist, is where the digital token conversation begins and ends. The vitriol is real and most often unleashed online. It even extends to subgroups of Bitcoin supporters, who tore each other apart between 2015 and 2017 debating how much information a Bitcoin block should contain.

This is a mostly okay explanation of Bitcoin maximalism. I would probably have pointed out that there are other “hardcore followers” who do not describe themselves as maximalists, but who basically got ejected due to the 2015-2017 civil war. I also don’t think it is accurate – for maximalists or anyone else – to equate Bitcoin as a “bank” on par with JPMorgan or Citigroup because Bitcoin, the blockchain, does not enable any form of lending.19

If the comparison is around payments, then it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison too because Bitcoin is attempting to allow pseudonymous participation whereas everyone paying or sending wires from one of these large banks, must be doxxed. And as a result you have throughput tradeoffs.

In my view, I think writers are way too generous in their description of Bitcoin maximalism in particular, which quickly evolved into a borderline hate group. I do not think it is a coincidence that some of the most toxic Bitcoin maximalists happen to be uncritical or even openly support autocrats like Nayib Bukele.20

On p. 76 he writes:

In Bitcoin, there are no grays areas of banking or usurious interest rates or shady deals. The code is all; it is your guide. It allows value to be sent from one person to another anywhere, anytime, with no one who can stop it. It’s the anti-Wall Street solution to a problem many people had a hard time putting their finger on, and it elicits a powerful response in a certain type of person. That problem, for those who have trouble articulating it, is that as I said earlier Wall Street exists for almost no other reason that to be the ultimate rent seeker, to sit in the middle of every transaction taking a cut of the capital that is created around the globe.

I agree with most of this view and have pointed out in other reviews that of Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and creator of the index fund, often characterized the excessive speculation that benefited financial intermediaries as the “croupier’s take.” So Leising’s criticism is in good company (unless of course, you are one of those intermediaries).21

Two small nitpicks:

(1) Bitcoin does have powerful interest groups, including the Bitcoin Core developers who ejected the Bitcoin Cash developers in 2017. Who are the current Core developers with merge access?22 Putting aside their identity for the moment, we know that one for-profit company, Blockstream, has previously demonized its competitors (Bitmain) during the block size war, as they were ramping up their own mining ambitions. It is a potential conflict of interest.23

(2) One of the only typos I detected in the book occurs in the last sentence: “reason that” should be “reason than.”

On p. 77 he writes in parenthesis:

My favorite example of this is a group of interest-rate swap traders who worked for a brokerage called ICAP in New Jersey. These traders became known as Treasure Island because they made around $20 million a year each just for sitting in a chair and picking up a phone. There would be one bank on the line, and the ICAP trader’s job was to find another bank to complete the swap trade. The amount of money we are talking here on a yearly basis are in the hundreds of millions, and corruption on the Treasure Island desk led to US government investigations and hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.

Fun fact, when you google “treasure island ICAP government fines” the very first article is a Bloomberg news story from 2013 written by the author, Matthew Leising.

Chapter Six

On p. 82 he writes:

The other coders at Calafou who were testing and stretching the limits of what Bitcoin could do fascinated Vitalik. “For Vitalik is wasn’t so important about the luxury or the conditions or how the place looked,” Mihai said. “It was mostly about the intellectual challenge and the people who were there.” Vitalik met Amir Taaki at the compound, who was working on a project to make Bitcoin transactions and addresses impossible to track. Dubbed Dark Wallet, Taaki had partnered on the project with Cody Wilson, who had already gained fame for the 3-D printed gun design that wildly divided opinion about limits on technology available on the web.

Dark Wallet got a lot of buzz and PR in 2013-2014 but, like non-custodial Lighting wallets today, basically is missing-in-action. Speaking of MIAs, the author mentions Cody Wilson a couple of times in passing. Not that there needs to be a second edition, but in 2018 Wilson was arrested in Taiwan for sexually assaulting a 16 year old female. A year later, back in Texas, he pleaded guilty and had to register as a sex offender. Is he still involved in the coin world, a lot of bad actors have stuck around?24

On p. 86 he writes about Vitalik visiting Switzerland:

The second, Mike Hearn, began working on the Bitcoin code in 2009 and corresponded frequently with Satoshi over email. A former Google executive in Zurich, Hearn gained notice in 2016 when he announced that he had sold his Bitcoin and would no longer work on the project due to the constant infighting and personal attacks leveled by developers against fellow developers.

Mike and I were (briefly) colleagues at R3 between 2015-2017. I recall reading a draft of this specific blog post just days before he made that announcement. The New York Times also covered it. Contrary to what the always-on-maximalists claimed, Mike approached the NYT first and it had nothing to do with internal motivation from R3.25

On p. 87 he writes:

The constant infighting and antagonism – the cliques that formed and the internecine brawls among developers who may have had only the slightest difference of opinion – are almost as hardwired into Bitcoin’s ethos as the hash function. Vitalik now saw it firsthand and even met some of the combatants. The hostility of the community toward itself was beginning to make a mark on him.

This is true and has aged well. For instance, a couple of months ago “KnifeFight” – an employee at Blockstream – wrote a widely circulated post aptly titled The cult of Bitcoin culture, explaining the purity contests that go on within the company as well as the gesticulating occurring outside the company. A toxic demoralizing mess.

On p. 87 he writes:

What Vitalik faced as he delved deeper into the guts of what Bitcoin could be, how its engine could be rearranged or made to fit another purpose, is one of the central paradoxes related to the digital currency. Its greatest strength is also its main weakness. That is, Bitcoin is a wonderful vehicle for transferring value from one person to another, anywhere at anytime in the world, almost for free. Barring a complete shutdown of the Internet, no government or corporation or bank can stop it. This is exactly its design, as the title of Satoshi’s white paper blatantly spells out: “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” The code has worked for more than a decade, and has never been reversed, which is theoretically possible if someone – a rogue state for example – devoted enough computing power to overwhelm the network and change the transaction history for the purpose of stealing Bitcoins that have already been spent.

In an era of doxxed mining farms and mining pools, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Bitcoin “can’t be stopped.” But putting aside hypothetical scenarios like a ‘Maginot line attack’ we have seen a couple of instances on Bitcoin itself of accidental forks that resulted in successful double spends, such as a documented occurrence in 2013.26

On p. 88 he writes:

That Bitcoin emerged when it did is a bit of a mystery. An intriguing essay from 2011 titled “Bitcoin is Worse is Better” examines the confluence of events that led to Satoshi’s breakthrough. Written by Gwern Branwen – a pseudonym for a writer and researcher who likes cats and lives in Virginia – the essay makes the case for that all of the elements needed to bring Bitcoin into the world existed long before 2008.

This is indeed a top notch explainer that I regularly recommend to newcomers (and often link to in footnotes).27

On p. 89 he writes:

All of this is to point out that Bitcoin – for all its success – is limited in how it can be adapted to other uses. It’s far from perfect: it’s clunky and uses an enormous amount of energy to secure its global ledger. In the end, it relies on whatever 51 percent of the network computers say is the truth to determine if Joe actually sent Mary five Bitcoin.

One recent estimate established that Bitcoin mining facilities used more water than New York City last year, and that was when the price was significantly lower than it is today (~$42,000).

On p. 91 he writes about Vitalik approaching the MasterCoin development team with an alternate roadmap, that they balked at:

That’s Vitali-speak for do whatever the fuck you want, I’m out. That shouldn’t diminish what he built. The protocol layer is what crypto nerds call this part of blockchain tech. It’s a bit boring but essential to the enterprise (rather like my beat at Bloomberg; no one really wants to know how the plumbing in the financial world works until it breaks). Vitalik was becoming a master plumber and dreamed of bringing whole groups of people together online in his blockchain world, like when he’d first become enmeshed in the community of rebels and scoundrels who populated the early Bitcoin scene.

