Imagine having to change the engine of a spaceship mid-flight. A similar task is facing Preston Van Loon and a few dozen more developers working on a critical software upgrade to Ethereum, the blockchain underpinning thousands of decentralized applications and ether, a cryptocurrency with a $204 billion market capitalization.
Awaited for years, the upgrade entered its first phase–called Bellatrix–at 7:34 A.M. EST on 9/6, setting the stage for the blockchain’s merge with another decentralized ledger named the Beacon Chain and changes in the economics of ether (ETH).
If all goes well, around Sept. 15 Ethereum will adopt the Beacon Chain’s method of processing transactions, proof-of-stake, which is approximately 99.95% more energy efficient than the current proof-of-work mechanism.
“We’ve been testing the Merge for maybe a year at this point,” says Van Loon. “We’re not sleeping much in part out of excitement and in part out of a little bit of anxiety because it is such a big deal with so much at stake.”
No major blockchain has faced an overhaul of this scale.
“I consider this the most significant catalyst in crypto history in terms of its magnitude and the fact that ETH is the second largest crypto,” says Travis Kling, chief investment officer at crypto asset management firm Ikigai.
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