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Is Ethereum Merge Still on track for August?

Ugh. Not a good few weeks for Ethereum investors, because the DeFi king has fallen below $1700 and is now 55% below its opening value of $3722 on New Year’s Day.

BTC dominates

Another concern for the fans of Vitalik’s creation will be the underperformance over Bitcoin over the past month or so. While the market as a whole has collapsed in the face of macroeconomic sentiment and the impact of the Terra circus, there has been a small recovery period in recent days, at least for Bitcoin. Ethereum on the other hand, it has fallen more or less constantly.

The chart below shows its performance against Bitcoin. ETH performed significantly better than BTC in 2020 and 2021, when the bull market was raging and ETH took advantage of its higher volatility and smaller market capitalization. However, when the market took a turn this year, we could observe that BTC regained its dominance over all cryptocurrencies, as is traditionally the case during downturns.


Additional problems

If one deals with the basics here, factors for the decline of ETH that go beyond the general bloodbath become clear. This is the fabled merge that has been promised, postponed and promised again for as long as crypto enthusiasts can remember. At this point, the merge triggers traumatic memories for me of the lockdown at home in Ireland.

I believe we had a total of 5 lockdowns that lasted between 3 weeks and 6 months. Everyone brought promises that it would be the last, but they just kept coming, dense and fast. Curfews from 20 o’clock, a 2 km radius around one’s own house, training quotas and much more – it was a constant back and forth, as our government repeatedly missed its own goals and failed to plan accordingly.

While the ETH merge is apparently still scheduled for August, last week was a reminder that it is far from being set in stone, as it ran into a stumbling block when the Beacon Chain went through a reorganization (or reorg) of 7 blocks last week. To be precise, seven blocks from number 3,887,075 to 3,887,081 were removed from the beacon chain between 08:55:23 and 08:56:35 AM UTC.

To translate this into the language of non-computer professionals: a reorg is the name for an event in which a block that was part of the main chain (the canonical chain) is removed from the chain due to a competing block that displaced it. Typically, this can happen either through a malicious attack or an error.

Ethereum developer Preston Van Loon suggested that in this case this was due to a “non-trivial segmentation” of new and old client node software, which ruled out any malice. Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin refer his theory as a “good hypothesis”.

My thoughts

This is a hiccup, but nothing to worry about in the long run. However, it has made it clear how vulnerable the schedule scheduled for August is. While many have long given up on predicting the timing of this elusive revision, the size and scope of the project has certainly been underestimated by the crypto community.

The recent slump in Ethereum – there have been significant swings over the past week, while Bitcoin has been progressing well – can probably be attributed to these additional doubts about the roadmap. Since the upgrade for August is already largely priced in and the market is very sensitive at the moment, as investors are just trying to survive, news like this will always trigger sales.

Since the mood on the market is as bad as it has been since the GFC and the cryptocurrencies are facing all sorts of difficult questions after the Terra implosion, Ethereum simply has to keep its part of the deal and complete a successful merger.

I believe we are still well on our way to achieving this in August – with the Ropsten Testnet Merge delivering some good news this morning, one of the defining events before the mainnet rollout. But on the other hand, I believed that the lockdown would last 3 weeks, and I have spent so much time in my bedroom over the past 2 years that I have forgotten what the sky looks like.

Let’s hope I’m not repeating my earlier mistakes here.