Leising makes a really good point: no one really wants to know how the plumbing in the financial world works until it breaks. We saw that in after the 2008 financial crisis, during the Dodd-Frank hearings. We saw that again three years ago when Robinhood ran into collateral problems with the DTCC (the largest CSD in the world).

Chapter Seven

On p. 95 he writes:

Airbnb, Hertz, and Uber aren’t going to let Ethereum just roll into town and eliminate their businesses. These are global corporations with billions of dollars backing them. Then there’s the state of the actual technology. Ethereum is a long way from having the scale and robustness needed to support millions of users. Regulatory issues are another hurdle. But although the odds are long, there are plenty of people like Christoph, a theoretical physicist, who are willing to drop everything to work on Ethereum and willing to bet on the payout.

This is an example of how the book is mostly even-handed about its enthusiasm.

Chapter Eight

On p. 110 he mentions Primecoin for the first time, but doesn’t say what it is. He mentions it again a couple other times in the book, but unlike the other coins or tokens surrounding it (e.g., Mastercoin), no details are provided. My guess is that unlike most other “alt” coins in that era, Primecoin attempts to do “something useful” with the proof-of-work, in this case, search for chains of prime numbers.

Chapter Nine

On p. 119 he writes:

Amir Chetrit was also among the group of early Ethereum supporters who would go on to fund and organize the development of the Ethereum ecosystem. Vitalik had met Amir in Israel, where he was working on colored coin projects. Chetrit has a light presence on the web and couldn’t be reached to talk about his part in the history of Ethereum. To distinguish between the two Amirs in his life – Amir Taki and Amir Chetrit – Vitalik came up with nicknames for them. Taaki became “Anarchist Amir” and Chetrit was “Capitalist Amir.”


Chapter Ten

On p. 135 he writes about the purported “DAO hacker”:

I’d been wrong about the man, just as I was wrong about the person I’d interviewed earlier that day at the Bloomberg bureau. In the coming weeks I learned that he wasn’t actually associated with the Ethereum address that had sent the encrypted message. While this happens from time to time in journalism, it’s still devastating. My source had gotten it wrong, and only after looking at a fuller transaction history in 2019 did my source see how the mistake had been made. There were many more links between accounts as ether or other crypto was moved around both before and during the DAO attack. What had looked simple in 2016 was now significantly more complicated. The capability of blockchain forensics was significantly less advanced in 2016, and so I had questioned an innocent man.

Unlike some of the blockchain-related books whose authors egos went unchecked, Leising ate some humble pie and moved onward.

Chapter Eleven

On p. 146 he writes about forks:

The option that changes the history of the blockchain is known as a hard fork and is one of the more contentious issues in the blockchain community. This began with Satoshi Nakamoto and the breakthrough he made with Bitcoin. Because every Bitcoin transaction is recorded and maintained by its blockchain, the problem of double spending is no longer an issue. Double spending had foiled previous e-cash projects, because if you can’t prove that the digital coins you sent to me weren’t already sent to someone else, those coins will have no value. Or put another way: maybe you just made those coins up and are trying to pass them off to me for a price. Bitcoin eliminated these possibilities by having its blockchain network check the history of every Bitcoin sent over its network. If the Bitcoin I’m sending to my mom can’t be verified by the Bitcoin network as belonging to me based on that Bitcoin’s transaction history, then my mom won’t be getting any Bitcoin from me. Sorry, mom.

This is mostly correct. The key quibble is that Bitcoin did not get rid of the issue of double spending, its use of proof-of-work forces attempted double spending to consume resources. That is to say, since any participant wanting to build the next block must submit a proof-of-work that fulfills the difficulty requirement, real resources must be consumed in that process (e.g., electricity).

In fact, as noted earlier: an accidental fork in 2013 resulted in a successful double spend of $10,000. There are successful double-spending attempts on other proof-of-works chains too, such as Ethereum Classic.

Source: Coin Desk

Chapter Twelve

On p. 150 he writes:

This might sound super geeky, and you may wonder why anyone would need to know this, but the diversity of Ethereum clients actually prevented the entire network from going down when it was attacked on New Year’s Even in 2019. The clients that run Parity were targeted and so were taken offline, but the attack didn’t work on the clients that were running Geth. That meant that Ethereum stayed alive during the 14 hours the Parity team took to release a software patch to fix the bug. The Parity attack is about as good an example as you’re going to get of why decentralization is held in such high regard among the people who truly understand blockchain.

This is a really good point. Throughout the book, Leising discusses how client pluralism has been a cornerstone to the Ethereum project since day one. Strangely, a contingent of Bitcoin Core developers seem dead set against client pluralism, even though Bitcoin has faced a liveness issue before.

On p. 158 he writes:

Blockchain as a business was still relatively new in Silicon Valley at this time. There was already quite a bit of money backing Bitcoin ventures, like the San Francisco exchange Coinbase. Andressen Horowitz had been early to that game. And Dan Larimer’s BitShares had made the rounds on Sand Hill Road. Yet the debate over “blockchain not Bitcoin” was only just beginning: the idea that while Bitcoin is great, the underlying blockchain technology is the real breakthrough that would enable entire industries to modernize and achieve unheard-of levels of efficiency. The debate enraged many on the Bitcoin side, who bristled at the idea that Bitcoin was some secondary product. On the blockchain side of the argument stood people like Vitalik, who in the first line of his white paper and during his talk in Miami made the case. “In the last few months, there has been a great amount of interest into the area of using Bitcoin-like blockchain, the mechanism that allows for the entire world to agree on the state of a public ownership database, for more than just money,” he wrote in his paper. Ethereum sprang entirely from this belief, but in February 2014 it was still too early for the moneybags in Silicon Valley to have caught on.

This is fairly accurate. Chronologically the “blockchain not Bitcoin” motto did not arise until 2015, from VCs such as Adam Draper. But Leising is correct, that in early 2014, the VCs that were exploring cryptocurrencies were typically only interested in Bitcoin. A few, like Pantera, even used maximalist-like views in their publications. I witnessed this first hand at various meetups that year.28

On p. 161 he writes about Quadriga and Gerald Cotten:

In 2018, I’d traded emails with Cotten. I was working on a story about the refusal of many banks to work with crypto exchanges. “The situation here in Canada is such that it is very difficult to obtain a bank account for cryptocurrency exchanges,” Cotten wrote to me in response to question. “All five of Canada’s big-five banks (we have an bit of an oligopoly here on banking) will not permit a cryptocurrency exchange (or any business related to cryptocurrency for that matter) to have an account.” That meant Quadriga had to use a series of payment-processing companies to move customer money in and out of the market. One of these was called Crypto Capital Corp., which also processed money for the controversial exchange Bitfinex and its related entity Tether.

Leising was one of the first mainstream reporters to cast a critical eye at Tether LTD. For instance, in December 2017 he penned a Bloomberg article: There’s an $814 Million Mystery Near the Heart of the Biggest Bitcoin Exchange.

Yet despite these bonafides, some Tether Truthers ignore his contributions to that investigation.

Chapter Thirteen

On p. 181 he writes:

But if a global network of computers became judge and jury, the way humans interact with each other would radically change. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? That we’d let a global network of computers decide human conflict? For starters, it assumes the inputs will be there to come to a decision. I can imagine something like this for a very simple conflict, maybe a dispute about an insurance policy in the time of a natural disaster. The inputs are there, the details, and they could be boiled down to yes/no questions like, Did the hurricane occur? Was it covered in the policy? But I have a very hard time seeing this global network dirty its circuits with, say, a divorce. Imagine “a disinterested algorithmic interpreter” trying to navigate charges of infidelity or abuse. And yet while this sounds ludicrous to us now, how must it have sounded in 1970 to hear about a global network of computers that sends information anywhere in the world instantly and for free? So, I don’t know, maybe Gavin Wood’s vision is the far reaches of what I’m trying to get across to you about Ethereum. Maybe this is the 100-year plan.

