A Year Since the Merge
A year post the highly anticipated Ethereum software upgrade, famously referred to as ‘The Merge,’ the network finds itself grappling with unforeseen challenges. The transition, which hailed as the crypto epoch’s answer to Y2K, was executed to perfection, ushering in a greener approach to blockchain transaction ordering.
The Allure of Staking
The newfound system allowed users the privilege to stake their tokens and, in return, earn a yield for facilitating the network’s operation. However, the soaring popularity of this staking feature might be setting the stage for a possible system overload.
The Staking Numbers
Ether, the lifeline token of the Ethereum network, undergoes a “locking” procedure in digital vaults during the staking process. As per the data insights from Staking Rewards, Ether worth an astronomical $41.5 billion, which translates to approximately 20% of its total circulation, is now staked. Alarmingly, if this trend maintains its current trajectory, projections predict 50% of Ether being staked by May and a staggering 100% by December 2024.
The Driving Force
The cryptocurrency market has been less than kind, with most token valuations hovering at nearly half of their late 2021 zeniths. This slump has positioned staking as one of the few lucrative avenues in the crypto world, with Ether stakers raking in an average yield of around 4%.
However, as Dapplion, co-author of the aforementioned paper and an active voice on X (previously known as Twitter), aptly puts it, “We all like up-only, but not when the safety of Ethereum is at stake.”
The Beacon chain is growing exponentiallyWe all like up-only, but not when the safety of Ethereum is at stake. By doing nothing, next year we will enter unknown economic territory with >50% of total
ETHstakeToday ACD will vote to bound max growth to buy research time pic.twitter.com/iA7T6BHjak
— Lion ⟠ dapplion .eth (@dapplion) September 14, 2023
Potential Network Strain
If the staking spree continues unchecked, Ethereum might find itself in a conundrum where no Ether is available for transactions, putting undue stress on the transaction ordering segment of the network.
Countermeasures in Place
In a bid to mitigate this looming crisis, Ethereum developers convened on September 14, reaching a consensus to cap the inflow of new validators – entities responsible for staking wallets. This limitation is poised to be integrated into Ethereum’s upcoming major software augmentation. This ‘churn change’ measure, according to the same paper, would substantially delay the theoretical scenario of 100% Ether staking.
Matt Nelson, associated with Ethereum infrastructure developer Consensys, emphasized the necessity of this delay, stating, “We want to slow it down a bit to buy us some time.”
This staking frenzy has transcended initial expectations, compelling developers to deliberate on long-term strategies. One such proposal on the table is the recalibration of validator rewards to dissuade excessive staking.
The Role of Staking Providers
Most Ether aficionados don’t engage in direct staking. The modus operandi involves entrusting their tokens to established services, such as Kraken, Lido, and
Jim McDonald, the tech spearhead at Attestant, one of Ethereum’s primary staking players, remarked on this phenomenon’s secondary effect, indicating a cemented status for present-day staking providers.