Zero to One: Notes about Innovation on Ethereum

There are so many ways to describe Ethereum. It’s a blockchain. It’s the ground zero for NFTs. It’s a globally distributed computational network and a smart contract platform. It’s the internet of value, an always-on financial system, a massive multiplayer online money game, and on and on.

No matter how you look at it — and no matter what drew you to Ethereum in the first place — the platform has been home to some objectively incredible innovation in its short five-year existence. There have been moments of individual brilliance along with a lot of incremental improvements as thousands of people have remixed each other’s open-source ideas.

What I want to do with this post is capture some of the major moments in Ethereum’s history. Times where the page turned. The ecosystem moves at such a relentless pace that it’s hard to keep track of everything, so the intention here is to crowd source this information from anyone who is interested. My hope is this living list can act as a helpful introduction for people who are new to crypto with respect to where Ethereum has come from.

Below, I have listed three categories of these zero-to-one moments that people can peruse: DeFi (“decentralized finance”), NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”), and miscellaneous. I thought sorting by category made more sense than ordering by chronology. My hope is that readers will use these lists to guide their research as they dig into all the developments that have taken place over the past few years.

I want to make it clear at the outset here that I’m not marketing this as comprehensive in any way whatsoever. It’s not, and that’s why I need your help! If anyone wants to make a suggestion, addition, elaboration, correction, etc. I’m open to any and all feedback, so please either leave a comment on this post or DM me on Twitter and I’ll make edits.

DeFi (“decentralized finance”):

-Synthetix: first on-chain derivative platform, established a standard “yield farming” contract

-Yearn: first “smart yield” account, pioneered the idea of a “fair launch”

-bZx: first protocol to use tokens as a way to represent deposits into a lending pool, first on-chain margin trading

-Compound: first protocol to enact completely on-chain governance, first lending AMM design

-Aave: first instance of credit delegation

-Marble: creator of flash loans

-MakerDAO: first decentralized stablecoin - “DAI”- which is created through overcollaterization

-Uniswap: first decentralized exchange using a peer-to-pool exchange model with a constant product function

-SushiSwap: first “vampire attack,” or instance of siphoning liquidity from another protocol

-Balancer: first generalizable AMM with a variety of tokens in each pool

-Nexus Mutual: first on-chain smart contract insurance

-Ampleforth: first token to use a rebasing mechanism to determine price

-Empty Set Dollar: first seigniorage coin where supply is increased/decreased based on price above/below the one dollar peg

-Curve Finance: first major stable coin exchange

-DEX.AG (now Slingshot): first exchange aggregator allowing orders to be routed across multiple DEXes

-Set Protocol: first tokenized portfolio management

-DeFi Pulse Index: first index token that balances every month in an automated fashion based on the market cap of DeFi projects (collaboration between Set Protocol and Defi Pulse)

-PoolTogether: first no-loss lottery using redirected yield first protocol for private transactions using zkSNARKs

-Bancor: first single-sided impermanent loss protection for an AMM

-Opyn: first on-chain options offering

-DYDX: first on-chain perpetuals offering

-Futureswap: first on-chain futures offering

-DEXTF: first DeFi Structured Note, first decentralized ETF, first oracle-less digital asset management protocol

-Tether: first stablecoin “backed” by deposits in a bank account

-WETH: first “wrapped” token

NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”):

-NFTX: first liquid NFT index funds where an ERC-20 is directly backed by ERC-721s, first NFT-to-NFT swaps

-WHALE: first social token backed by a vault of NFTs

-Don’tBuyMeme: first NFT mining functionality with “pineapple points”

-LarvaLabs: first ETH collectible (CryptoPunks) and first on-chain generative art (Autoglyphs)

-CryptoKitties: first instance of the ERC -721 standard most NFTs now use

-Enjin: first semi-fungible tokens via introduction of the ERC-1155 standard

-Nude Portrait #1 by Robbe Barrat: first ever tokenized piece of AI-Generated art

-Decentraland: first blockchain-based virtual land ownership

-CryptoVoxels: first live virtual world with blockchain-based land ownership, first art gallery in the metaverse

-VoxelArchitects: first metaverse-native company

-OVR: first blockchain-based augmented reality land ownership

-Async Art: first programmable art with different layers corresponding to different inputs

-Decentral Games: first decentralized casino

-Hashmasks: first living collectible/art piece via the name changing function

-Artblocks: first generative art platform

-Unisocks, first token that was burnable to access a physical good i.e. socks

-Eulerbeats: first generative on-chain music

-Neolastics: first bonding curve generative art first NFT platform to run on a sidechain and “upgrade” to Ethereum

-Rarible: first NFT marketplace with a liquidity mining program via $RARI

-OurZora: created zNFTs which combines an order book with NFTs that get issued use of Zora’s zNFTs to create $ESSAY, which was the first crowdfunded and tokenized piece of writing

-3LAU: first fully-tokenized album

-RAC: first artist to community airdrop with $RAC and $TAPE

-Connie Digital’s $HUE: first artist to integrate a social token for NFTs

-NFTfi: first NFT-collateralized loans

-B20: first tokenized art gallery

-Joyworld (JOYs): first token-paying NFT

-Christie’s: first stand-alone NFT auction i.e. Beeple

-Ethereum Name Service (ENS): first Ethereum based NFT domain names

-FlamingoDAO: first DAO focused primarily on NFT acquisitions and purchases

-Yinsure: first insurance using an NFT


-WHALE: first token gated access with different levels of membership in their Discord based on tokens deposited

-Chainlink: first decentralized oracle network

-The Graph: first decentralized indexing network

-Keep3r: first transaction automation network via Keepers

-Gnosis: first prediction market

-Mastercoin: first ICO

-Loom Network: first layer two solution

-ETH-BTC Relay: First bridge between blockchains

-Brave: first crypto-native browser with a token-model based on opt-in advertising

-Uniswap again: first retroactive airdrop of a token

-Power Pool: first protocol to introduce the idea of meta-governance (governance via proxy token voting)

-“The DAO”: first decentralized autonomous organization

- The LAO: first legally-wrapped DAO

-YAM Finance: first UI for multi-token yield farming

-Groundhog: first non-custodial subscription

-Numerai: first tokenized data science tournament

-Spencer Dinwiddie: first tokenized NBA contract

-Argent: First social recovery wallet

Thank you to the dozens of people who have contributed.

Operations @openlawofficial. Member @neon_dao. Advisor @gysr_io. Trying and failing to keep up with both DeFi and NFTs.