This sounds a bit like parametric insurance. As far as I am aware, the first product along those lines that was released was Flight Delay from Etherisc. Unfortunately, despite a lot of marketing, most of the “DeFi insurance” products to date are effectively centralized and some require claims committees to signoff on payments.

On p. 183 he writes about internal drama at the Ethereum Foundation:

Only a year before Vitalik had thought of Ethereum as a side project, something he’d work on for a few months before returning to his studies at the University of Waterloo. But then it gained traction. Serious traction. It was idea so many Bitcoin adherents had been waiting for, the next. The reaction he garnered from the blockchain community had sent the message that he couldn’t build his project on top of another existing blockchain like Primecoin; he had to make his own. And here he was six months in, in the throes of that building, and it seemed as though it could all fall apart. While the idea had spread externally all around the world as Ethereum captured the imagination of a good number of very smart computer scientists, the kitchen council Vitalik had assembled was on the verge of dissolution. The discord could cost him the whole project if he wasn’t careful. He’d now devoted years of his life to Ethereum, and he was all in. He had to save it.

There’s a little inconsistency on the time described in the passage above. At the very end the author states that Vitalik has now “devoted years of his life to Ethereum” but sentences earlier says it is about a year old. Not a big deal, just a little distracting. Also he wrote the word “next” in italics. What comes after “next,” was it accidentally dropped?

On p. 191 he writes:

“I said, by the way, why is it that making a foundation in Switzerland is so hard that we have to give up on the foundation do the for-profit?” he said. The lawyers were again consulted, and they came back and said, it’s actually not that hard to set up a Swiss-based foundation.

“When I got this news, I was like, ‘hey guys, joy, we don’t have to make a profit anymore!” Vitalik said.

I chuckled.

On p. 200 he writes:

He took the opportunity to update people on the progress they were making. They now had four clients in various stages of production. In addition to the C++, Python, and Go clients, one was being built in Java by Roman Mandeleil. Vitalik had always felt it important to have Ethereum written in as many computer languages as possible, if for no other reason than it would be impossible for one group – say Java developers – to dominate the project. It was also to address a security concern: if one or two clients were disabled in a malicious attack, the network could continue to run on the unaffected clients.

Another good example of client pluralism and diversity.

On p. 201 he writes:

It shouldn’t be overlooked that cryptocurrencies enabled an entirely new funding model for startups. An ICO allows direct fundraising from users or investors or speculators, without the need to go to VC firms for seed money or banks to undertake the long and complicated road to an initial public offering. This was decentralized finance in its purest form, and as the world would see in just a few years, staggering amounts of money would be raised – and lost – by crypto firms via the ICO market. The scams and charlatans were everywhere: you were lucky to get a white paper to explain some projects. Some white papers brazenly plagiarized existing ones. The funds raised through an ICO were meant to fund development of that particular project, of course. Yet that happened only very infrequently at best. Most of the money raised was dumb money looking for the next big rising star. The ICO market also gave rise to a host of shady cryptocurrencies that traded on shady exchanges that did no due diligence checks on their users, meaning price manipulation was rampant. Scammers brazenly organized pump-and-dump schemes on chat boards, and to call this period of crypto the Wild West does a disservice to frontiersman. There were laws in the 1800s, of course; they simply ignored them. The ICO market was a law-free zone.

This was a concise, well-written overview of that time period. One that should have been the focus of anti-coiners but for some reason, has not.

Chapter Sixteen

On p. 213 he writes:

As June turned to July, the Ethereum community – and the blockchain ecosystem in general – carried out a vigorous and sometimes pointed debate about the merits of changing Ethereum’s history to erase the DAO fiasco. Peter Todd, a well-known if contentious Bitcoin developer, wrote on his blog, “This fork is a very bad idea, and I’m not alone in thinking that.” He cited a tweet from the time (which seems to have since been deleted) from a user name Ryan Lackey, who describes himself in his Twitter bio as a cypherpunk. Here’s what Lackey wrote, typos and all: “”I’m impressed how Ethereum managed to take a compromise of DAO into an opportunity do destroy all of ETH by killing fungibility/ect.”

This is a good example, and not even the tip of the iceberg of the anti-hard fork mentality that pervaded the Bitcoin ecosystem then (and still today). Both of the people Leising mentions are vocally opposed to hard forks even though empirically we have seen how frequently the merits outweigh the demerits.29

Continuing on p. 213 he writes:

Peter Todd, who incidentally had attended the first Bitcoin meetup in Toronto at Pauper’s Pub, spelled out his wishes for how the hard fork decision should be made. A clean vote of token holders was essential, he said.

“Soft or hard forking as a response to the DAO attack isn’t technical minutia: not only are there tens of millions of dollars at stake, but many (most?) of the core Ethereum developers also have significant financial interests at stake,” he said. “Put it up for a vote, one coin, one vote, and get cryptographic proof that you’ve actually got the support of the people who have invested their funds in Ethereum.”

I didn’t then and don’t know have a strong view as to how to determine what the course of action should have been. I did write about the hard fork at the time, and I do think, in retrospect that a hard fork was probably the right thing to do. Empirically Ethereum Classic still exists but it never really gained much following beyond a slice of the Ethereum world who insisted on their interpretation of “code is law.”

But putting about what should or shouldn’t have happened in that instance, later during the Bitcoin block size civil war – that culminated in 2017 – a group of miners suggested a similar process: one coin one vote. For instance, throughout that year, a supermajority of miners indicated they supported the Segwit2x proposal. It wasn’t until F2Pool stopped supporting it that the rest folded and the promised “2x size increase” was finally dropped. With the enormous amount of lobbying that had taken place since the Hong Kong roundtable in 2016, miners faced a bait and switch. At the time, commentators such as Greg Maxwell and Peter Todd, downplayed the significance of such a signaling.30

On p. 216 he writes:

After the Zug meeting, Vitalik headed to San Francisco for a summit of the Thiel Fellowship. He’d been named a fellow in 2014 and had been awarded $100,000 to fund the continuation of Ethereum. Overall he’d been a bit disappointed in the summit; he’d hoped to meet Peter Thiel, a successful venture capitalist and founder of Palantir Technologies, the enormous and secretive data mining and analytics firm that features in the nightmares of privacy advocates the world over (an April 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek story carried the headline “Palantir Knows Everything about You”). While some of the sessions were boring, Vitalik did meet Nick Szabo at the event, whom he described as “one of the major pre-Satoshi pioneers of cryptocurrency.” It turns out Szabo was putting a substantial amount of work into Ethereum, Vitalik wrote home in an email.

I met Szabo a couple of times at events in 2014-2017 in the Bay Area. The last couple of times he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me in part because he – and his wife, Elaine Ou – became outspoken supporters of Ethereum Classic and were also Bitcoin maximalists opposed to hard forks.31 In fact, Szabo changed his Twitter profile name to include “No2x” during the block size civil war; neither was in favor of the Segwit2x proposal.

Chapter Eighteen

On p. 230 he writes about Microsoft:

Marley Gray was a big fan of Ethereum from early on. In the announcement about the deal with ConsenSys he wrote, “Ethereum provides the flexibility and extensibility many of our customers were looking for. With the Frontier release last summer, Ethereum is real and has a vibrant community of developers, enthusiasts and businesses participating.

It is interesting, although not surprising, that Leising reached out to and spoke with Marley Gray, who is currently still at Microsoft. What is surprising, and I mentioned it before, was that neither Ben McKenzie or Jacob Silverman seem to have reached out to Gray and Yorke Rhodes when writing Easy Money.

