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Latest ETH Trends In 2023
- The recent change in the way Ethereum validates transactions (The Merge) is deflationary so far. There are fewer ETH now than before. A reduction in the number of network transactions could change this trend, however.
- Layer 2 networks see massive growth. Abitrum, an Ethereum Layer 2 network, recently surpassed Ethereum Mainnet in daily transactions. Transactions on Layer 2’s are processed faster and cheaper than on Mainnet but passed to Mainnet for security. And now, Coinbase is launching a Layer 2 called Base.
- NFTs are more than just fun pictures these days. Growing use cases for NFTs include NFT music, NFT art, real estate, game skins, and more. Markets are beginning to see that NFTs can document ownership of anything. Big names like Amazon and Sony are getting into the NFT action using the Ethereum blockchain and Layer 2 networks.
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What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is the leading smart-contract blockchain. Hold up, what? Okay, let’s break that down.
- Smart contracts are computer programs that run on the Ethereum network.
- Blockchains are like a tally sheet that tracks who has what, where it came from, and where it went. It’s like a bank statement, but for crypto — and it’s always up-to-date.
Each “block” in the “chain” contains transactions and data, and just like real chains, they’re linked.
Think of the Ethereum network as an operating system on the internet that can run programs. It’s decentralized because the transactions the Ethereum network saves to the blockchain are validated and mirrored by thousands of computers around the world. Some refer to Ethereum as the World’s Computer. Yeah. Sounds about right.
Vitalik Buterin — the Ethereum project’s best-known founder — published the Ethereum white paper in November of 2013, describing the soon-to-be network and how it would function. By 2015, the Ethereum network was live and processing transactions.
Fast-forward to today, and Ethereum has become the most widely used smart-contract network amongst all blockchain networks. There are plenty of other smart-contract networks out there now, but Ethereum led the way, and it’s still the biggest gorilla in the crypto zoo.
Who Founded Ethereum?
Vitalik Buterin is the most famous (and most memed) of Ethereum’s founders. (Don’t miss the Vitalik Pic of the Day in the Milk Road newsletter.)
But the Ethereum project has several founders, including Charles Hoskinson, who went on to found IO Global, the company that’s developing the Cardano project.
Ethereum’s founders are still leaders in the crypto space and other techy stuff.
- Vitalik Buterin still works on Ethereum.
- Gavin Wood went on to found Polkadot, a blockchain network that enables transfers between blockchains.
- Charles Hoskinson founded Input Output Global, the company behind the Cardano network.
- Anthony Di Iorio went on to found Decentral, a blockchain tools company.
- Joseph Lubin went on to found ConsenSys, the leading Ethereum software company and maker of the popular MetaMask Ethereum wallet.
- Mihai Alisi is building AKASHA World, an Ethereum-based social platform.
- Amir Chetrit keeps a low profile and reportedly still invests in crypto projects.
- Jeffrey Wilcke went on to co-found Grid Games.
Why Was Ethereum Founded?
We already had Bitcoin, so why did we need Ethereum? Early crypto networks like Bitcoin and Litecoin offer peer-to-peer transactions without a bank in the middle. They were (and still are) effective as digital ledgers and payment rails. What they didn’t do was run programs. At least not well. The problem: they just don’t support enough programming commands.
The Ethereum white paper, while a tough read, explains the reason for Ethereum in contrast to the existing crypto networks.
Here’s the TL;DR: The Ethereum network was built to run decentralized applications (dApps), programs that run on a network of thousands of computers rather than on servers controlled by a single person, organization, or government.
The network runs on Ether (ETH), which is the cryptocurrency you use to pay for using the network. So, Ether is money. But the Ethereum network envisioned in the white paper would open up a new world of possibility beyond just payments from person A to person B — and it has.
In the white paper, Vitalik introduces the idea of smart contracts, which he describes as boxes that are only unlocked if certain conditions are met. Think of smart contracts like switches –- or, if you’ve ever done BASIC computer programming, like if-then statements. If this happens, do that.
Those smart contracts are what’s running under the hood of today’s dApps, including Aave, Uniswap, and more. We see a website that does cool crypto stuff. Behind the HTML and shiny buttons, there’s an app running on a blockchain — and it’s probably running on Ethereum or a Layer 2 network. We’ll cover Layer 2 networks in a bit.
