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The significance of next week's Ethereum Merge is beginning to gain attention from mainstream media, which describes it as a "major revamp" that may either hasten the adoption of cryptocurrencies or have catastrophic repercussions on the market if it fails.
The Merge includes switching from a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism that requires a lot of electricity to an effective proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism without significantly altering the blockchain. It has been under development since the original Ethereum white paper.
The no-downtime upgrade has been compared to "[changing] the engine of a spaceship mid-flight," according to the American business newspaper Forbes, and Swan Bitcoin CEO Cory Klippsten said the upgrade is like "trying to fix an airplane in mid-flight," in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Some media sites emphasized that the upgrade might be risky and expressed worries that making a mistake could “be fatal” for the network’s future and the future of the decentralized applications (DApps) running on the Ethereum blockchain.
The Evening Standard, a British newspaper, claimed that cryptocurrency traders have been “holding their breath” in anticipation of the impending Merge since a failed upgrade may put the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem “at danger.”
According to DefiLlama, the majority of the $150 billion stablecoin market cap and the roughly $33 billion in total value locked by Ethereum-based DApps are due to the Ethereum network.
According to Anna Becker, CEO and co-founder of EndoTech, it will be “very challenging for the industry to exist” if something goes wrong and the blockchain is stopped:
“Many businesses use Ethereum as the infrastructure to run their blockchains, so if something goes wrong, the industry will halt […] it will be difficult for the industry to endure this moment.”
As the PoS technique is “less battle-tested” than PoW, whose security has been established over more than a decade, The Washington Post speculated that “new flaws could be found.”
Given that the new model has only been tried on “experimental blockchains,” journalist John Quiggin of the Australian national network ABC stated in his reporting that there is a chance the Ethereum experiment “may fail” — possibly if larger Ether (ETH) stakers find a way to game the system.
According to the Ethereum Foundation, the Ethereum upgrade will make the blockchain significantly more environmentally friendly than it was before by cutting energy use by more than 99%.
Some claim that this would eventually put pressure on other proof-of-work cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin (BTC), to follow suit.
“Bitcoin utilizes more energy annually than medium-sized countries like Argentina at a time when the world is desperately striving to minimize energy use,” said Quiggin, adding:
If the Ethereum transition is successful, there will be tremendous pressure on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to solve this issue.
Quiggin pointed out that the New York Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to scrutinize Bitcoin miners using carbon-based power, while electric car manufacturer Tesla announced last year that it will no longer accept Bitcoin for payments until at least half of the cryptocurrency is mined using renewable energy.
One thing is certain, he said, “cryptocurrencies will run out of justifications for their outrageous energy use as the need to reduce global emissions becomes even more critical.”
According to CoinMarketCap, Ether is presently the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, with a value of $187.5 billion, after Bitcoin, which has a $360 billion market cap.