On p. 230 he writes about the formation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA):

Andrew Keys didn’t see eye to eye with Ming, and said she made several business decisions that hurt early Ethereum adoption. A big one involved IBM, which was considering using an altered version of Ethereum for its blockchain research and development. The deal would be enormous for the fledgling foundation. “IBM has a tremendously powerful distribution arm,” Keys said. “I didn’t appreciate until ConsenSys how embedded IBM is into Earth – all the central banks, all the banks, all the supply chains.” Keys said Ming wouldn’t take calls from IBM executives Jerry Cuomo, vice president of blockchain technologies, and John Wolpert, a global product executive for blockchain. IBM ended up creating its own blockchain, Fabric, for its R&D.

One of blockchain-histories great “what-ifs…” What if IBM had pursued a fork of Ethereum instead of Fabric, a platform that has not grown like gangbusters. What-if R3 had pursued a variant of Ethereum, instead of Corda, eschewing Richard Brown’s love affair with the UTXO model?32 Interestingly, Wolpert later left IBM and created Baseline, an Ethereum-related project supported by ConsenSys and the EEA.

On p. 232 he writes:

ConsenSys wrote some code for use with Linux and Marley handled the cloud computing side and soon they had the Ethereum Blockchain as a Service product ready. Marley specialized in financial services innovation for Microsoft, so he knew that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs wanted to experiment with private blockchains. The demand was there.

And Marley was correct. Even today there is interest in private chains and subnets, such as those attached to Avalanche and its clones (such as Metal).

On p. 233 he writes about Microsoft:

“Then an email comes in, ‘ding,'” Marley said. “I look down and two threads below is Satya; he’d read a Reuters article and sent it to his direct reports, the entire leadership team.” The news agency had put out a story earlier that day with the headline “Microsoft Launches Cloud-Based Blockchain Platform with Brooklyn Start-Up.” Marley hadn’t seen it.

“This is the perfect example of growth mind-set,” Satya had written to his deputies in the email. “And I was like, okay, we’re here,” Marley said. “That’s was how everything else got started.”

Reaching out for a first hand quote is one of the reasons is one of the strengths of this book. In contrast, the lack of first hand reporting – especially with their passing comment on Microsoft – is why Easy Money needs to do a mulligan.

Chapter Nineteen

On p. 238 he writes about the 2016 hard fork:

One way the community had kept track of sentiment around the hard fork was through an online “voting” system called Carbon Vote. It allowed Ethereum holders to use their ether to signal whether they supported or opposed the hard fork. The vote was nonbinding, but it did serve as a way for people like Vitalik to gauge where the support lay. As of July 16, 87 percent of the ether holders had voted in favor of the hard fork.

It’s coincidental timing because as of this writing in Bitcoinland there is a feud between certain Core developers – such as Luke-Jr (who control the BIP process) – and dapp developers such as Taproot Wizard and Ordinals. Will it resort in a hard fork? Will Ocean Mining and its supporters smother inventiveness once again?

On p. 239 he writes about moments after the hard fork successfully occurred:

“It felt like the battle had been won at the time, so we opened up the champagne,” Gun said. He’d printed labels for the bottles that said, “Congratulations on the fork,” complete with a picture of the contentious utensil.

“It was shit champagne,” Alex said. They took pictures and posted them to Twitter, which caused an immediate backlash. People online, many of them probably not fans of Ethereum to begin with, said look at these rich jerks with their champagne after they’ve desecrated the idea of blockchain immutability.

A year after the hard fork, one of those anti-Ethereans, Greg Maxwell, pulled out the “champaign” in honor of sky high fees in the Bitcoin mempool. This was in mid-December 2017 at the height of a bubble. Those fees would quickly subside with the deflation of the bubble but the fact that a Bitcoin Core developer celebrates “high fees” is a weird one.

On p. 240 he writes about how ETH Classic arose due to miners (mining pools) providing hashrate for it:

“What f2pool basically did is they forgot to install the code to run on the fork,” Vitalik said. “To this day I have no idea if that was just them being stupid or whether that was a deliberate strategy on their part.” The thing that’s weird about this is that for the first several block on a forked blockchain, the economics are terrible for miners. The blocks are very difficult to process and have little or no reward to offer a computer that puts in the work. This is why people expected the old chain of Ethereum to die off: it just didn’t make economic sense for anyone to keep it alive.

In other book reviews I’ve mentioned Deadcoins, which is a continuously growing catalogue of dead coins, including proof-of-work-based coins.

Speaking of which:

Source: 2Miners

Above is hashrate chart of yet another fork of Ethereum called ETH PoW which arose over a year ago when Ethereum (ETH) flipped over to proof-of-stake. A number of miners wanted a way to keep the golden goose going, so they made a fork. You can see exactly when the price of the ETH PoW coin rose in value about three months ago (it rose alongside the rest of the market). Is this a particularly healthy looking hashrate chart?

On p. 240 he writes:

“There is this possibility that f2pool was pretending to be stupid but really they were trying to help the ETC chain along,” Vitalik said.

That seems possible. Not a huge surprise that f2pool was one of the earliest supporters of ETH PoW as well.

On p. 241 he writes:

The email was from Greg Maxwell, a Bitcoin Core developer and diehard supporter of Bitcoin in its purest form. He’d already publicly and harshly criticized Ethereum as going in the wrong direction and was known to be no fan of Vitalik or the Ethereum Foundation.

I think there are Bitcoin fans and supporters of say, Ordinals, who would argue that maximalists, such as Maxwell, are not supporters of Bitcoin in its purest form. For example, as mentioned in other book reviews: Samuel Patterson went through everything Satoshi ever wrote. Unsurprisingly Satoshi discussed payments significantly more than a “store of value” or other narratives that maximalists like to pivot to.

For one reason or the other, Maxwell became vocally anti-hard fork and vocally-anti bigger blocks circa 2015-2017. As CTO of Blockstream, and a gatekeeper in the Bitcoin Core BIP process, he used his influence to demonize Bitmain (remember Antbleed?) and change the roadmap away from SegWit2X to just SegWit.33

On p. 241 he writes:

“If Vitalik actually believed what he was telling others he should have taken my offer – or at least a better one like it from someone else,” Maxwell said. “A high counteroffer would have allowed me to establish that he was being dishonest about his opinions and aided me in arguing some sense into other people (and potentially saved some people from losses).”

When I speak to journalists how maximalists all seem to think they are gods of finance and trot around on high horses, this is the type of ‘concern trolling’ statement that I will refer to. Why does anyone need to conduct commerce with Maxwell? Who owes it to him?

On p. 242 he writes about the Ethereum fork:

This doesn’t happen in traditional finance. If something happens with a publicly traded company like Ford, you don’t suddenly have a clone of Ford to deal with.

Precisely why the ‘colored coin’ narrative that and Symbiont used in 2015 made zero sense. Proof-of-work networks cannot guarantee settlement finality making them an unsuitable type of blockchain for securities transfers which require such legal and technical guarantees.

On p. 243 he writes:

The creation of ether classic is different – I think this one is an unforeseen consequence. It has to be, as no one seemed prepared for it or had planned on what to do if the hard fork wasn’t unanimous. While the hard fork had the support of basically the entire Ethereum community, the result played right into the hands of the thieves it was meant to thwart. Was anyone really in control as Ethereum lurched from one disaster to the next?

Fast forward to the first week of 2024 and Ethereum Classic still exists and actually received some additional attention in late 2022 when Ethereum switched to proof-of-stake. Is there a vibrant dapp ecosystem? Unfortunately it is currently difficult to independently separate ETC from ETH in the Electric Capital developer report portal.

Stylistically, it is unclear why the author used lowercase “ether classic” versus uppercase. Also, why uppercase Bitcoin but lowercase ether?

