Ethereum’s ‘Historic’ Merge may Come too Late

News that Ethereum’s PoS merge is getting closer is creating excited chatter, but other blockchains are already well ahead of the game.

Credit: Bywire News, Canva
Credit: Bywire News, Canva
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LONDON (Bywire News) - News that Ethereum is on the brink of securing a merge for a new form of working that will lead to faster and more sustainable transactions, is being hailed as a historic event in blockchain history. However, amongst all the excitement, other blockchains are already well ahead of the game, most notably EOS. While Ethereum talks excitedly about a future of faster, more sustainable transactions, that future is already up and running on EOS.

From POW to POS

The big news for Ethereum is that it’s switching from a proof of work model to a proof of stake model. The difference between these two can feel technical. With proof of work (POW), crypto miners must complete complex puzzles in order to validate transactions. It’s the model which was the standard for first-generation blockchains.  

Unfortunately, it has a problem. POW requires a huge amount of computing power. As the blockchains grow, that computing power dramatically increases the carbon footprint of major blockchains. Ethereum currently has a carbon footprint which is larger than Singapore’s. Ethereum uses just over 100TWh every year, which is more than the whole of the Netherlands. A single Ethereum transaction can consume as much power as a single US household does in six days. 

Considering that the biggest blockchain of them all, Bitcoin is even harsher on the environment, the continued growth of the blockchain appears to be inconsistent with the world’s drive towards net zero. 

Proof of stake, though, is very different. With this approach users validate transactions according to how many tokens they stake. The producer of each block is randomly chosen from the people staking. The more tokens you stake the greater your chance of being chosen to produce the next block and receiving a reward. The big benefit of this is that it consumes much less power which makes the entire network much greener. 

Ethereum currently has both proof of stake and proof of work chains running in parallel. After the proposed merge, the proof of work chain will become obsolete and Ethereum will shift to a full proof of stake operation known as the Beacon Chain. 

According to reports, developers ran a test on Monday, the results of which have been extremely promising with one developer even reportedly describing it as a historic moment. However, there have been reports of minor issues and the real merge is still thought to be months away. A timeline has yet to be confirmed with the next test being set for April 22nd. This, they hope, will give developers a better idea of what will happen and will help them iron out any remaining glitches. 

During these tests, developers attempted a shadow fork. This recreates what would happen during the real merge without affecting the Ethereum main net. Because just a few nodes are running the test, the Ethereum main net keeps going as if nothing was happening. 

These tests are described as a necessity to ensure such a major engineering undertaking can proceed without a glitch. Ethereum runs the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency and supports countless decentralised finance (Defi) and non-fungible tokens. 

However, in some quarters patience is wearing thin. Ethereum has promised this upgrade for years now and has encountered multiple delays. The success of these tests is a sign that it is finally making progress, but even now, progress is painfully slow and is still not guaranteed. 

In the meantime, Ethereum continues to struggle with capacity, scalability and the speed and carbon footprint of its operations. 

All of which brings us to the big elephant in the room. While Ethereum ponderously works to move into a more sustainable future, other third-generation blockchains are already there and are working on further advances which will keep them well ahead of Ethereum.

The most notable of these is EOSIO. This has been using proof of work ever since its genesis in 2018. It already provides faster transactions, as well as no gas fees, and consumes a fraction of the energy. Indeed, they make the claim of being the world’s first carbon-neutral blockchain. 

While Ethereum can manage just 15 transactions per second, EOS boasts up to 10,000. For situations which would require it to deal with hundreds of thousands of transactions per second, EOS turns to inter blockchain communication which creates another EOS blockchain to facilitate more transactions. There is no limit to how many blockchains can be created on EOS and each of them communicates with one another. 

The EOS model relies on 21 nodes that produce the new blocks which guarantee performance and scalability. Rather than waiting for all nodes to confirm the platform it simply needs 15 of the 21 in order to reach consensus. As such, EOS can perform many more transactions per second and achieve greater scalability. 

And there’s more to come. The EOS network is currently developing a new upgrade, Mandel. This will be the first time EOS has been run on software developed by the community itself and not by its creators It’s a symbolic moment that will demonstrate its independence from the clutches of B1. More than that, though, it will also be the first major upgrade since EOS 2.0. 

Meanwhile, the launch of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) on EOS is imminent and will make it easier for developers to move between the two blockchains. 

Ethereum, then, is labouring on an upgrade to a system which EOS has been using for years. This is an upgrade they have been battling with for a while and even now there is no guarantee they will avoid further delays. Even if they do, there is no certainty that they will be able to match the speed, scalability, affordability and sustainability of EOS. 

While developers on Ethereum are expected to wait for a more scalable and sustainable future, that future already exists on EOS. 

(Writing by Tom Cropper, editing by Klaudia Fior)

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