The PARSIQ Guide to the Ethereum Merge
What you Need to Know, and How to Stay Safe
Completion of “The Merge” is fast approaching on the Ethereum network, but what does this mean for network users and their DeFi tokens or NFTs?
For casual users, the terminology and technical detail can be misleading, confusing and opaque. However at PARSIQ, we aim to simplify access to blockchain data – here’s a guide to Ethereum 2.0, made simple.
Why a ‘merge’, not an upgrade?
Ethereum started with a Proof of Work consensus mechanism — this is essentially the method of confirming transactions. In 2020, the network split into two ‘forks’, one still using Proof of Work, the other using a process known as Proof of Stake (named. ‘The Beacon Chain’), both working in parallel. When the merge happens, Ethereum will use the Proof of Stake consensus mechanism only.
No blockchain has undergone such a transition in the history of the blockchain space, hence the excitement and, in some cases, uncertainty.
Proof of Work (PoW) vs Proof of Stake (PoS)
On a blockchain using Proof of Work as a consensus mechanism, members of the network (miners) are in direct competition with each other for mining rewards.
Simply put, they compete by guessing a long string of letters and numbers out of trillions of possible combinations. The more powerful your hardware, the higher the probability you’ll find the winning solution faster than other miners.
When someone submits the right answer, they’re invited to submit their update of the ledger to be checked by the community before it’s added to the blockchain and they’re rewarded with an amount of cryptocurrency as a reward — this is called a mining reward.
Proof of Stake asks people to put up their own crypto assets as collateral (staking) for the chance to have their record of transactions made official (validating), and earn the rewards for doing so — a validator reward. Similarly, anyone trying to cheat the system would lose the assets they’d staked.
What are the immediate benefits of the transition to PoS?
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG)
In simple terms, the rewards for maintaining the network will no longer incentivize computing power.
For this reason, Ethereum will become dramatically less energy intensive. According to the Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum’s energy consumption will be reduced by 99.95% — to this point, energy consumption has been a common criticism of the technology and this dramatic reduction will be seen as a welcome step forward for many would-be skeptics.
PoW hardware demands
Running a PoW mining operation is cost intensive, often requiring the purchase of high-spec hardware, power-supply upgrades, and logistical solutions.
Moving to PoS will reduce the dependence of the Ethereum network on already stressed CPU and GPU supply chains, and optimistically democratize rewards across an increased number of network participants.
A lower risk of network centralization
The transition from PoW to PoS will reduce the capital barrier needed to secure Ethereum, allowing many new market participants to secure the network.
It takes 32 $ETH for an individual to run a network validator which equates to a cost of approximately $50,000 USD (per current prices). However, retail investors with less can pool their $ETH in staking pools like Lido and Rocketpool — we suggest researching the terms of staking thoroughly before committing your tokens.
The theory is that a greater number of network validators further decentralizes the Ethereum network making it more robust against attacks and state interference.
The Merge misconceptions
Transaction fees, scaling and throughput
According to the Ethereum team, the Merge update will not result in lower gas fees. A change of consensus mechanism does not represent an expansion of network capacity.
Transaction fees are the result of network demand in relation to network capacity. While switching from PoW to PoS, the Merge does not dramatically alter any factors that directly affect network throughput or scalability.
A roadmap to scalability, not the silver bullet
Ethereum 2.0 is still a long way off, even once The Merge is complete. The full vision is a full scaled blockchain capable of processing 100,000 transactions per second, up from 15 transactions per second currently (yes, that’s right… a 6,666x increase).
The remaining stages in the roadmap are outlined below, and conveniently all end in ‘rge’.
- The Surge — scaling up Ethereum’s mainchain through sharding. This should increase the network’s throughput up to a theoretical 100,000 tps
- The Verge — upgrading Merkle trees with experimental Verkle trees for greater storage efficiency within each data block
- The Purge — purging excess historic data that is no longer needed, so validators can become even more efficient in processing transactions
- The Splurge — the maintenance era of the Ethereum network, tweaking and adding minor life-quality improvements
You can find more information on the Ethereum 2.0 roadmap in this thread by @milesdeutscher.
We promised this wouldn’t be technical… so what does it all mean for my tokens?
Token holders will receive the same amount of the ‘forked’ tokens on the new Ethereum PoS chain that they presently own in the PoW chain.
Where it gets complicated is in the event of a PoW fork by miners, token holders will then have an equal number of Ethereum tokens across two distinct Blockchains.
Some centralized exchanges (CEXs) have indicated they will suspend trading of ETH and ERC-20 tokens during The Merge period. However, holders can still access the tokens kept in hot and cold wallets. To this point, you may have noticed e-mails about the Merge flooding your inbox if you are a client of different crypto exchanges!
Despite assurances, we believe it’s advisable that holders refrain from executing trades through decentralized exchanges (DEXs) over this period to avoid any losses arising out of unforeseen glitches with wallets or exchanges.
Similarly, tokens locked inside smart contracts will also be forked over to the PoS network.
Once the Merge to PoS chain is complete, it is believed miners will complete a fork of this PoS chain back to a PoW chain, so they can continue mining rewards. This move could result in the duplication of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on both PoS and PoW chains.
If duplicate NFTs exist on the ETH PoW chain and other potential forks, there is the possibility of confusion around which assets are ‘authentic.’ It gets more complicated as authenticity will ultimately be defined by social sentiment about the value of assets on the chain. If the PoW chain dies as the Ethereum developers predict, then there may be little demand for the PoW duplicates which are therefore likely to be a fraction of their PoS counterparts.
Will Ethereum users or ETH holders need to take any action after the Merge?
No. Your balance will remain exactly the same after the Merge, and you’ll be able to resume using the network as if nothing has changed.
While Ethereum users will not need to take any action after the Merge, Ethereum software providers and node operators (the computers that operate the Ethereum network) will need to update their software.
Scams to look out for
- Anyone asking you to ‘claim’ or ‘upgrade’ tokens following the merge
- Buying tokens or NFTs on the ETH PoW chain after the merge completion
- Any kind of ‘action required’ links associated with The Merge
If you’re unsure…
Sit back and watch on Merge day until you feel confident of the situation.
Around Sept. 15, 2022.
This is an estimate because block difficulty and issuance rate vary over time.
Each block on Ethereum’s PoW network carries a difficulty number representing how hard miners must work to add it to the network. The Merge is scheduled to take effect once mining new blocks hits a “total terminal difficulty” (TTD).
Ethereum’s core developers set the TTD at 58,750,000,000,000,000,000,000, which will likely be reached around September 15th.
How will this affect the price of $ETH?
Not financial advice.
PARSIQ is a full-suite data network for building the backend of all Web3 dApps & protocols. The Tsunami API provides blockchain protocols and their clients (e.g. protocol-oriented dApps) with real-time data and historical data querying abilities.