On p. 244 he writes:

It’s worth noting that some people who pushed ether classic at the beginning have a dark history. The RHG had changed; it had lost some of its founders, like Alex Van de Sande, and added new people. They now referred to themselves as the White Hat Group, and early interactions between the WHG and ether classic owners got nasty. I’ve spoken to several WHG members who asked me not to write about this part of the story; it’s still traumatizing to them. Threats were made, some in the WHG fell into depression and had suicidal thoughts, I was told. Some of the ETC supporters were bad people. But I never planned to write about this part of the story anyway. From the outset, I wanted to stop after the hard fork. There is another whole story to tell, another book, I’m sure, about what occurred behind the scenes in the early months of ether classic coming on to the scene. But I am not including that story here.

Some vocal ether classic supporters who were not exactly nice online include: Elaine Ou, Nick Szabo, Donald McIntyre, and Barry Silbert. Separately it is kind of funny that elements of the ETC community felt compelled to hold a POW Summit last year, to lionize PoW and demonize PoS. That would be like physiologists hosting an Appendix Summit focused on why we should Make the Appendix Great Again. Proof-of-work mining, like the appendix, are vestigial and should be quietly put to rest.

Lastly, I think chronologically if you read this book, you probably will find The Cryptopians a pretty good part two as it adds to the WHG and ETC formation story line.

Chapter Twenty

On p. 247 he writes about Tomoaki Sato

Born in Tokyo in 1993, Tomoaki had attended one of the city’s best high schools but dropped out of university. Once he discovered Bitcoin in 2013 he started reading pieces by a writer named Vitalik Butein. He was too young then to buy Bitcoin. Years later, he heard about Ethereum and was able to buy a little ether in the crowdsale. In November 2015 he went to DevCon 1 in London, where he met Vitalik, Gav Wood, and others. It was an exciting time. While not many people knew about blockchain in Japan at first, that soon changed, and Tomoaki created Smart Contract Japan in 2015. He wrote code and hired engineers to help with blockchain projects as demand rose. One of his previous jobs had been helping people recover passwords to their Bitcoin wallet, which is no easy feat. He also made fixes to the Ethereum Go client, according to his GitHub page.

Leising explores Tomoaki as a potential candidate for The DAO hacker. Coincidentally I met Tomoaki a couple of times, once at the tail end of 2015 at a Bitcoin meetup. In contrast, Laura Shin, who also wrote a book covering Ethereum’s history, believes The DAO hacker is Toby Hoenisch.34

On p. 252 he writes:

After more reporting and a bit of luck on the blockchain, I came to suspect Tomoaki. In January 2020, I thought he was the ether thief, so I wrote it that way. I want to be clear, however. I’m not accusing Tomoaki of being the ether thief. I can’t make that claim; I don’t have any direct evidence for it, just a link from a source I’m not naming and Tomoaki’s own words when we spoke.

Unlike McKenzie and Silverman who use lots of innuendo in Easy Money, Leising explicitly says he does not have evidence for a specific accusation.

On p. 252 he writes:

Eventually, Tomoaki wrote back to say he checked and discovered he closed his Poloniex account in 2018, so he couldn’t provide screenshots from 2016. As for ShapeShift, he said the exchange didn’t keep records of customers’ transactions in 2016.

In September 2018, ShapeShift was at the center of a featured exposé from The Wall Street Journal. Subsequently ShapeShift introduced some KYC measures that led to an exodus of users, only to go “full DeFi” and eschew the same KYC measures two years later.35

Chapter Twenty-one

On p. 253 he writes:

Corporate support for blockchain as a platform, which had started a year before with Microsoft coming aboard as a lead sponsor of DevCon 1 in London, only grew at DevCon 2. The likes of IBM and R3, l a consortium of all the world’s largest banks that were now experimenting with blockchain, were major presences in Shanghai. The problem was, they were slagging off Ethereum, saying it couldn’t be trusted for commercial applications.

This is sort of true. I was at DevCon 2 in Shanghai (and gave at least one presentation at the accompanying International Blockchain Week event). I believe only one or two representatives from each company made a panel appearance, so it is not like they were a huge presence.36

On p. 254 he writes:

To form these private networks, banks and corporations didn’t need to use the public blockchain systems that had made Bitcoin and Ethereum successful. There was no need for JPMorgan and Bank of America to use a proof-of-work system to mine blockchain transactions because they already knew each other. A proof-of-work system is only needed when strangers are interacting. It injects trust into a transaction where the parties don’t trust each other. JPMorgan and Bank of America, on the other hand, already trade billions of dollars’ worth of financial products between themselves every day, both for the bank’s own account and on behalf of their customers. People began applying the term distributed ledger instead of blockchain to this kind of transaction system.

This is mostly correct. But I don’t think it’s fully accurate to say that PoW is only needed when strangers are interacting, it is a vestigial process. Proof-of-stake implementations didn’t exist in 2007-2008 when Satoshi was designing Bitcoin, yet today in 2024 it is PoS that has become the dominate method deployed by new L1s. Also, it’s debatable whether “trust” is injected into a transaction. But what we can probably all agree on is that PoW requires the consumption of real resources in order make reordering the blockchain expensive. Whereas PoS does not require such consumption.

It bears mentioning that empirically regulated financial institutions largely eschewed using proof-of-work networks to deploy life cycles of assets. Will these trend change now that Ethereum has transitioned to proof-of-stake via the rise of “real-world assets” (tokenized off-chain assets)?

Lastly, I am the author of the mostly widely cited paper discussing permissioned distributed ledgers: Consensus as a Service (published in 2015). And the origin of the term “DLT” comes from Robert Sams.

On p. 254 he writes:

John Wolpert from IBM and Richard Gendal Brown from R3 presented at DevCon 2, “both of which had slides in it that basically said companies can’t trust Ethereum, it’s a fringe open-source project that can’t be trusted for commercial work,” Millar said.

That’s probably an accurate characterization, at least, that is the type of narrative that both individuals had – at that point – pushed. It’s worth pointing that a year after DevCon 2, as mentioned before, Wolpert left IBM and joined ConsenSys where he led the Baseline Protocol efforts. Fast forward to today, Brown still works at R3 and Corda – the distributed ledger R3 develops – does not appear to have gained much traction outside of its initial support group.37

On p. 254 – 255 he writes:

Microsoft’s Marley Gray was in Shanghai and remembered the IBM and R3 presentations. “IBM was particularly heavy on the FUD,” he said, referring to the acronym for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” that crypto people use as a shorthand for anyone criticizing their work. “I still give Jerry some grief about that,” he said, referring to Jerry Cuomo, IBM’s VP of blockchain technologies.

We could probably write a lengthy blog post or two on the anti-Ethereum narratives that specific individuals at these companies employed. It bears mentioning that in my role on the Research team at R3, we attempted to remain militantly neutral — I got into numerous disagreements with several executives and senior staff on the topic of ‘anything maximalism’ . On this point, during my tenure the Research team worked with Vitalik Buterin and others in the public chain world on research papers that certainly did not kowtow to the Corda-centric world that currently dominates R3.

On p. 255 he writes:

Joe Lubin, Vitalik, Jeremy Millar, Marley Gray, Alex Batlin, and Andrew Keys were among the people in Shanghai who had the first conversations about what would become the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. About 10-12 people intially joined the group, which Joe bankrolled until membership dues were enough to pay the bills. Marley Gray offered the Microsoft offices near Times Square for EEA meetings.

The only small quibble I have is that there was an informal precursor to the EEA that Vitalik was also connected to sometimes referred to the EEO. The EEO was a loose set of about a dozen Ethereum-focused projects that aimed to cooperate in areas they did not compete in. In its short life (less than a year), its ‘members’ predominantly were based in Asia, but also included at least one in the UK.38

On p. 255 he writes:

The Ethereum codebase would need some work as well if it was going to appeal to businesses. This was the early advantage IBM’s Hyperledger project and R3’s Corda blockchain had over Ethereum.

One small correction: Corda is not a blockchain. Note: the original Corda white paper (written by Mike Hearn) explicitly says it is not a blockchain (err ‘block chain’).

