The Merge: Your Comprehensive Guide
Since its debut in 2015, Ethereum has made a name for itself in the blockchain space as a widely-used decentralized computing platform. Thousands of projects have been built on the Ethereum blockchain. Although it remains a significant player in the industry, its current infrastructure needs to handle the increasing demand worldwide. To optimize scalability, the Ethereum team proposed several improvements that will shape the future of Ethereum. These changes include the Beacon Chain, The Merge, The Surge, The Verge, The Purge, and The Splurge.
Blockchains are designed as decentralized systems not relying on a central governing body. This method of removing the centralized power structure has many advantages, such as ensuring permissionless access, creating a trustless platform, and expanding the chain's security by reducing the potential of a single point of failure.
As the use of blockchains increases, platforms must make sure their networks can cope with the demands for transaction processing speeds from around the world, otherwise known as scalability requirements. If they don't, the network will be overloaded with too many pending transactions and can get congested. This usually means that transaction fees become more expensive.
The Blockchain Trilemma, as proposed by Vitalik Buterin, explains the difficulty in achieving scalability, security, and decentralization simultaneously on blockchains while preserving their decentralized nature. This problem is often referred to as the scalability trilemma.
Vitalik Buterin acknowledged that the pre-Merge Ethereum network could not meet scalability requirements due to its PoW consensus mechanism. This type of blockchain is quite challenging to scale for various reasons. Most notably, it limits the number of transactions a single block can process and requires blocks to be mined constantly.
For example, Bitcoin was designed to have blocks created every 10 minutes on average, based on the mining difficulty automatically modified by the protocol. While the design of Bitcoin is highly secure, the block time and the limit of transactions that can be sent in a block can cause overcrowding during peak times. This often results in higher transaction fees and longer wait times needed to verify the transaction.
The Ethereum team proposed a new set of upgrades, dubbed Ethereum 2.0 (ETH 2.0), to counter the restrictions of the PoW protocol.
Ethereum Upgrades: An Overview
The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade package includes the Beacon Chain and The Merge that have already been deployed, and plans for The Surge, The Verge, The Purge, and The Splurge. Once all upgrades are complete, the Ethereum blockchain will become more efficient, secure, and sustainable while preserving its decentralized nature.
The Beacon Chain
The Beacon Chain was first released as Phase 0 on December 1, 2020, introducing PoS to the Ethereum network. It operates alongside the Ethereum mainnet, enabling users to participate in two ways: staking ETH or running a consensus client to secure the network. This upgrade marks the beginning of a series of major upgrades for Ethereum.
The Merge is Ethereum's major initiative for resolving scalability challenges. It combines the pre-existing, distinct chains in the Ethereum landscape: the execution layer and the Beacon Chain responsible for consensus.
After the merger, Ethereum transitioned from the PoW consensus mechanism to the PoS consensus mechanism. Instead of relying on mining, blocks will now be minted or forged by a group of nodes known as validators. At fixed intervals, one of these validators is randomly chosen to validate a proposed block. Incentives in the form of transaction fee tips and staking rewards are offered to encourage validators to participate in the process. As validators do not compete to add a new block, PoS consumes fewer resources compared to PoW, making it a more sustainable option.
Ethereum's transaction is amalgamated into the Beacon Chain, yet its ETH stays intact. It is still possible to access ETH funds after The Merge, and there is no need to take any steps to prepare for the update.
After The Merge, the token issuance system was revamped to provide approximately 1,600 ETH per day solely from staking rewards. This is a dramatic decrease from the approximately 13,000 ETH per day — a combination of mining and staking rewards — currently distributed through the token issuance system.
What Lies Beyond the Merge?
Sharding will occur in 2023 following The Merge, even though no official statement has been made regarding other future Ethereum upgrades such as The Surge, The Verge, The Purge, and The Splurge.
Ethereum aims to boost scalability by implementing sharding, which should decrease transaction costs and speed. This process creates shard chains, essentially blockchains with smaller data sets. As a result of having this localized information, nodes have an easier time verifying transactions.
Implementing sharding as a scaling solution involves substantial work and dedication. Still, successful implementation can be a breakthrough for blockchain technology, particularly Ethereum, improving data storage and access capabilities.
The Sharding procedure will comprise numerous stages, with version 1's shard chains supplying more info to the system and version 2's shard chains to preserve and execute code. Merging of communication between the two versions will additionally be enabled.
What Factors Have Contributed to the Abundance of Scaling Solutions?
Ethereum is taking steps to adapt to the potentially explosive growth of transactions that could emerge if mass adoption occurs. Multiple solutions could decrease network congestion and safeguard against inadequate scaling solutions. These alternatives not only ensure increased transaction speed and throughput but also help to keep user fees low.
The Effect That the Merge Has Had on Ethereum
Ethereum, one of the most renowned second-generation blockchain projects, began with an initial supply of 72 million ETH. A large portion of this token supply was used under its PoW model to incentivize miners to secure the network.
The Merge, proposed to lay the groundwork for integrating new scaling solutions for improved scalability, is the second in a series of notable upgrades to the Ethereum network. Upon the culmination of these upgrades, Ethereum will likely be ready to handle more transactions without sacrificing security or decentralization.