Ethereum co-founder and CTO Gavin Wood predicts big players may view the technology almost as a marketing strategy for their own products in the future.
Wood told IBTimes Ethereum has held conversations with some large IT companies, exploring options for the continued development of the core technology. "I don't want to name names; there are certain conversations we are having.
"It doesn't take much to realise that this technology could potentially be very lucrative for some major players if it can be argued that it is legitimately an open and free standard.
"I think therefore that some of these big players will want to keep this technology free and open and it's actually in their interest and they will see it perhaps as a means of almost of marketing their own product set.
"It's almost like a marketing strategy, I suppose. I mean, I dunno - I'm a technologist not a marketer, but I can see that being a possibility."
Wood said there are a lot of possibilities going forward, some of which would only be considered with the backing of the community, while others are much more in the hands of players in the ecosystem.
"So for example if a large IT company wanted to continue development of Ethereum, of the core technology, to sponsor that in order perhaps to gain some degree of expertise themselves in the ability to deploy this technology for potential clients - that's one potential way that we could see the core technology continuing to be developed; perhaps pushing toward a scalable blockchain solution, without the funds having to come from the foundation, but rather coming from private enterprise.
"I mean what I'd like to see eventually is a sort of industry body that kind of collaborated in some open fashion, in a decentralised fashion ideally, to the continued maintenance and research of the core Ethereum technology.
Wood pointed out that a lot of banks, financial institutions and quite a lot of tech firms speak out in favour of using Ethereum, and typically large institutions don't like to adopt technologies with a single vendor; they like something that's much more open and out there to avoid lock-in.
"I think it's quite reasonable that we will end up seeing an ecosystem perhaps similar to Linux, where we have a number of vendors, or whom are sponsoring the continued development, either through donations to a single body like the Linux Foundation, or through actually paying core developers to work on very particular parts - perhaps optimisation, or maybe adding features.
Recent weeks have seen consternation regarding the depleted financial state of the Ethereum Foundation, thanks to a fall in the value of Bitcoin. This has led to claims from some quarters that the project is spread too thin to achieve its goals.
Wood pointed out that the Ethereum Foundation took on the task of getting the initial software release out which it has more or less done. He said the Foundation will now likely refocus its priorities more towards advocacy and education, while an increasing amount of development work will be undertaken by the various players in the ecosystem.
"Ethereum was never meant to be, and is really designed not to be, controlled by any central force. So I personally don't see the foundation taking maybe more of a backseat as a problem.
"In fact in many respects I consider it the only sensible way forward, because Ethereum at the end of the day is a decentralised protocol; to kind of believe that this centralised foundation should be controlling it seems the antithesis of what we want."
In terms of allocation of resources, Wood said some projects will be seen to have hit their targets and been delivered, such as Mix, for example. And this will mean these resources will be refocused.
In addition, the various jobs of developing these tools and ancillary software – as well as some of the core software - will fall into the hands of the community and the major players in the ecosystem.
"To some degree we are already seeing that. Players like for example Ethereum-J, the Java implementation being continued, having never really had Foundation backing.
"We'll see things like the Whisper implementation that's actually going to be developed by a third party, who are interested in developing it for their own right.
"So I think we are going to increasingly see players in the community at large sort of step up and dedicate the necessary resources to continuing all of the various things that we have apparently been spreading ourselves too thin over."
Proof of stake
Regarding the shift over to proof of stake, Wood said this has come on a substantial way. "We have a prototype algorithm, Casper 2, the second version of Casper. And we are still aiming for a sort of six month schedule to upgrade the chain to that protocol.
"I see it as a largely contained, let's say isolatable, upgrade. I'm very much on board with this sort of technology - proof of stake in general.
"I'm not particularly married to the idea of wasting vast amounts of electricity in very geographically contained places in order to secure the chain. I think it's unnecessary.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the final specification of it. It's still in the researchers' hands at the moment: when they have got their prototype perfected I'll be making sure that makes its way into the main codebase. I would say probably Q2 next year."
There has been a flurry of interest among Bitcoin 2.0 watchers over the emergence of Rootstock, a company that proposes running Ethereum, minus ether, as a sidechain pegged to the Bitcoin network. Smart contracts experts Nick Szabo said the technology demonstrated the best of both worlds – Ethereum and Bitcoin.
Wood said his development team had a look at the technical feasibility of placing Ethereum as a sidechain and came to the conclusion, based on the Blockstream white paper, that it wasn't going to be possible to secure the sidechain to a sufficient degree.
"Unless you can persuade the Bitcoin miners to merge mine it, it wouldn't be possible to incentivise a sufficient amount of miners on the sidechain to prevent an attack, whereby someone essentially gave an invalid block that would release Bitcoin on the main chain and sort of mine it themselves, with a sufficient amount of mining power to out-mine the rest of the network who are trying to say that it's invalid."
In a recent blogpost Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin talked about Hawk, a zero knowledge protocol which allows a statement or transaction to be verified without conveying any information about it apart from the fact it's true or adds up.
Wood said: "I'm aware of the sort of movement like zerocoin and the ability to use zero knowledge proofs in order to guarantee privacy.
"Again, it's a technology that we are looking into and it's something I hope in a month or two that I'll be saying something about with regard to Ethereum. It's something that we have got on the back burner at the moment.
The Ethereum Developer Conference, ÐΞVCON1, takes place in London from the 9th to 13th November. Wood said: "It's sort of an event to look back and see what we have accomplished and look forward to some of the applications we are going to see on the platform.
"It's also as much of an educational event as possible and really to get down and deep with the technicals as well. So it's a bit of mixed bag really."
Vitalik Buterin recently made some very positive announcements about Ethereum in China which included backing from a couple of large Chinese companies, funding for R&D and education and so on.
Wood added: "On top of that, I think Vitalik is putting the final touches on something that perhaps he'll be announcing at ÐΞVCON1 that will to some degree help with the resources within the Ethereum community."