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Joseph Lubin: "European regulators are smarter than the rest".

Joseph Lubin: "European regulators are smarter than the rest".

In an exclusive interview with The Big Whale, the co-founder of Ethereum and start-up ConsenSys looks back at the evolution of the second largest blockchain on the planet and the SEC's recent offensive against the crypto industry.

The Big Whale: A year ago, a lot of people were wondering about Ethereum, about its future, particularly with the switch to Proof-of-Stake. Now that it has been successfully completed, would you say that all doubts have been removed?

Joseph Lubin: The switch from Ethereum to Proof-of-Stake was indeed a major event. This change has enabled us to accelerate the use, speed and power of the network. Some people still haven't understood that everything we do has a dual objective: to increase the number of Ethereum use cases and users.

The sixth edition of EthCC (17-20 July), which ends today, was a real success with hundreds of projects and thousands of participants. Would you say that the Ethereum ecosystem has never been so powerful?

I don't like to put it that way because everything is relative. My aim is for Ethereum, and the Web3 ecosystem more generally, to grow. If you take a step back, the ecosystem has been growing exponentially since 2009 and the launch of Bitcoin.

We're living in a new paradigm with this new form of decentralised trust. Some people spend a lot of time wanting to know which blockchain is the most powerful, the most efficient, but in reality it's just marketing.

Just speaking of trust. Didn't the 2022 scandals weaken people's confidence, especially the general public's, in Web3?

That obviously played a part, but we need to distinguish between those who cheated, i.e. certain players in centralised finance like FTX, and all the others who want to create genuine decentralised services like us. These people have lied, hurt the industry, but they have nothing to do with it.

It's impressive to see that there have never been so many people involved in Web3, and for good reason. As you've seen, the number of projects present at the EthCC is impressive!

What are the biggest challenges for Ethereum and the community?

I'd say first of all the integration of Proto-Danksharding, which will come in the next few months with the EIP 4844 update. Proto-Danksharding will enable us to significantly reduce costs on layers 2 and, in the future, layers 3. This is a very important step in the development of Ethereum.

One of the other big issues is the policy of "burning" ethers. We need to find the right balance. There is also the issue of validators. We need to succeed in decentralising the validation system better to avoid a few players having too much influence.

A battle of innovation has started on layers 2. ConsenSys has just launched its own, Linea. What's the point of having so many? What are the main differences between layers 2?

At the risk of surprising you, I'd say that this isn't a technological subject. Most layer 2s are actually quite capable.

I think the difference will mainly be in how easy it is to develop applications on these layer 2s. StarkWare has less traction because they develop tools for different kinds of virtual machines, not just the Ethereum one.

The other big differentiator is going to be the community. If you're able to attract good projects (gaming, finance, etc) and users to your layer 2, then you've won.

The lawsuit pitting Ripple against the SEC is very far from over, but a federal judge has just ruled that the XRP was not a "financial security"in a secondary market sale. Do you think this will change anything for ether, which could also be targeted by the SEC?

There is nothing to date to suggest that the SEC is preparing anything concrete against Ethereum. Gary Gensler has decided to take fairly violent action against the industry, and this has created a lot of doubt and uncertainty, but this offensive cannot go on indefinitely.

Elected members of the US Congress are up in arms against this approach because they have realised that it is detrimental to the United States and its sovereignty.

Gary Gensler cannot decide on his own what is a financial security and what is not. More generally, ether has already been considered a commodity by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the past, so it shouldn't be an issue for us.

The European MiCA Regulation has just been definitively adopted, and will gradually come into force. What do you think of this regulation?

I think that European regulators are smarter than others. They've understood what's going on, and so they don't want Europe to miss out on Web3 and its opportunities.

They've clearly understood that we mustn't kill the technology. The US would do well to learn from them, even if for them there is a real dilemma because the development of decentralised finance could weaken the current US financial system.

What interests you most about MiCA?

MiCA is far from perfect, but the approach is the right one because the focus is on the industry players and not the technology itself. Crypto technology shouldn't be regulated, that would be a mistake.

You talk about technology, but don't you think the best way to get companies and users on board is to talk more about products and user experience? Uber is known around the world for the ease of use of its app, not for the technology behind it...

You're absolutely right, but Uber didn't need to build the roads their drivers drive on. They just used the existing infrastructure!

For us, it's much more complicated because we have to create the new internet ourselves, a decentralised internet. We're doing it in stages, with different layers. That's why you have layers 1, layers 2 and layers 3, which will enable us to have a faster, more secure infrastructure, but there's everything to do, so it takes time.

All the issues I'm talking about are making headway in society. The idea of decentralisation is making headway just about everywhere, in sport, finance, distribution... It's no coincidence that brands like Nike, Starbucks and LVMH are entering the Web3. There are now more than a hundred global giants with projects because they've clearly understood what's at stake.

You're the boss of ConsenSys, which is best known for the Metamask portfolio. What are you working on to make Metamask even more accessible?

One of our priorities is to add services like staking and crypto swapping. The other areas we're working on are crypto storage and identity management.

Do you think the emergence of artificial intelligence has eclipsed Web3?

It's mainly the media that have eclipsed Web3. For months now, they've been talking a lot more about AI, so a large part of the population thinks it's over, which is obviously not the case. I don't think AI will have any impact on Web3. I'm even convinced that these two technologies are complementary.

Artificial intelligence will enable a lot of things to be automated in Web3, such as voting within DAOs or programming in protocols. For its part, AI, to be sustainable, will have to rely on transparent and decentralised protocols to ensure data governance.

What do you think of Sam Altman's Worldcoinproject?

Worldcoin is a special project. I haven't looked at the technology in detail yet, but I think the founders have reserved a significant proportion of the cryptos created for themselves, so if their aim is really to make it the "world's currency", it doesn't seem to be going very well to me. It's going to have to be better distributed.

After that, their ambition on identity is very interesting, it's a real subject. We need to succeed in creating decentralised identities.

The EthCC is being organised in Paris. What do you think of the French ecosystem?

France is one of the most dynamic ecosystems. Paris is very important for ConsenSys, where we have always had a large team. There are a lot of engineers and entrepreneurs with some pretty incredible projects.

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