Ethereum Price History
Crypto prices are volatile in the true sense of the word. They can explode to the upside or blow up your life savings, leaving a smoking crater. It’s really a question of timing. Since its launch, ETH has made millionaires and billionaires — and broken more than a few hearts (and wallets) as well.
Like most markets, pricing is driven by supply and demand. Here’s how ETH’s supply works.
Prior to 2022, ETH was mined in a similar way to Bitcoin, using proof-of-work, a process that created ever-growing piles of ETH. 2022’s change to proof-of-stake as the way to validate transactions changed the supply dynamics of ETH. What was once an inflationary cryptocurrency is now closer to a stable supply.
But there’s another factor at play that affects ETH supply. EIP-1559 (an Ethereum Improvement Proposal) introduced burning ETH. When you pay ETH gas fees, the base fee is burned while the remaining fee (the tip) goes to network validators. Burning just means sending ETH to an unrecoverable address on the blockchain.
When Ethereum switched to proof-of-stake (the merge), the supply was 120,520,222 compared to today’s supply of 120,451,390 ETH. Proof-of-stake creates new ETH as staking rewards, but burning sees roughly the same amount destroyed. The result is a fairly stable or slightly deflationary supply — so far.
ETH Price Events
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane on ETH prices and events.
- AUG 7, 2015 – ETH debuts on Kraken: For the first time, ETH is trading publicly, trading as high as $2.77 and as low as $0.68 before finding short-term support at about $2.
- JUL 20, 2016 – ETH Classic fork: In a still-contentious move, The Ethereum network split in two. Today’s dominant chain includes a rollback that undid the financial damage resulting from a $150 million exploit of The DAO, a decentralized venture capital firm. The price for ETH after the dust settled: $13. The forked chain (Ethereum Classic or ETC) — which did not roll back to recover the $150 million — trades at about $20 today compared to ETH at $1,700+.
- FEB 28, 2017: Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) enters the scene: What happens when you get a boost from Accenture, Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, Intel, and other big names in tech? Price spikes. Some of the biggest players on the planet teamed up with Ethereum to collaborate on standards that would aid blockchain adoption. The announcement sent ETH to $16. ETH continued to climb, later reaching $364 in June.
- DEC 19, 2017: Cryptokitties set the internet on fire: Due in part to the wildfire success of Cryptokitties, an NFT-based game, the Ethereum network reached 1 million daily transactions. ETH spiked to $818, compared to $2 about two years earlier.
- NOV 11, 2020 – ETH sets trading records: After a series of industry mishaps that sent ETH back to low triple digits, ETH became the most traded crypto in 2020. The price recovered to $465, a sign of things to come. And ETH continued to climb.
- NOV 9, 2021 – ETH hits its all-time high: In a year as volatile as Ethereum’s early days, ETH bounced wildly in a massive trading range between $2,000 and $4,000. On November 9, 2021, ETH peaked at $4,742. Everything in crypto was booming. Bitcoin also hit its all-time high of nearly $69,000 in November. Ethereum competitor Solana reached its peak of $258. It seemed like nothing could go wrong, but peaks are called peaks for a reason. The remainder of 2021 and 2022 saw a steep sell-off throughout crypto, popping what many called a bubble.
- SEP 15, 2022 – The Merge: The long-awaited (and often-delayed) switch to proof-of-stake (PoS) from proof-of-work (PoW) for Ethereum finally happened in September 2022. The ambitious network upgrade entailed merging the two (PoW and PoS) chains into one PoS chain. Some anticipated a sell-off, others a boom. In the end, nothing really happened. ETH’s price generally stayed in a range between $1,200 and $1,300 before rising again in January of 2023.
- November 9th, 2022 – Binance announced a potential buyout of FTX: As crypto investors rapidly withdrew funds from the now-defunct FTX exchange, FTX-competitor Binance considered buying FTX. The company later backed away. ETH briefly fell to $1083.
How Ethereum Works
The web browser you’re using now is running on your computer or mobile device. If you spill milk on your computer, that’s that. No more Milk Road for you. The Milk Road website is hosted on a different computer somewhere, delivering crypto news and how-tos to millions. If someone trips over the server’s power plug, the party’s over. No more Milk Road for anyone. Ack!
