Distributed Ledger: Ethereum’s major upgrade is coming. Should you be more bullish on it than bitcoin?
Hello! Welcome back to Distributed Ledger, our weekly crypto newsletter that reaches your inbox every Thursday. I’m Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch, and I’ll walk you through the latest and greatest in digital assets this week so far.
Find me on Twitter at @FrancesYue_ to send feedback or tell us what you think we should cover.
Crypto in a snap
gained 8.6% over the past seven days, recently trading at around $45,868, according to CoinDesk data. Ether
is up 11% over the seven-day stretch to around $3,369. Meme token Dogecoin
logged a 7.9% gain while another dog-themed token Shiba Inu
is trading up 12.4% from seven days ago.
% 7-day return
Source: CoinGecko as of March 31
% 7-day return
Source: CoinGecko as of March 31
Ethereum’s major upgrade, which is expected to lower the blockchain’s carbon footprint, improve its efficiency and reduce ether supply, is months away. As excitement builds up, ether has outperformed bitcoin over the past month, with the former gaining 23.3% and the latter advancing 15.7%.
It has led to some discussions around how long ether’s outperformance could last. Some questioned if the upgrade could lay ground for ether to overtake bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization in the future, a scenario usually known as “flippening.”
Both Bitcoin and Ethereum are currently proof-of-work blockchains, which uses “mining,” where miners compete with each other to solve complicated math puzzles, to verify and add new transactions. Ethereum is in the process of transitioning to proof-of-stake, another consensus mechanism, where the so-called validators contribute, or “stake”, their cryptocurrencies to verify transactions.
Though some argue that the proof-of-work mechanism provides higher security, it requires blockchains to consume more energy and usually renders expensive fees for transactions.
The final step of Ethereum’s transition, which is referred to as the “Merge,” is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Ethereum Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the blockchain.
Though the upgrade is bullish for ether, it doesn’t guarantee that the crypto will outshine bitcoin in the long term, according to Eliézer Ndinga, head of research at crypto asset management company 21Shares.
“Despite the fact that there is a lot of innovation happening on Ethereum and Ethereum has the largest developer ecosystem, bitcoin has a different use case,” Ndinga told Distributed Ledger in an interview.
The Russia-Ukraine war has highlighted part of bitcoin’s role, as Ukraine raised almost $64 million through crypto donations, while Russia hints that it may accept payment for oil in bitcoin. Some supporters also argue that with increasing adoption, bitcoin could ultimately serve as “digital gold” and a hedge against inflation, though the crypto has been often trading in tandem with growth stocks.
Read: Is bitcoin digital gold, speculative asset or safe-haven? Here’s how the Ukraine crisis shapes the narrative.
Ethereum, on the other hand, “is really expanding to the long tail of web three with e-commerce and financial services and entertainment with non-fungible tokens,” Ndinga noted, as the majority of non-fungible tokens and decentralized finance applications are hosted on Ethereum. Web three refers to the next generation of Internet.
Ethereum also faces fierce competitions, Ndinga added. As the crypto space embraces more adoption, it’s worth watching if companies and individuals opt for Ethereum or other smart contract blockchains such as Avalanche, Algorand
according to Ndinga.
Hackers have stolen about $600 million from the Ronin network, a blockchain linked with the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, in one of the biggest crypto hacks in history. About 173,600 ether and 25.5 million stablecoin USDC were exploited, according to a blog post by Ronin. The breach, which happened on March 23, was discovered on Tuesday.
Ronin is secured by nine validator nodes, while five were hacked to attack the network, according to the post.
“I think the most fundamental error here was the reliance on validator-based bridges. The Ronin Bridge has a fundamental assumption that a majority of keys cannot be compromised. Clearly this assumption was broken,” Kelvin Fichter, software engineer building blockchain Optimism, wrote on Twitter. Bridges are software that allows users to send crypto from one blockchain to another.
“It seems clear that no single entity should be running a significant number of nodes,” Fichter wrote. It seems “problematic” that Sky Mavis, developer of Axie Infinity, was running four of the nine nodes, Fichter said.
Crypto companies, funds
Shares of Coinbase Global Inc.
traded down 2.2% to $192.34 Thursday afternoon. It was up 1.1% for the past five trading sessions. Michael Saylor’s MicroStrategy Inc.
declined 1.7% on Thursday to $492.09, while it was up 1.7% over the past five days.
Mining company Riot Blockchain Inc.
shares dropped 1.9% to $21.62, and it was up 0.3% over the past five days. Shares of Marathon Digital Holdings Inc.
were down 3.8% to $28.43, with a 6.3% loss over the past five days. Another miner, Ebang International Holdings Inc.
plunged 12.3% to $1.17, with a 17.8% gain over the past five days.
shares are down 4.2% to $44.80. The shares have declined 9.3% over the five-session period.
shares, formally known as Square, fell 2.4% to $136.76, with a 1.3% gain for the week. Tesla Inc.
shares are down 0.3% to $1091.49 while its shares gained 7.6% for the past five sessions.
PayPal Holdings Inc.
lost 1.3% to $117.02, while it was up 0.8% over the five-session stretch. Nvidia Corp.
inched down 0.2% to $276.45, while was looking at a 1.8% loss over the past five trading days.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
fell 8.2% to $109.45 as of Thursday afternoon, while it rose 9.2% from five trading days ago.
Among crypto funds, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF
lost 2.9% to $28.64 Thursday, while Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF
was down 2.7% to $17.80. VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF
declined 2.8% to $45.00.
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust
was trading at $30.91, off 3.5% Thursday afternoon.
Why buying bitcoin directly is better than investing in crypto mining stocks, based on this valuation model (MarketWatch)
EU Parliament Passes Privacy-Busting Crypto Rules Despite Industry Criticism (CoinDesk)
Ukraine’s Crypto Banker Describes How War Is Changing His Life (Bloomberg)
Meet the ‘crypto caucus’: the US lawmakers defending digital coins (Financial Times)
One in five adults has invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency, NBC News poll shows (CNBC)