The resulting controversy from the DAO Incident split the Ethereum community into two camps. On one side, Vitalik Buterin and a majority of the community that wanted to hard fork the protocol to make the stolen funds unavailable on the new chain. On the other side, were the originators of Ethereum Classic, who prescribed the maxim ‘Code is Law,’ and felt that forking the protocol was a violation of the core principles of a public blockchain network.
In a defining event for the broader cryptocurrency industry in July 2016, Ethereum hard-forked the protocol and the blockchain split into two competing networks -- Ethereum and Ethereum Classic. The mantle of the original Ethereum blockchain actually belongs to Ethereum Classic, whose community remained mining, developing, and using the Ethereum Classic chain which did not roll back the stolen DAO funds.
Since then, Ethereum Classic has remained a strong community driven by a core set of principles but has tarried under Ethereum’s shadow. Notably, Ethereum Classic underwent a 51 percent attack in January 2019, highlighted by Coinbase and security researchers after observing a chain reorganization.
The ETC Cooperative oversees the financial support and growth of the Ethereum Classic ecosystem.
Principles and Ongoing Development
The Ethereum Classic community places a strong emphasis on the ‘immutability’ characteristic of public blockchain networks -- the driving cause of the split from Ethereum. While the two chains are different and Ethereum maintains a much larger development community, they remain very similar in the core designs.
For example, both networks are currently proof-of-work (PoW) public blockchains, rely on virtual machines for smart contracts capabilities, and use an account-based transaction model -- as opposed to Bitcoin’s UTXO model. Both platforms also consume GAS for resource management of computation across the network and rely on the Ethash mining algorithm.
However, Ethereum’s planned transition to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus is a path that Ethereum Classic is not taking. Ethereum Classic will remain a PoW blockchain network for the foreseeable future. Ethereum’s pending transition to PoS may ultimately prove an advantage to the hash power and mining robustness of Ethereum Classic should miners switch from Ethereum to the ETC chain.
The future roadmap of Ethereum is poised to reshape the cryptocurrency ecosystem, and Ethereum Classic’s role should serve as an intriguing case study as more public blockchains -- especially smart contracts platforms -- transition to PoS while others remain PoW chains.
Future Direction and Monetary Policy
One of the leading Ethereum Classic development teams, ETCDev, collapsed following funding problems but several of its core members have restarted their efforts under ETC Labs Core. Along with ETC Labs and IOHK, Ethereum Classic is working on several significant projects.
In particular, one of the major upgrades is an optimized virtual machine, called SputnikVM, for low-powered devices as a standalone implementation of the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Other developments include Mantis, a node client built with the programming language Scala, proof-of-authority sidechains, and Emerald Platform -- a toolkit for building applications on Ethereum Classic.
The Ethereum Classic currently maintains a list of major projects presently operational or in progress on the network called ‘Powered by ETC.’
A critical and often overlooked aspect of Ethereum Classic compared to Ethereum is the monetary policy. Ethereum Classic quickly fixed its monetary policy following the chain split, and in 2017, formalized a cap of 230 million ETC, and a diminishing block reward every 5 million blocks -- beginning at the block height of 5 million.