Ethereum ‘Merge’ Ends at Key Moment for Crypto Market

Ethereum has completed a long-awaited upgrade to its system in a move that is expected to reduce energy costs and is intended to pave the way for more use of crypto technology in mainstream finance.

The upgrade, known in the industry as “Merge,” which changes how new transactions are verified on the Ethereum blockchain, was completed early Thursday, co-founder Vitalik Buterin said.

Ethereum powers much of the Web3 world, which includes applications such as digital collectibles and decentralized financial systems.

The milestone, which has been promised by developers for years, was hailed as one of the most significant moments in crypto̵[ads1]7;s short history by fans, who planned “Merge parties” in cities around the world and followed live-streamed se parties on social media.

“This is the first step in Ethereum’s great journey towards being a very mature system. There are still steps to go,” Buterin told developers.

The merger marked a high-stakes test for the crypto sector after the crash in token prices this spring wiped $2,000 off the value of digital assets and shook faith in the market.

Changing the architecture underlying the $200 billion ether cryptocurrency, the flagship token of the Ethereum blockchain, and tens of billions of other related assets and applications is fraught with risks from technical hiccups to squabbles among participants in the decentralized network, even after that the merger was completed.

Its supporters expect a successful merger to boost confidence in Ethereum, launched in 2015 by Russian-Canadian programmer Buterin, and the variety of tokens and projects running on the blockchain, as well as blunt criticism over energy consumption.

However, Ethereum developers said they need to monitor the network in the coming hours and days to ensure the upgrade works smoothly.

“It’s a complicated task,” said Edouard Hindi, chief investment officer at crypto hedge fund Tyr Capital. “A forgotten fine melody . . . can lead to a lot of volatility, and the market is in a panicked mood.”

The merger represents just one step in a plan outlined by Ethereum developers to overcome the limits of the network’s capacity, which is seen as a major obstacle to achieving mainstream adoption of decentralized finance.

“[The Merge] solves one problem, but it doesn’t solve so many other problems,” said Lars Seier Christensen, co-founder of Saxo Bank which now runs a blockchain project called Concordium.

Ethereum, like bitcoin, has so far relied on network participants solving complex math problems to validate new blocks, a process called proof of work. Ethereum’s energy consumption was similar to that of Finland.

The merger refers to the moment when the existing Ethereum blockchain was connected to a new network where transactions are validated by a group of individuals and companies who have staked their own tokens as collateral for the network’s security, a system called proof of stake.

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The Ethereum Foundation estimates that replacing proof of work will cut the blockchain’s energy consumption by about 99.95 percent. It will also eliminate the need for Ethereum miners, companies that make money by validating new blocks via proof of work.

Anticipation of the merger has helped to increase the price of ether, which has risen around 75 percent from the low point in June. Ether has gained ground against bitcoin, which has recovered only 15 percent in the same period.

However, the year-long effort to complete the upgrade underscored the difficulty of making improvements to the Ethereum blockchain. Transactions on the network remain hampered by slow speeds and high costs, which critics have said limits the system’s ability to grow.

Hindi said the merger was “just one step in the right direction. There are three or four more steps. It is a two- or three-year process. It’s a big, big plan that’s being rolled out, and we’ll have a lot of surprises coming, good and bad.”

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