But what if you could run programs on a network of computers – and if one goes offline, it wouldn’t matter at all? That’s what Ethereum does. Developers deploy programs called smart contracts to the network where they live forever. Seriously, they can’t be deleted. That’s why you’ll see versions on dApps, like Aave, currently on version 3.
If you spend enough time in crypto, you’ll run across the phrase, “code is law,” which refers to the smart contracts being the final arbiter of whether something happens or doesn’t.
Remember, these contracts are just switches. If this happens, then do that. But these switches can work in series, creating powerful applications. Imagine flipping the light switch in your living room, and the TV starts streaming your favorite Netflix vampire show while a robot you didn’t know you had brings you fresh-popped popcorn. Smart contracts can trigger multiple actions if defined conditions are met.
The transactions from these smart contracts are stored on the blockchain. Blockchains are a lot like databases, a way to store information. But here’s one big difference: Someone can delete a database or change its contents. Blockchains are designed to be immutable, meaning the records in each validated block of transactions never change. As new blocks of transactions and data are built and validated, they’re added to the chain.
Surely all this magical goodness can’t be free, right? Correct. That’s where Ether comes in, which we’ll dig into next.
Ether & Gas
Here’s your chance to impress your friends: The term Ethereum is often used interchangeably with the cryptocurrency that powers the network. That’s not quite accurate — the fuel for the Ethereum network is called Ether (ETH).
Ether is money in the Ethereum world. Ethereum is the network itself.
In the real world, nothing moves anywhere without energy. The same is true for Ethereum. Ether is the fuel for the network, and that’s why network costs are called gas fees.
Think of it as a way to pay for processing power on the network. If you want to interact with a smart contract, you’ll have to part with some ETH to do so.
And the more complex the contract is, the more the transaction can cost. Flipping a switch to turn the light on – that’s easy, so it’s relatively cheap. Flipping a switch that turns on the light, streams your favorite vampire show, and summons a whirring robot with fresh popcorn costs more. Makes sense.
The gas fees for using smart contracts can get spendy if the network gets busy. And there’s another factor: the cost of ETH itself.
Imagine how much it might cost to do even simple transactions if the price of ETH was spiking AND the network was busy. Yeah, that’s a problem.
And that’s why Layer 2 networks were developed. We’ll discuss those in a bit, but basically, Layer 2 networks execute transactions at a lower cost and then send bundled transactions to the main Ethereum blockchain to be stored securely. Layer 2’s are a lot like taking the train for your city commute rather than driving. Layer 2’s move transactions in bulk.
- The benefit of Ether: Ether creates a financial incentive for the development of new apps (many of which collect fees in ETH) and for the network validators that secure the network. Nobody wants to work for free, right? Ether also lets you do things you couldn’t do easily in the analog world. For example, if you want to borrow money, just lock some collateral on a decentralized app like Aave, and you can borrow against it – all in a few clicks. You can’t do that with your local bank, and without ETH, you couldn’t do it on Ethereum, either.
- The downside of Ether: It’s spendy sometimes. It makes sense to keep an eye on gas fees and make your moves when gas fees are lower. And if you can, use a Layer 2 network. You’ll save boatloads of precious ETH.
Ethereum Token Standards
Ether is the fuel for the Ethereum network, but what are all these other crypto tokens, and what do they do? Well, tokens are other crypto assets on the network, and they have various uses. Some are used for voting. Some track the value of other assets, like the US dollar or Bitcoin. Others represent the ownership of an asset, like an NFT (non-fungible token).
- Fungible tokens are interchangeable. These include tokens like USDT and WBTC. One USDC is the same as the next USDC. US dollars work the same way. A dollar is a dollar.
- Non-fungible tokens are unique. These include NFTs like the Bored Apes or even an NFT that records ownership of real-world assets, like real estate. The future could include tokenized everything. Put your ownership of anything on the blockchain.
To work with Ethereum, a token must follow standards, basically a set of rules. Otherwise, the network doesn’t know what to do with this weird thing. Remember your uncle who told you don’t take any wooden nickels? Ethereum doesn’t take any wooden tokens, either.
Here are the main token standard used by Ethereum:
- ERC-20: This is by far the most common token standard on Ethereum. You’ll find it used for governance (voting) tokens, utility tokens for a specific platform, or staking tokens.
