5 interesting facts about The Merge, the update that will change crypto forever

Elisa Campaci

6 min

The Merge: 5 things you didn't know about the Ethereum update

The update that will change Ethereum and crypto forever is coming. Find out 5 things you didn’t know about The Merge!

‘The Merge’ refers to the set of updates that will lead the Ethereum blockchain to change its consensus mechanism from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake. In the crypto world, this has been the talk of the town for months. The Ethereum update is so important that ‘The Merge’ has become a commonly used term to indicate the final activation of the update and more generally the passage to the 2.0 version of Ethereum.

So, what will change with Ethereum 2.0? Transactions will be faster, cheaper and more green. The network will be more decentralised and secure, which will make the Ethereum blockchain more scalable and energy efficient. However, The Merge will not only impact Vitalik Buterin‘s blockchain, the upgrade will also change the crypto world forever. Ethereum is the blockchain on which the main Decentralised Finance protocols are built and in which the world of NFTs is developed. To learn more about the more technical aspects of The Merge, we refer you to Academy’s article on Ethereum 2.0. However, read on to discover 5 things you didn’t know about The Merge!

1.   Why is the Ethereum update called The Merge?

This Ethereum update is called ‘The Merge’ because it consists of the merging of two chains into one. With the update, Ethereum’s Beacon Chain and mainnet will be merged together. The former is the Proof-of-Stake network that has been active since 2020 and used as a ‘Consensus’ layer, but not yet for processing transactions. The mainnet, on the other hand, is the only ‘Execution’ layer of the blockchain on which miners will work until The Merge. With the completion of the upgrade, these two chains will be merged together to improve the performance of Ethereum.

2.   Why is the release date of The Merge changing?

The final phase and activation of the update was planned for September 2022. For a long time no official date for the release of The Merge was communicated. In the past months, the date has been postponed more than once. Even when September was identified as a possible date, the Ethereum developers only hinted at a broad activation period, namely between the 10th and the 20th of September. On the 6th September, Vitalik Buterin narrowed it down to between the 13th and 15th of the month. But why is the exact release date of The Merge not known? Ethereum’s developers did not schedule the update based on the calendar, and thus on a time parameter, but by referring to the Total Terminal Difficulty (TTD). The TTD is the value reached at which the Proof-of-Stake update will be released. It can be understood as similar to the score obtained in order to pass a level in a video game. The Merge will only be completed when the TTD of the value 58750000000000000 is reached. The TTD is the parameter that indicates the level of difficulty that miners have to face to validate the last block in Ethereum’s Proof-of-Work. This value depends on many factors and it is therefore not possible to establish with certainty when the network will reach that value. This is why the date of The Merge is constantly changing.

3.   Beyond Buterin, here is the team of The Merge

Among the thousands of programmers who keep the Ethereum protocol going, you may not know that 119 experts are working on The Merge. Together with this group, some prominent personalities from the crypto world have also joined. From the Ethereum Foundation, researchers Danny Ryan and Justin Drake have contributed directly to The Merge project. The former has been working on The Merge since 2017 (fun fact: The Merge and the move to PoS had already been suggested in 2015, shortly after the birth of Ethereum), in relation to issues such as scalability, sustainability and security. Drake, on the other hand, had a coordination and public relations role.

Vitalik Buterin, of course, also contributed to The Merge update as the mastermind behind the new understanding of Ethereum and as a populariser with the general public. We can credit Buterin for the design philosophy of the new consensus mechanism. Another key figure is Tim Beiko who heads the team of developers. Beiko became the main spokesperson on social media for the development team and managed the many steps necessary for The Merge. Among all the people working on The Merge, we should also mention Mikhail Kalinin of ConsenSys, a software development company that collaborates with Ethereum. They established the details of the Beacon Chain and, according to Beiko, Kalinin is one of those who ‘literally built and steered the ship’. Kalinin called his experience at Ethereum ‘an example of true diversification and decentralisation of work on a research and development project’.

4.   Will there be a new Ethereum 2.0 coin?

As the completion of The Merge approaches, many have wondered whether Ethereum 2.0, the new version of the Proof-of-Stake blockchain, will have a new coin. And again, what will happen to the existing ETHs in our wallets? To answer this question, you have to consider the two possible scenarios following the activation of the update. After The Merge there could be a hard fork of the blockchain in which Ethereum would split into two different chains, one with the consensus mechanism it has always had (PoW) and another that relies instead on staking to validate transactions. In this case, a new coin would be created accordingly, which is currently referred to as ‘ETHPOW’. The chain with the PoS consensus mechanism will retain Ether (ETH) as its native coin, and the PoW chain will instead continue mining ETHPOW. The PoW chain will only remain in existence as long as miners continue to use and support it.

Should a new cryptocurrency actually be created, it will be distributed via airdrop in a 1:1 ratio. Basically your ETH holdings will not change because of this. To prepare for The Merge on Young Platform, read the dedicated announcement.

5.   Sustainable NFTs in the spotlight

Among the 5 things you might not know about The Merge is the green revolution in the NFT world. Let’s consider that most non-fungible tokens are built on Ethereum. Following The Merge, there will be a drastic reduction in the environmental impact of NFT production and transactions. This is because the consensus mechanism that enables Ethereum activity will no longer rely on the computing power of the miners but on the mechanism of staking. In other words, all the electricity used to power the mining hardware will no longer be needed. All blockchain-related activities will be more energy sustainable. 

One of the main criticisms levelled at NFTs concerns the energy required for their ‘minting’, i.e. the process by which digital assets are created. Concerns about the pollution produced by non-fungible tokens have intensified, especially in the current context of an environmental and energy crisis. With greener NFTs, the sector could attract new enthusiasts and experience a creative rally. Creators and new projects will be able to indulge in creating art on the blockchain, no longer intimidated by the environmental footprint.

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