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Consensus at the Threshold

Quick Look at Miners and Validators Crossing The Merge

Approximate hashrate change in Bitcoin network 2020–2021; by Takens Theorem + tools

Crossing The Merge Threshold

Taking thousands of blocks before and after The Merge, we can look at the concentration of blocks for each associated block proposer’s address (miners and validators). Before The Merge, only a few dozen mining addresses were associated with rewards, which included Ethermine and others. After The Merge, thousands of addresses are associated with validation¹. The difference in the number of unique reward-recipient addresses is substantial, a sharp threshold crossing:

Data from Etherscan; plot by Takens Theorem
Data from Etherscan; plot by Takens Theorem
Vitalik considers several designs for striking this balance, such as “Inclusion Lists”

Censorship Issues

This concern about concentration is made worse by a trend observed by many after The Merge: Some block builders are still avoiding Tornado transactions. Indeed, Flashbots, the largest and most successful block builder, avoids Tornado transactions completely at the time of this writing. This represents a drawdown for these privacy-preserving transactions of somewhere between 30% to 40% of blocks. A key dispute in this issue is whether avoiding blocks with OFAC-sanctioned addresses is required. There has been no such specific advisement from the US government. Though it is quite rational to abide by local jurisdictions, the fuzziness of the situation causes some debate.

Data and plot with Etherscan tools; query by Takens Theorem

Conclusion: Decentralization

As noted above, PoS introduces considerable mobility in the consensus process that GPUs and proof of work did not before The Merge. But mobility is a double-edged sword too: If you can move to decentralization quickly, you can also move quickly in the reverse direction.

Data and plot with Etherscan tools; query by Takens Theorem
From Flashbots transparency dashboard


  1. A very important caveat is that in both PoW and PoS Ethereum fee recipients do not always reflect total participants (such as in pools); I simplify for this analysis, but one response is to say that any such concentration is concerning.
  2. Grim mining pun (for birds at least).
  3. Charbonneau has a nice description of such a feedback loop.

Further reading



Etherscan is the leading Ethereum Blockchain Explorer. The core of Etherscan involves extracting data from the Ethereum distributed ledger, indexing and displaying the processed data in a concise and readable manner for the masses and layperson.

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