Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, has switched to proof-of-stake, cutting its energy demands. The transition, which has been in the works since 2016, won’t change much for the average Ethereum user, but it sidelines miners.
The switchover began on September 6th, when the Bellatrix upgrade was activated. It is now complete after the mining of the Terminal Total Difficulty block, which triggered the Paris upgrade. The technical part is done; now, we get to see what happens.
In the hours and days ahead there’s the risk of bugs, hacks, and price instability. There’s also the risk of forks, whereby multiple versions of Ether are created by miners on different chains resulting in confusion and an environment ripe for scams.
Before the Merge, Ethereum ran on proof-of-work, where computers all around the world competed to solve puzzles so they could add a new block to the chain. That was pretty energy-inefficient because all these miners were competing to solve the puzzle at the same time, but only one could win; all other energy was wasted. Proof of stake, on the other hand, has validators who’ve put up their Ethereum as collateral. If they misbehave, they’ll lose the Ethereum they staked.
The Ethereum Foundation figures the switch will reduce energy costs by more than 99 percent. The Merge has been repeatedly delayed since 2017, leading to jokes that it’s vaporware. Well, everything is vaporware ’til it ships.
Update September 15th, 3:53AM ET: Added confirmation tweet from co-founder Vitalik Buterin and a paragraph on what comes next.