- ERC-721: Most NFTs follow the ERC-721 standard. These include artwork, music NFTs, event ticket NFTs, and property deeds. Some NFTs use the ERC-1155 token standard.
The first two are more common, but ERC-777, ERC-1155, and ERC-4626 are also used in some cases, such as decentralized finance (DeFi) applications. You’ll also start seeing OFT-20 tokens. These tokens are cross-chain compatible and can work with any Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) chain, such as Arbitrum or Binance Smart Chain.
Ethereum Proof Of Stake
In 2022, Ethereum switched from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake as the way the network validates transactions. Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin still use proof-of-stake, which uses more energy compared to proof-of-stake, but both methods use financial incentives (or disincentives) to validate and secure transactions on the blockchain.
Let’s focus on proof-of-stake. In PoS, computers on the network check transactions to be sure they conform to the protocol, basically another set of rules. Each validator (also called a node) puts ETH at stake.
If the other validators on the network catch one of the nodes approving blocks that don’t follow the protocol, the ETH staked by that node can be slashed, meaning the network takes away part of the stake. It’s like when your parents cut your allowance because you fibbed about that thing you did.
These validators don’t work for free. They earn rewards for validating blocks. And the entire community can participate. ETH holders can stake their ETH with a validator service to earn a yield from staking rewards. However, staked ETH can’t be unstaked until the developers release an upgrade that allows it.
Lido, a popular dApp, replaces staked ETH with a token (stETH) that gains value to represent your staking rewards while letting you sell or use your tokens.
After the switch from PoW to PoS, the Ethereum network reduced energy consumption dramatically. By comparison, Ethereum PoW uses an estimated 30,000 times more energy compared to PoS, and Bitcoin uses 50,000 times more energy.
Use-Cases For Ethereum
Okay, so we understand that smart contracts are just programs that run on the network. But what can you do with them? You might be surprised.
Lending And Borrowing
Aave is the biggest dApp in this category. The premise is simple. You deposit a supported asset like ETH or USDC to earn interest from borrowers. Often the returns are about 2% to 3%, but they can spike higher. You can also borrow by using your deposit as collateral. And unlike a CD or treasury, you can withdraw your deposit at any time (unless you borrowed against it).
If you want to swap some of your ETH stack for another token you’ve been investigating, you can do that with a decentralized exchange (DEX) like Uniswap or an aggregator that compares prices like OpenOcean. Read up on DEXs first, they’re not hard to use, but you’ll want to learn the ropes before you set sail.
Where do the tokens on DEXs come from? Traders like you. You can earn a solid return by providing tokens to a pool that other traders use for swaps. Again, you’ll want to learn about considerations like impermanent loss before you start clicking on buttons and sending tokens all over the internet.
You can also provide liquidity for trading platforms like GMX, but you’ll need to use an Ethereum-compatible network. GMX supports the Arbitrum Layer 2 network, and Arbitrum can use ETH natively.
Most of the big-name NFT collections are on the Ethereum network. You can buy NFTs on well-known platforms like OpenSea, but a new breed of NFT exchanges is going the decentralized route, using smart contracts so you can buy and sell without a middleman.
The new Blur NFT platform is a great example, as is X2Y2.
Trade Cryptocurrencies And Futures
There are ways to bet on the future price of Ethereum and Bitcoin through brokers that offer trades on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. But there’s an easier way.
Yep. Ethereum can run dApps that let you trade future prices right from your favorite recliner. Decentralized apps like GMX, which runs on the Arbitrum and Avalanche networks, let you bet your crypto on a hunch — or some solid chart-reading skills — with leverage of up to 50x.
Staking can have a lot of meanings in the crypto world. The most common in an ETH context means putting some ETH into a staking contract to help validate network transactions. In exchange, you can earn staking rewards.
But staking can also be a way to earn additional rewards from dApps. On LooksRare, an NFT marketplace, you can stake LOOKS tokens to earn a share of earnings on the platform. It’s a lot like a dividend stock but without dealing with brokers who are always trying to get you into their managed fund.
The decentralized crypto world runs on votes, like a true democracy. The Ethereum project itself uses votes to decide future changes to the project. ETH holders can vote on Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs). If adopted, the developers start building techy stuff to make it happen.
Many projects in the Ethereum ecosystem issue governance tokens, making governance token holders the real boss. Uniswap is a great example. The UNI token serves no other purpose other than voting on what comes next for the world’s biggest DEX.
