How The Merge Has Already Changed The Face Of Crypto
After the successful completion of Ethereum's Merge - one of the most momentous watersheds in crypto's history - what comes next?
Crypto has changed overnight, so beyond immediate market commentary - such as ETH reaching record volumes - and financial predictions, leaders in the crypto space need to focus on asking the right questions.
How will the Merge's success impact crypto's perception amongst investors and regulators? What ripples will it make across the wider DeFi market?
The largest chink in cryptocurrency's armour remains its seeming inability to convince regulators and institutions of its value and potential, due in great part to concerns over ESG standards.
The Ethereum 2.0 network now solely relies on proof-of-stake as its consensus mechanism, a move which has massively reduced its energy consumption by 99.5%.
Prior to the Merge, Ethereum accounted for 20% to 39% of all global crypto-asset electricity usage - second only to Bitcoin. In fact, Ethereum's annual power consumption was equivalent to that of Finland, and left a carbon footprint similar to Switzerland. In simple terms, it's like we have gone from an entire city's electricity output to that of a toaster!
Although a lot of hype has surrounded the Merge, it will undeniably assist in boosting cryptocurrency's reputation and directing the industry towards greater sustainability.
This is crucial at a time when it is argued that just 10% of financial institutions who may want to invest in BTC have done so, owing to ESG concerns, according to Kevin O'Leary. It is an interesting opportunity to get behind a recognised and established cryptocurrency for a portion of the impact.
Beyond just sustainability, one of the most fascinating aspects of the Merge is how it will ripple to affect other coins and blockchains.
Firstly, Ethereum's shedding of the near entirety of its energy consumption may put increasing public pressure on Bitcoin's world-leading energy use and leave the latter to deal with regulators who target energy-intensive blockchains that rely on proof-of-work mechanisms.
Many believe that one of the two largest currencies in terms of power consumption switching to a sustainable model could address the most significant institutional objection to wider adoption, and result in greater capital flowing into the space.
Even before the Merge completed, hedge funds were racing to place bets in a trading frenzy. Institutions like these embracing digital assets could in turn hasten the implementation of a global regulatory framework for crypto.
Secondly, the successful Merge holds implications for digital assets beyond Bitcoin and Ether, the native coin of the Ethereum platform. Many currencies pitched themselves as eco-friendly alternatives to Ethereum, with some such as Solana, Avalanche, Cardano, and Polkadot gaining a reputation as "Ethereum killers".
Now Ethereum has moved to proof-of-stake, these coins may need to re-evaluate their value propositions, as their sustainability claims will lose some of their edge.
Another promising result of the Merge could be a wider appeal of ether and other proof-of stake cryptos, as a result of pooled staking.
To become a validator on Ethereum, a minimum stake of 32 ether is required - currently equivalent to $51,000. Such an amount remains out of reach for many retail investors; however, several firms have developed methods to allow smaller investors to pool their funds and participate.
The benefits of staking include guaranteed profits and a highly liquid system that makes it simple for users to transfer funds in and out of ether. The popularity of ether and proof-of-stake cryptos in general will certainly grow as a result.
In particular, by enabling the Ethereum blockchain to expand and manage greater workloads, a successful Merge has also paved the way for future innovation. This is fantastic news for applications built upon the blockchain.
The Merge has brought pertinent questions to crypto exchanges and the wider industry, which promise to impact its future and attractiveness to investors and regulators - be it through a wider industrial commitment to sustainability or a widening of access to proof-of-stake cryptos.
Over the next few weeks, the ripples of the Merge and the recent release of U.S. inflation data may take crypto to places never seen before. Strap yourself in.