The Hyperledger project referred to above is “Fabric.” While it initially did receive enormous amounts of contributions and attention by a number of technology companies, it really did not see much wide adoption. IBM, which was the chief flag bearer for Fabric, axed nearly all of its blockchain-specific team and has now set its sights back on A.I. (again).

Also, the effort by the EEA to create and deploy a single standard implementation took significantly longer than expected. In the meantime, JP Morgan and ConsenSys deployed open source implementations catered to the needs of enterprises before the EEA did.

On p. 255 he writes:

Marley Gray said Ethereum was under pressure from other enterprise blockchains like Hyperledger that had better privacy controls and performance. “Corda was starting to make some noise. We felt like if we didn’t do something…,” Gray said.

Again, same nitpick: Hyperledger is an organization within the Linux Foundation. It helps incubate a number of blockchain-adjacent projects. At the time the book was published, the most prominently known Hyperledger project was Fabric, and IBM was a key sponsor and contributor for that.

Fast forward to the present day, on mainnet it seems like some (not all) of the performance considerations have been partly handwaved away (not necessarily resolved) with the launch of zk-proof-based rollups dubbed the zk EVM universe (such as Starkware and zkSync). Privacy controls is still unresolved on mainnet, although that can was quasi kicked down the road and in the meantime permissioned liquidity pools – such as ARC on Aave – were launched (but not really used). Will those types of pools provide comfort to regulated financial institutions?

On p. 256 he writes:

The team Baldet joined was known as first as Gemini, which oversaw several avenues the bank was pursuing. One area was strategic partnerships, like the investments JPM had made in startups Digital Asset Holdings and Axoni. Another was the issue of using public blockchains for business, which is problematic because public blockchains reveal too much information for businesses to feel comfortable using them. To address the latter issue JPM could try to use Ethereum – if Ethereum could be tweaked to be more private – or go with R3 and its Corda blockchain or build its own internal blockchain from scratch.

Again, it’s probably a fools errand to correct at this point but let the record show that Corda is not a blockchain per se, although it is frequently marketed as one. In fact, over four years ago R3 sued Coda – a public blockchain project – due to the similar name. Despite the fact that Corda whitepaper literally says Corda is not a blockchain, the Coda community changed its name to Mina.

On p. 257 he writes:

“The public Ethereum blockchain absolutely makes a lot of sense, but if you’re going to be trading security tokens between regulated banks then you didn’t need to have the burden of proof-of-work,” Alex said as each member of the bank-trading network would be known to each other, UBS used a system called proof-of-authority, which doesn’t require an ungodly amount of electricity to maintain.

It is likely that the proof-of-authority (PoA) implementation that is referred to here is most commonly associated with the Parity implementation (developed by Parity Technologies, formerly Ethcore). When the book was published, Istanbul BFT (IBFT) was under testing by the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. And last year the QBFT, a variation of IBFT, was published by the EEA. It is unclear what the uptake of IBFT or QBFT is at the time of this writing, however the general trend continues as described in the book: regulated banks are issuing tokenized assets on PoS networks, not PoW.

On p. 258 he writes:

Lastly, there is the thorny problem of national interests in securities markets. For understandable reasons, perhaps, most countries have centralized control over their own domestic stock markets and the associated back-office settlement procedures that are arguably more important. That makes it difficult to sell shares across the world because business in London has to be reconciled with US-based business, and Asian share purchases have to be reconciled with sales of shares in the Middle East. You get the idea.

“A distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, is perfect because it’s both local and global, so you no longer need to reconcile between nations,” Batlin said.

This still the pitch and grand vision by the tokenization and digitalization movement(s). To be fair, Batlin never said it would be easy or fast.

On p. 259 he writes:

JPMorgan took this idea seriously and soon realized that just sticking a blockchain into an existing financial market only adds another layer of complexity, often without improving efficiency. “But what if we built a new debt instrument from scratch on a blockchain?” Christine Moy said. “That’s where the cash token was born, or JPMCoin was born.”

JPMCoin not only still exists but the projects it touches has grown under the Onyx umbrella and the Tokenized Collateral Network (TCN).39

On p. 261 he writes:

In a larger sense, though, while the EEA was helping establish Ethereum as fit for business, Amber and a lot of other people involved with the group wanted enterprise blockchains to lead to a better public blockchain system. The hope was that, like in the early days of the Internet, private intranets would one day merge with the public Internet. If in business or on the public chain, many in the Ethereum community wanted to move the ball in the same direction.

I never thought this was a particularly compelling argument. In fact, while it was widely echoed at conferences, it’s not a really accurate description of how “the Internet” actually works. What we call “the Internet” is just an amalgamation of peering agreements between a sundry of ISPs. Also, there are perfectly sane (security) reasons for why corporate, governmental, medical, military, and other organizations would prefer to maintain a private intranet versus connecting it all a public internet.

Chapter Twenty-two

On p. 267 he writes:

At the smaller venue Decentral used, called the Fishbowl, I overheard a comment outside the yurt-like tent: someone said that understanding this technology deeply isn’t necessary, that it’s all about bringing all sorts of varied people into the mix of blockchain and decentralized markets. Griff was in full Santa regalia that day and spoke with a group of people who were a mix of novices and people like Jonathan Levi, who helped create the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric, an open-source blockchain system used by tech giants IBM and Cisco. Once I realized who he was, I wanted to tell the people in the tent how lucky they were to be asking him questions in such an intimate setting, but that’s not exactly Burner culture.

Unlike the previous mentions of “Hyperledger” as a singular project, Leising accurately describes it. Again, there is no need for a second edition, but if there was one, harmonizing this inconsistency would get a thumbs up.

On p. 269 he writes:

In October 2019, the SEC granted Paxos Trust Company, a blockchain company that caters to financial institutions, the green light to settle stock trades in near real time. This wasn’t a pilot program or a proof-of-concept, as Wall Street has been so fond of doing for years. It’s real stock trading in US equity markets. The move was seen as a direct threat to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, the industry-created body of banks and brokerages that works to settle trades in a centralized fashion, and it marked a turning point in the DTCC’s half century of dominance in the equity market.

It’s not clear how many equities have been traded or settled through Paxos but they did announce about 15 months ago that nearly $50 billion of commodities had been settled through the Paxos Settlement Service since inception. Maybe it stalls or goes nowhere, but I’ve always wondered why Bitcoin maximalists and anti-coiners pretend as if this type of service does not exist.

For instance, a few years ago Jorge Stolfi – a prominent anti-coiner – made a priori claims that clearly were untrue about the DTCC (and Project Ion). Again, maybe all of these settling-securities-on-a-blockchain efforts fizzle out. But they exist in production, that in itself is evidence that contradicts the a priorism heavily used in both Popping the Crypto Bubble and Easy Money.

On p. 269 he writes:

The DTCC isn’t letting its business be taken away that easily, though. In a different area of what it does it’s using distributed ledger technology, or DLT, to help improve how credit default swaps are managed. CDS trades became notorious during the 2008 financial crisis, of course, and efforts to regulate them included requirements that completed trades be collected and maintained in a common location. That gave rise to the DTCC creating its Trade Information Warehouse. While such trade repositories have always been centralized in the past, DTCC is close to implementing a distributed ledger that would allow the banks and investors that trade CDSs to all be on one private network. That network is based on Ethereum.

I believe Leising is referring to Axoni, a NYC-based fintech company that was initially focused on the TIW project from the DTCC. It has since launched al derivative-focused blockchain called Veris. As of this writing it is unclear what level of activity is taking place on it.