Most crypto prices jump around like cupcake-fueled kids in a bouncy castle. How do you keep some of your crypto stack stable? Well, you can use stablecoins, which are ERC-20 tokens. The most common stablecoins are pegged to the value of a fiat currency. USDC and USDT both track the US dollar’s value.
But the term stablecoins just means tokens that track the value of something else. Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) is a tokenized version of Bitcoin. Even if the price isn’t all that stable in USD value, it’s stable with Bitcoin. So, stablecoins help you avoid volatility — or they can diversify your crypto portfolio without leaving the safety of your Ethereum wallet. Way cool.
Layer 2 Networks
Ethereum is pretty amazing, but it has its drawbacks. First, it’s kind of slow – like waiting for your dog to do his business when it’s cold out. It’s faster than Bitcoin, but that’s not really an accomplishment. Second, it’s expensive – like $50 to move a $30 NFT when the network is busy.
That’s why the universe gave us Layer 2 networks. These Ethereum-compatible networks let you do just about anything you can do on Ethereum for less money, and they’re faster too. The downside? You’ll have to put some funds into a Layer 2 network.
There’s a solution for that, though. You can use a crypto bridge.
Layer 2 networks like Arbitrum and Polygon let you do more for less, and then they pass the transaction off to Ethereum in batches for its stellar security. It’s an Ethereum transaction in the end, but you saved a bunch of money by using a Layer 2.
What To Look Forward To
The Ethereum project is constantly evolving, albeit slowly and carefully. Don’t plan on exact dates, but here’s what’s planned in the Ethereum roadmap.
- Reduced fees: Using Ethereum can be spendy. Layer 2 networks cut the cost by sending transactions to the Ethereum Mainnet chain in batches called rollups. These Layer 2 networks can reduce transaction costs by a factor of 3x up to 100x. You can save a ton of money using one. Although possibly years out, Ethereum is planning ways to handle rollups more efficiently by using temporary storage. The result: transaction costs at possibly just a fraction of a penny. After all, what good is a world computer that nobody can afford to use? Ethereum is listening.
- Easy-to-use wallets: Ethereum wallets are complicated. The Ethereum project is looking at ways to make wallets easier, including hiding all the technical bits behind a people-friendly user interface. How? With smart contracts working behind the scenes to secure your funds. One day, we might all be using wallets that are as easy to use as social media apps.
- Simplified code: Like any piece of software that has undergone numerous upgrades, Ethereum has lots of legacy code still hanging around like the last guest at a holiday party. Future upgrades will remove legacy code that could create the risk of exploits. Leaner code is faster code.
Frequently Asked Questions
The price of ETH is based on supply and demand, and recent changes in the supply have made the supply slightly deflationary, meaning there are fewer ETH to go around. ETH price predictions range from under $1,000 to over six figures.
If you believe in the future of Ethereum, it’s always a good time to buy. But it’s usually wiser to dollar-cost average your position. The price can rise or fall quickly, but by buying a little bit at timed intervals, you can smooth out the highs and lows.
It’s generally a good idea to move your ETH off centralized exchanges and into the safety of a wallet you control. Crypto wallets let you send and receive crypto but also open up a world of decentralized apps you can use with your wallet. If you have a larger amount of crypto, you can also use a company that provides crypto custody services.
Ethereum is decentralized, meaning the community votes on proposals for improvements to the network. This means that there’s no one person or organization that controls Ethereum.
Ethereum and Bitcoin serve different purposes, with some overlap. Ethereum brings more functionality, while Bitcoin is regarded by many to be better as peer-to-peer money or a store of value. Both are considered to be “blue chip” cryptos and often move together in market upswings and downswings.
Ethereum Classic (ETC) is a fork of Ethereum that happened after an exploit cost a decentralized organization called The DAO $150 million. The primary Ethereum chain in use today rolled back the transactions, whereas Ethereum Classic kept the transactions in place. It’s like two versions of history.
There are nearly 500,000 ERC-20 tokens out there, with more being added daily. Each protocol running on Ethereum or a compatible network can have one or more tokens it uses for various purposes. In addition, every NFT is a unique token, so the number of tokens will grow as long as Ethereum continues in popularity. As for Ether, the crypto that powers the Ethereum network, the current supply is about 120 million.