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I'm admittedly new to all of this, but as I learn about the transaction model, it seems to be a confusing business model at the very least. I can understand that the price of gas fluctuates or can be bid up or down. But why should a consumer have to guess how much gas is required?

  • Guessing is normal for any market. I am offering you smart contract development for $500.00 USD an hour. I am guessing you would buy it. If I make a wrong guess you will pass on my offer. When you Ask on a Oil Futures contract you are guessing, when you sell your old car you are guessing. Hopefully you can see past transactions and calculate best price to reduce the guessing factor. – Nulik Sep 25 '18 at 19:00
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In a good interface, a consumer doesn't have to guess how much gas is required.

Sending Ether from one person to another always costs the exact same amount of gas. Sending an ERC20 token (provided it follows the standard) also costs a fixed number.

Each operation (line of a smart contract) costs a known number of gas. It is quite easy for people who run websites/shops/etc. to programmatically use the knowledge and know an exact amount of gas that is required. If you interact with a smart contract using MyEtherWallet, you will see that they estimate it for you.

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    Just a note: the ERC20 standard doesn't tell you how you should implement the transfer. It only says that a transfer function has to exist. So the required gas can vary between implementations. – Lauri Peltonen Sep 26 '18 at 6:33

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