Soon, the current Ethereum Mainnet will merge with the Beacon Chain proof-of-stake system. This will mark the end of proof-of-work for Ethereum, and the full transition to proof-of-stake. This sets the stage for future scaling upgrades including sharding. The Merge will reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption by ~99.95%. What is Ethereum Merge ?
What is Merge ?
The Merge represents the joining of the existing execution layer of Ethereum (the Mainnet we use today) with its new proof-of-stake consensus layer, the Beacon Chain. It eliminates the need for energy-intensive mining and instead secures the network using staked ETH. A truly exciting step in realizing the Ethereum vision – more scalability, security, and sustainability.
It’s important to remember that initially, the Beacon Chain shipped separately from Mainnet. Ethereum Mainnet – with all it’s accounts, balances, smart contracts, and blockchain state – continues to be secured by proof-of-work, even while the Beacon Chain runs in parallel using proof-of-stake. The approaching Merge is when these two systems finally come together, and proof-of-work is replaced permanently by proof-of-stake.
Let’s consider an analogy. Imagine Ethereum is a spaceship that isn’t quite ready for an interstellar voyage. With the Beacon Chain, the community has built a new engine and a hardened hull. After significant testing, it’s almost time to hot-swap the new engine for the old mid-flight. This will merge the new, more efficient engine into the existing ship, ready to put in some serious lightyears and take on the universe.
What date is The Merge?
The Merge is expected to land within Q3/Q4 2022. The client developers are currently working to a soft deadline of 19th September 2022, but this could change depending upon the success of the final testnet merge (Goerli) in mid-August, continued client refinements and the hashrate of the existing miners continuing in a predictable manner. Everyone is working hard to deliver The Merge as soon as possible.
After The Merge
This will signal the end of proof-of-work for Ethereum and start the era of a more sustainable, eco-friendly Ethereum. Learn more about Ethereum energy consumption.
This will also set the stage for further scalability upgrades not possible under proof-of-work, bringing Ethereum one step closer to achieving the full scale, security and sustainability outlined in its Ethereum vision.
If I Own Any Ether (ETH) Do I Need to Do Anything?
No! All ETH on the Ethereum network under the current proof-of-work (PoW) consensus engine will be unaffected by the switch to the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus engine once “The Merge” occurs. Users will experience no change in their day-to-day experience using Ethereum — all changes related to “The Merge” are “under the hood” and related to the consensus mechanism that secures the network.
Can I stay on the proof-of-work (PoW) version of Ethereum after “The Merge”?
No — there is only one Ethereum and the entire network will switch to the new proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus engine. When “The Merge” occurs the entire Ethereum proof-of-work (PoW) chain becomes the Ethereum PoS chain.
If any nodes were to continue mining a PoW version of Ethereum the would be on their own minority fork and the economic value of their block rewards would be far below their cost of operation. Because miners are incentivized to operate at a profit, it is expected that all PoW participants will immediately begin to mine with their hardware on other non-Ethereum PoW blockchains.
Do I really need 32 ETH in order to run a validator on the Ethereum network? That seems like a lot of money.
In short, no.
32 ETH is a lot of money, but it was an amount chosen with good reason. It is high enough to keep network participants honest due to the risk of lost ETH if they behave dishonestly, but it is also low enough so that a sufficient number of validators can exist on the network – allowing it to maintain a high level of security. Although technically you do need 32 ETH to activate and run a validator, a service such as RocketPool allows someone with 17.6 or more ETH (16 ETH + 10% collateral) to be matched with 16 ETH deposited to the RocketPool smart contract by other stakers (who typically also have less than 32 ETH or don’t want to run a validator themselves) so that you may run a validator without owning 32 ETH yourself.
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