Ethereum is too hard to use

Ethereum is becoming a multilayered lasagna-like system, pushing people to the margins with its complexity and fees


Artwork by Crystal Le


Anyone else think Ethereum is difficult to use these days?

Yeah, there’s a bunch of cool stuff on Ethereum — meme tokens, NFTs, DeFi, degens — it’s all there. But over the years as the blockchain evolved, it has become more expensive and more complicated — as in, an already complex technology for users has become even moreso. 

Not only do users need to understand crypto basics like wallets, irreversible transactions and addresses, they also now have to contend with getting to know different chains. You can’t just send Ethereum chain ETH to Optimism chain ETH, or Optimism chain ETH to Polygon chain ETH, unless of course you use a bridge which means that this system might be getting a little complex for many users. 

Ethereum is becoming a multilayered lasagna-like system whereby complexity and fees are pushing people to the margins, causing interoperability and security concerns. 

How did we get here?

I wouldn’t say there’s anyone in particular to blame for this; it’s an ecosystem problem as a whole. When Ethereum launched almost 10 years ago, nobody was using it. At that time, any usage at all was welcomed. 

Now, it’s 2024 and there is usage. But there’s also expensive layer-1 fees. Average transaction fees on the layer-1 Ethereum blockchain are at $0.94. If a user wants to interact with a smart contract, like a DEX, fees are averaging $4.70.

Some might say, “Well, maybe it’s time to examine fees themselves.” Problem is, fees are what secure the network. If validators were not being incentivized by staking and reaping fees, what would be the point?

Okay, yeah, but there’s the layer-2 options, right? There are. And Arbitrum and Optimism have both transaction and smart contract fees at less than $0.02. We’re securing the bottom layer, enabling lower fees on the second. 

But as a Coinbase report from late last year noted, there are so many of these layer-2s that fragmentation now exists between all of these different chains. And mainstream users, aka those who could enable mass adoption, want financial apps that don’t make things complicated. 

The sandbox

The point is clearly that Ethereum is just one big-ass financial experiment. I actually wrote about this way back in 2016, about Ethereum being a fintech sandbox

And it has been one. When I wrote that piece, ICOs were only slowly gaining traction, DEXs were in their infancy and there wasn’t even an NFT token standard yet — just Plain Jane ERC-20s. 

Read more from our opinion section: BlackRock clearly wants to take crypto seriously. Too bad it’s forever silly.

Times have certainly changed. Ethereum’s “world computer” concept, the idea that people could build programmable monetary systems on a verifiable blockchain, has been a success. The Ethereum Virtual Machine, or EVM, is a standard for smart contract development — even outside the Ethereum ecosystem. 

Then, there’s the 2022 move to the proof-of-stake model, which to Ethereum’s credit, was pulled off with remarkable execution. 

Yet I’ve heard of people working on Ethereum layer-3 projects now. That’s an abstraction of two layers — can anyone come up with something comparable for so many layers in technology? Maybe the OSI model? It has seven layers. But it’s used for data in networking, all running at the same speed. And there’s no fees. It’s just categorizing data. 

Okay, well, blockchains are just data. So then we arrive back at the fee conundrum. But blockchains are decentralized, so there has to be some incentive to support the network, right? 

A fee quagmire

Fees secure the Ethereum network, rent the computing power to do things and also limit spam. With that in mind, I suppose there have to be fees in the system — I’m not proposing some grand, new fee-less Ethereum design, that’s for the Vitalik Buterins of the world. 

There are rollups, and that’s promising because they can batch process transactions off of Ethereum while lowering fees with the same level of security. Or maybe some smart startup can somehow increase interoperability — instead of reducing it by having users dig through layers like a Stouffer’s Italiano. 

I just am not convinced of the feasibility and long-term viability of so many bridges, some of which have been compromised. It feels like too many vulnerabilities in the margins. Perhaps a standardization of bridges is needed, and many wallets do warn users about interacting with bad smart contracts, so some safeguarding is happening. 

But I’m still trying to coincide my recent experiences with Ethereum as something… 



Tasty for the taste buds as a food, yes. 

But isn’t it a bit complex for people to use as a blockchain? People want apps that offer free flow of money, not restrictive layers. Hopefully, Ethereum can evolve past this lasagna stage.

Start your day with top crypto insights from David Canellis and Katherine Ross. Subscribe to the Empire newsletter.

The Lightspeed newsletter is all things Solana, in your inbox, every day. Subscribe to daily Solana news from Jack Kubinec and Jeff Albus.


Upcoming Events

Salt Lake City, UT

MON - TUES, OCT. 7 - 8, 2023

Blockworks and Bankless in collaboration with buidlbox are excited to announce the second installment of the Permissionless Hackathon – taking place October 7-8 in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve partnered with buidlbox to bring together the brightest minds in crypto for […]

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

Research Report Cover Vertex.jpg


The proliferation of new perp DEXs has led to fragmented liquidity across various DEXs and chains. Vertex, known for its vertically-integrated DEX that includes spot, perpetual, and integrated money markets, is now tackling cross-chain liquidity fragmentation through horizontal integration with the launch of new Edge instances. Vertex's integrated offerings and cross-margined account structure amplify the benefits of new instances: native cross-chain spot trading, optimized cross-chain basis trading, consistent interest rates, reduced bridging friction, and more.


Partnering with EtherFi and Angle, the fully on-chain perp DEX features bespoke collateral



Gavin Wood introduced the next evolutionary step for the Polkadot network: the Join-Accumulate Machine, or JAM


The side events were the places to be at Consensus 2024, according to attendees


Also, who’s come out swinging in the spot ether ETF fee war — and who could undercut them


I know it is not in their nature, but US regulators could learn a lot by researching the digital asset frameworks that overseas regulators have already gotten right


Also, the ETF hype train can count out at least one member