The Year in Ethereum

1. Did adoption of Ethereum grow in 2018?

From 2015–2017, it was an open question whether there would ever be any demand for Ethereum. Today, that answer feels settled: since late 2017, the Ethereum blockchain has continued to be used near maximum capacity:

Source: Google Bigquery Ethereum public dataset
Source: https://etherscan.io/chart/tx

What are people using the network for?

Many significant and long-awaited applications went live in 2018, and appear to be attracting users.

Source: mkr.tools

What should we be measuring, anyways?

Is “daily active on-chain transactions” the right measurement to quantify user adoption? This year, people started thinking (and tweeting) about what metrics we should use to gauge Ethereum’s success.

2. The Year of DeFi

This year we talked about a new narrative within the larger set of Ethereum applications. Many projects launched which were explicitly financial — applications or protocols that give users new tools with which to manage and use Ethereum-based money or assets. As a group, these became known as “Decentralized Finance” or “DeFi”.

Source: https://mikemcdonald.github.io/eth-defi/
https://stablecoinindex.com
https://stablecoinindex.com

3. The year of BUIDL — better tools, better frameworks, more hacking

2018 was the year of #BUIDLing. This was the year that it became radically easier to get started building applications on Ethereum.

Developer tools & frameworks

In 2018 developer tooling continued to improve. It’s still not easy to build on Ethereum, and there’s a long way to go — but it’s much better than it was in December 2017.

Truffle monthly downloads since 2015 (https://www.truffleframework.com/dashboard)
Open Zeppelin weekly downloads since 2016

Security tooling

At the end of 2017, security tooling & best practices were on everyone’s mind. Multiple high profile hacks and security failures forced the Ethereum community to improve best practices, and invest more resources in security audits and tooling.

Infrastructure

Ethereum’s primary clients — Geth and Parity — continued to be improved and refined, thanks to essential work by their development teams. New clients were released, like Pantheon in Java and Nethermind in .NET Core.

Developer collaboration across the ecosystem improved

The global community of Ethereum researchers & developers got better at working with each other in 2018. The primary forum for cryptoeconomic research on Ethereum — ethresear.ch — only launched in August 2017, and was not widely used until early 2018. Today it is the de-facto R&D hub for Ethereum, and an essential technical resource for everything from plasma to sharding.

Hackathons became a big deal

In October 2017 ETHWaterloo set a record as the largest Ethereum hackathon ever, which was quickly beaten by ETHDenver in February 2018. Over the rest of the year, there were 6 more ETHGlobal hackathons that served more than 5,800 developers, as well as other events like ETHMemphis and two hackathons held by Status.

4. Layer 2: research, development, and live on mainnet

One of the early narratives about 2018 is that it would be the year of Ethereum’s layer 2 scalability solutions.

State & Payment Channels

State channels are the most basic layer 2 technique. At the start of 2018, there were several custom-built channels applications still under development. Today, many of those projects have launched to main-chain, and critical infrastructure has been built that will soon radically shorten the development cycle for channelized solutions.

Plasma

Plasma is a scaling technique where operations are moved off-chain into a secondary blockchain, where they can be performed faster and at lower cost.

5. Zero Knowledge is coming

Over the past year the Ethereum developer community began to appreciate that new zero-knowledge technology will have a significant impact on blockchain technologies. Over the past 12 months, it has felt like every technical conversation in the Ethereum community takes the form of “well, we can do it this way for now, but of course once we have good zkSTARKs, it will be like this…”.

6. The Road to ETH 2.0

ETH 2.0 is the name for the long-term research and development of the Ethereum platform, incorporating fundamental base-layer upgrades like Proof of Stake and Sharding.

What did it all mean?

We warned you this post would be long. But it’s still not comprehensive. A lot more happened in the Ethereum ecosystem this year, including a few developments worth noting quickly here:

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