On p. 271 he writes:

It’s an open question as to whether these blockchain advances in the corporate and financial worlds will continue. If it’s a big corporate interest that first makes a breakthrough with DLT – say an insurance company or a global supply chain – I’m not sure we’ll even notice that something has changed. The mechanics of how actuarial tables and trade routes work play out behind the scenes, and there’s not reason to think big efficiency gains would make for compelling news. Any blockchain breakout – if it happens – would more likely be noticed on the consumer front. It’s likely that some form of crypto will be required to interact with a blockchain app. That could be ether, or it could be a stable coin (which is still digital but isn’t supposed to fluctuate in value because it’s collateralized in some fashion to tie it to a real-world asset like the US dollar). It would need to be easy to buy that crypto and easy to use the app. Then you could see real threats to companies like Uber, Airbnb, and eBay – and basically any company that sits in the middle of a transaction and takes a fee for the privilege.

Fast forward to the present day, nearly four years later, and as mentioned before IBM dramatically reduced its blockchain-related headcount as did many of the other vendors who were focused on “blockchains” as if it were a software licensed product versus a shift in market structure. Nearly all of the consortium efforts have disappeared too.

Also worth pointing out that this was the first and only mention of “stable coins” as the book manuscript was completed before “DeFi summer” – a time period which heavily (parasitically) relied on this 3rd party collateral.40 One wonders why neither Easy Money nor Popping the Crypto Bubble provided a concise definition of “stable coin.”

On p. 272 he writes:

And as can be seen from its history, Ethereum has always gone much slower than people said it would go. It’s like the crowdsale that was always two weeks away. It can feel like the entire Ethereum ecosystem lives in that wait-and-see moment. The challenges are on many fronts too, and not just related to how to get people to use Ethereum-based products. The challenges are technical as well. For what it wants to be, Ethereum needs serious improvement in its performance stats. Visa claims its payment network can handle more than 24,000 retail transactions per second. Ethereum is a fast blockchain that does 15 per second. (Though it should be point out, you could potentially be sending an enormous amount of money, say $50 million, over the Ethereum blockchain. Try that on your Visa card.) In late 2018, Vitalik said on Twitter that an optimistic view would see Ethereum increase to 3,000 transactions per second with the improvements it was making, which shows you how very far it has to go.

I think this is an apples-to-oranges comparison: Ethereum wasn’t designed to be a retail payment network, but rather a “world computer” that could host a bunch of different things. Should the architects and designers have focused on a specific niche instead? Reckon time will tell?

Four years after that tweet, the mainnet transaction throughput is still roughly 15 transactions per seconds. The roadmap that was followed during that time frame tasked Ethereum as a “modular” data availability chain from which other layers (L2s) would be built on top of. In contrast, monolithic chains, such as Solana, have sprung up and taken the speed crown for the past few years. Was this the right scaling decision to make?

On p. 272 he writes:

Bringing along regulators is another hurdle Ethereum has to clear. Episodes like the DAO attacks should, on the one hand, terrify regulators due tot he “unstoppable” nature of an application running with a software bug that can’t be fixed. On the other hand, the Ethereum community voted to fix the problem, and regulators like flexibility (even if blockchain purists abhor it). When it comes to critical business systems of the type regulated under the systemically important financial market utility framework, US officials are going to be extremely cautious about allowing a network of banks and investors to reshape the bond market, as just one example. The SEC has been criticized repeatedly for not spelling out its view on cryptocurrencies in a formal fashion. People have been left guessing in a lot of cases until the feds came in with an enforcement action.

One nitpick: I don’t think it’s fair to label anti-fork maximalism as “blockchain purists.” Hard forking a chain is baked into proof-of-work chains (such as Ethereum was when the book was published): Nakamoto consensus seeks to create the canonical chain as the one with longest tree (and/or highest difficulty). Block builders should be able to choose any branch to build on. Forking Ethereum in 2016 led to two chains and that isn’t a bad thing per se. It’s only “bad” if you’re anti-choice which is what anti-fork maximalism effectively is.

One other observation is that unlike nearly every other book on this topic that I have reviewed, the author specifically mentions SIFMUs which is a big deal. Again, not that another edition needs to be made, but it would be nice to have a chapter that collects all of the SIFI/SIFMU-related public discussions as it relates to blockchains.

For instance, two weeks ago there was a public hearing held by the House Financial Service committee in which a SIFI designation, as it relates to digital assets, were mentioned. How many other public hearings from other national legislatures has this occurred in the past few years? Would be interesting to see a timeline of such key words, has the cadence increased? FMIs and the PFMIs are still not frequently discussed on social media either.41

On p. 274 he writes:

The changes being worked on boil down to making Ethereum process transactions faster so it can grow into the type of network needed for a global reach. The first change is doing away with the proof-of-work system that’s used by Ethereum miners to confirm the latest transactions on the blockchain. The computer power needed uses an enormous amount of energy, and Vitalik and others in the Ethereum community have long wanted to get away from this environmental block mark.

Exactly true. Nearly six year ago to the day, Vitalik mentioned:

“I would personally feel very unhappy if my main contribution to the world was adding Cyprus’s worth of electricity consumption to global warming.”

What is quizzical about how after Ethereum transitioned away from proof-of-work, to proof-of-stake, we still see a whole bunch of people – especially lobbyists like Coin Center – stanning for proof-of-work. Let it die in the ash heap. No one simps or stans for the original Wright brothers airplane design, so why should other outdated technology receive the same kind of lionization? There are a number of robust proof-of-stake implementations that are battle tested; the luddite defenders of PoW should just move on.

On p. 274 he writes:

While Bitcoin is known to use a larger amount of electricity for its proof-of-work that Ethereum, Ethereum is estimated to gobble a quarter to a half as much, something to IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of the world’s largest group of engineers and applied scientists. That means Ethereum’s proof-of-work uses the same amount of electricity as Iceland on any given day. IEEE Spectrum said. Put another way, one Ethereum transaction consumes more electricity than the average US household uses in a day, the magazine said.

Oof. What an absurd waste. And yet, key participants in the Ethereum Classic community organized and held a Proof-of-Work Summit about four months ago, to defend this morbid waste of resources. Guys and gals, it’s totally possible to be a fan of crypto-related assets without needing to carry water for all of them. Especially ones that are an ESG nightmare.

On p. 274 he writes:

The way Ethereum wants to change that is by switching to a confirmation process known as proof-of-stake. Proof-of-stake requires users who want to be rewarded for validating transactions to deposit ether for a set amount of time. The more ether they set aside, the bigger the reward for verifying the network. In a proof-of-work system, the winning miner who first validates a block of transactions is rewarded with an amount of Bitcoin or ether. In proof-of-stake, there are no miners. There are now validators, and they make bets on which block is next to come up for verification. If they are right, they get rewarded with a percent of ether proportional to how much ether they have committed to the proof-of-stake system.

A couple of small nitpicks: in proof-of-work chains such as Bitcoin, it is the first block maker that proposes (and builds) the new block that is rewarded a specific amount of BTC (known as the coinbase reward or coinbase transaction). Not the first to verify. Perhaps that is what Leising meant. Also, worth pointing out that there are multiple different implementations of proof-of-stake, not all use the approach that Leising described.

On p. 277 he mentions a phone call with Vitalik:

“It’s definitely slower than I expected,” he said. “But it’s happening.” Back several years ago he became excited about stable coins. Now there was Dai, a stable coin collateralized with ether that’s in wide use. He’d also wanted to see a decentralized naming system for the Internet. Now a lot of people use a service called EthDNS, where you can buy domain names that end in .eth. According to CoinDesk, foundation.eth sold for $27,000 and exchange.eth went for $609,000 in 2017. He’s also excited about decentralized storage systems, which aren’t quite here yet but are close.

Coincidentally, eighteen months ago I specifically mentioned the same examples in a presentation. That is not an endorsement, rather an observation of what was occurring in terms of activity. Will ENS (what EthDNS is now known as) eventually fizzle out? Or will Web3 functionality become wider spread, beyond niche browsers such as Brave?


I should have read this book earlier and recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the history of Ethereum. Also, chronologically this book should be seen as “Part 1” and read before The Cryptopians (which is effectively “Part 2”).

