Ethereum’s Merge is part of Ethereum’s transition from a Proof of Work blockchain to Proof of Stake. In general, Proof of Stake offers numerous benefits to scalability and sustainability.
As Ethereum moved to its new scalable structure, the original mainnet’s state was transferred. This means that ETH holders won’t need to do anything with their coins and should be wary of scammers telling them they need to “transfer” their tokens.
Ethereum’s long-anticipated move to a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism has, for many HODLers, raised an important question: What do I need to do with my ETH? The question is a good one, as the safety of your funds can be at risk if you don’t fully understand the situation. First, let’s look at the reasons behind Ethereum’s move to Proof of Stake (PoS).
What Is Ethereum’s Move to Proof of Stake?
From Ethereum’s (ETH) creation until the Merge, it used the same system as Bitcoin (BTC) to generate consensus on new blocks of transactions: Proof of Work (PoW). This consensus mechanism allows miners to reach an agreement without a central authority, even in the face of malicious actors working against them.
Proof of Work, as implemented by Satoshi Nakamoto in the Bitcoin network, created an effective, reliable method for achieving consensus on decentralized networks. To this day, the Bitcoin network still hasn’t been successfully attacked.
However, PoW has fallen out of favor with some developers and users. It is often seen as:
Energy inefficient. PoW disincentivizes bad actors making large-scale attacks by making it costly in terms of energy. While this is one way of securing the network, staking is now seen as a more sustainable alternative.
Inefficient for smart contracts. Using smart contracts can require a large number of network interactions. These have to be added to a block and confirmed to the network. PoW often experiences longer block times and higher transaction fees, making interacting with smart contracts often slower and more expensive.
Difficult to independently mine. Becoming a miner on a popular PoW system can be challenging for an individual as the mining landscape is often dominated by a few large mining pools. This may lead to a centralization of mining power, making it hard for individual miners or smaller pools to compete.
Difficult to scale. As the network becomes more popular, the number of pending transactions increases. PoW networks will have a limited block size that can only include so many transactions. Periods of high traffic can leave users waiting for hours and even days for their transaction to be added to a block and processed.
Why Proof of Stake?
Proof of Stake has proven to be the most popular choice for new blockchain networks. It has several discernible advantages and leads the way in accessibility and scalability. Its drawbacks, while there are a few, are in most eyes minimal compared to the benefits gained.
The Road to PoS Ethereum
Moving to PoS wasn’t done in one go. Over a few years, Ethereum began a transition to move to its new scalable structure successfully. The journey can be split into a series of phases. Note that the Phase structure is no longer officially used by Ethereum, but is often referred to in this way by other media outlets.
The Beacon Chain launch (Phase 0)
Phase 0 saw the launch of Ethereum’s Beacon Chain, a PoS blockchain that acts as the network’s main PoS chain. More specifically, it organizes validators and the staking process, creates validator committees, manages consensus generation, and runs other key operations.
Introduction of sharding (Phase 1)
Phase 1 was planned to take single Ethereum blockchain and split it into 64 sharded blockchains. These blockchains would then be managed by the Beacon Chain launched in Phase 0. However, over time, Ethereum has instead concentrated on the Merge, which has now taken place before any possible sharding implementation.
The Merge (Phase 1.5)
Phase 1.5, also known as The Merge, bridged the state of the Ethereum mainnet to the new Proof of Stake system. Smart contracts from the old Ethereum mainnet are now available on the new Ethereum network, and the Beacon Chain is the official organizer of block production.
Phase 2 was originally planned to allow fully functional shards to create new transactions and smart contracts. However, the prioritization of the Merge over Phase 1 altered this plan. Phase 2 will now explore recent advancements in layer 2 solutions that combine rollups with data sharding opportunities. Phase 2 is the last phase with a predefined plan, as Phase 3 will be used to iron out any issues occurring from the launch of Ethereum 2.0.
What Will Happen to My ETH?
In short, your funds are safe, and you don’t need to do anything. The complete Ethereum state was transferred over to the new PoS Ethereum blockchain. If you’re holding BETH because you’ve locked ETH in Binance’s Ethereum 2.0 staking product, you’ll soon be able to redeem it for ETH after the Merge. Vitalik has mentioned that the unlocking will take place roughly six months after the Merge.
BETH is a wrapped token pegged 1:1 with ETH, distributed to users who locked their ETH with Binance. This gave stakers a liquid, ETH-like asset to use while their funds were locked. For users who wish to, they will be able to swap their BETH back to ETH.
Expectations From Users and the Community
For many, Ethereum’s move to PoS was eagerly anticipated. With almost every new blockchain now using PoS, there has been immense pressure on Ethereum to catch up. The network is also free from its previous limitations with the benefits of its new consensus mechanism. As PoS is more environmentally friendly, Ethereum will also remove the stigma associated with its previous energy usage. Overall, this may help improve the image of the blockchain world in general.
The key message to take away from The Merge for HODLers is that you don’t need to do anything with your ETH holdings. So, be wary of anyone telling you that you need to “transfer” or “bridge” your ETH to the new network. Aside from this important fact, Ethereum’s move to Proof of Stake looks to have various benefits for users.