One non-substantive thing that lingered throughout several chapters was the lack of clear spacing between several words. It occurred too frequently and was a little distracting at first but then I got used to it.

A final quibble is that while Leising does an amazing job capturing so many details about The DAO hack and the aftermath, one thing I think that he could have added as the magnitude of how much Ether relative to the floating supply of ETH. More than 10% of all ETH mined at that point resided in The DAO.

Overall this is a solid book that has basically aged well. And in terms of pattern-matching, aligns with the observation from the previous 11 reviews: a short review means fewer errors and therefore it’s probably a decent book.


  1. While there are certainly a number of current and former coin-related reporters who are “industry” sycophants, it is unfair for anti-coiners and maximalists to disparage someone like Leising who was one of the first mainstream reporters to critically look into entities like Tether LTD. []
  2. For instance, unlike Popping the Crypto Bubble, the Prologue had no issues. []
  3. This was pre-Slack and pre-Discord days. []
  4. To be fair, credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard, aren’t “Wall Street” per se but they are examples of intermediaries that exist off of interchange (swipe) fees. []
  5. For instance, on p. 16 the author writes: As Ethereum cofounder Joe Lubin put it to me, Ethereum’s ambition is to be a global computer. In a statement that surely upset Bitcoin loyalists (and there are millions of them,) Lubin said that comparing Bitcoin to Ethereum is like comparing a pocket calculator to a desktop. []
  6. Oddly enough, neither of the anti-coiner-driven books I reviewed this past year discussed this which would have shored up their weak arguments. []
  7. The caveat is that there are a handful of chains – such as Monero – and a handful of mixing applications – like Tornado Cash – that provide some forms of transaction shielding and/or confidentiality, but in the books I have reviewed, neither of these were mentioned. []
  8. On any given day about 5-10% of Bitcoin’s mined supply is traded on a variety of venues including centralized exchanges and OTC desks. []
  9. Blockchain For Energy exists too, it’s a rebrand of the OOC Oil & Gas Blockchain Consortium. []
  10. At one point a few years ago, there were at least four active blockchain-based trade finance-related consortia:, TradeLens, Marco Polo, and komgo. Note: Vakt is the trading side and komgo is the documentation of the same lifecycle. []
  11. And more precisely, there was not that many transactions actually floating around to that needed to be secured in the first couple of years. []
  12. Yes yes, I am sure the anti-hard fork proponents will point at the continued existence of ETC or ETH PoW to show how a “contentious hard fork” never prunes the tree. But who has the authority to a priori claim that the existence of forks is bad (or good!)? Go outside and touch some grass. []
  13. There are also some older interviews on YouTube with Perkins Coie lawyers that appear to have disappeared that had some interesting legal advice surrounding public-facing ICOs during the Factom-era. []
  14. Personally, one of the most memorable presentations I recall watching during this time frame was from the London Bitcoin Conference 2012 by Mike Hearn. []
  15. I have given several public presentations on tokenization. One of the most recent ones is titled: The Nuances of Tokenization []
  16. Chronologically the name itself goes something like: RipplePay -> OpenCoin -> Ripple -> Ripple Labs -> Ripple []
  17. At an event in 2015 I asked Joel Monegro, who at the time was at Union Square Ventures, why he was enthusiastic about OpenBazaar. []
  18. See also: Banking on the Cloud by Baker et al. and Cloud Empires by Vili Lehdonvirta []
  19. In contrast, some developers of smart contract-based blockchains such as Ethereum went on to build out simple lending protocols such as Compound and Aave. []
  20. Not so fun fact: when Bukele was the toast of the Bitcoin world, Nic Carter uncritically hosted him in a Twitter Spaces, along with Alex Gladstein and Balaji Srinivasan. To my knowledge, the only high profile ‘coinfluencer’ to publicly condemn Bukele – and his association with cryptocurrencies – was Vitalik Buterin. []
  21. It is not a coincidence that Vanguard – which was founded by Bogle – did not list any Bitcoin ETF on its trading platform when they were approved earlier this month. []
  22. Recall that in 2015-2017, Gavin Andresen and other “big blockers” had their commit access revoked by a group of “small blockers.” []
  23. The fact that several prominent figures within Blockstream are publicly antagonistic towards proof-of-stake, and that Blockstream remains highly influential in the BIP gating process – via sponsorship of Bitcoin Core developers – makes it unlikely that Bitcoin will quickly transition to proof-of-stake. This is unfortunate because both Zcash and Dogecoin developer communities are attempting to migrate from PoW to PoS, the only thing stopping the Bitcoin world is Bitcoin maximalists, some of whom have a vested interest in keeping the chain PoW because they can sell mining equipment. Even one of Blockstream investors / partners (Tether LTD) is actively investing in Bitcoin mining facilities instead of helping migrate it to PoS. []
  24. For instance, Michael Patryn – co-founder of defunct exchange Quadriga – was revealed to be Sifu. Patryn/Sifu were in the news last year for forking Aave. Prior to co-founding Quadriga, Patryn was part of an identity-theft ring and served time in prison. []
  25. At the time R3’s management team was uninterested in getting into a public spat with the Bitcoin world. In fact, Richard Brown – then CTO – wanted to woo Bitcoin developers to build on Corda which was something I never thought would happen. And it hasn’t yet, despite a couple of architectural similarities (e.g., Corda and Bitcoin both use an UTXO model.) []
  26.  On Settlement Finality: “And, last but not least, there is what Swanson has elsewhere called the “Maginot Line” attack: throw a very large amount of money at the problem and simply bring more miners in than the rest of the network combined.” []
  27. Who is Gwern? []
  28. As mentioned in the Popping the Crypto Bubble review, Johnny Dilley, was an associate at Pantera who publicly took the position as a “Bitcoin maximalist” in online debates with Vitalik Buterin, Dominic Williams, and others – under the pseudonym Admiral Leviathan. At one event I spoke at in San Francisco in 2014, Dilley heckled me from the audience. See also: On Bitcoin Maximalism, and Currency and Platform Network Effects []
  29. Peter Todd has previously stated he worked for R3 in various capacities. If I recall correctly, he worked as a consultant for about 7-8 weeks in the fall of 2015 and left after a few disagreements including a one-sided feud with Mike Hearn. []
  30. Readers interested in a chronology of increasing the Bitcoin block size, be sure to peruse: The Great Bitcoin Scaling Debate — A Timeline by Daniel Morgan. []
  31. For a chronology see: Falling in and Falling out: A Brief Study of the Shifts in Nick Szabo’s Attitude towards Ethereum by Chester []
  32. Arguably one of the biggest mistakes early on at R3 was creating Corda with the UTXO model instead of adopting the Accounts based model of Ethereum. This is one of the reasons it was difficult to attract developers. []
  33. During this influence campaign he even used a pseudonym – Midmagic – frequently enough to have it quasi doxxed. []
  34. I briefly met Toby a couple of times during visits to Singapore in late 2014-2015. []
  35. In July 2015 I was on a panel at an American Banker event. Also on the panel were Houman Shadab, Adam Krellenstein, Dax Hansen, and Barry Silbert (CEO of DCG). I made a comment about ShapeShift as it related to DCG’s portfolio. Unfortunately the video was never approved for release. []
  36. It is unclear who was on the full speaker agenda, but many of the talks are still online today. []
  37. According to former employees, Corda has made some inroads in the CBDC world, specifically in the Middle East and some European states. []
  38. Clearmatics, which later joined the EEA, was an informal member of the informal EEO. []
  39. Moy now works at Apollo Global Management and a couple of the core engineers for the Juno project within JPM left to create their own public chain project called Kadena. []
  40. In his defense, it is practically impossible to time the release of a book to align with unexpected future events, especially with the lag time between the completion of the manuscript and the actual publication. []
  41. Back in 2018, Jenny Leung, an Australia-based attorney – wrote one of the first articles on the PFMIs as they relate to centralized exchanges. []