The price of ether, the native token on the ethereum platform, rose modestly yesterday, climbing nearly 5% after its developers executed a hard fork to restore funds from a defunct project once heralded as its greatest success story.
While the full ramifications of the actions taken to rescue investors have arguably yet to be seen, the decision puts to rest weeks of uncertainty in the wider ethereum community that could be seen in its markets. In recent weeks, the demise of the The DAO has stalled ether’s rapid price growth, halting its meteoric rise of more than 1,000% in Q1.
As for where the price of ether goes from here, market experts were largely split in their predictions.
Most emphasized that while both ether and Ethereum face significant uncertainty in the short-term, the so-called “DAO hack” could prove beneficial in the long-term.
Max Boonen, founder of market maker B2C2, was one observer who predicted the market would immediately benefit from the fork, but that this would soon give way to larger questions about ether’s value.
Boonen told CoinDesk:
“Reductions in uncertainty always lead to a relief rally. In the short run, the question here is whether the relief rally is over.”
Overall, a majority of market observers spoke to the uncertainty that ether faces moving forward from the hack. Most noted that the digital currency has only been trading since 2015, making its market less mature than bitcoin’s, which has (arguably) existed since the first block was mined in January 2009.
Petar Zivkovksi, director of operations for bitcoin trading platform Whaleclub, went so far as to predict ether will now enter a “period of great uncertainty” following the fork.
“I expect some volatility but we’re also dealing with a crypto market that is ‘tired’ of massive swings, so those may be subdued,” he said.
He also spoke to potential headwinds, emphasizing that high volumes have put a sell pressure on the market.
Investor and entrepreneur Vinny Lingham also commented on the price fluctuations ether will likely experience in the short-term.
Lingham, whose new startup Civic uses blockchain tech, went so far as to predict bitcoin could benefit from uncertainty in the ether markets as money exits for safer waters.
“Some volatility is to be expected,” he told CoinDesk. “A non-material amount of Ether holders will swap ETH for BTC, driving up BTC prices temporarily and causing a flash crash in ETH.”
One of the more active conversations to emerge from the hard fork is the debate over whether “immutability” is a defining characteristic of a blockchain, and therefore a quality that is necessary to support the value of its token.
Of note is that many in the bitcoin community have criticized the hard fork as one that shows ethereum’s blockchain can be changed, undermining the platform’s ability to lay claim to this attribute.
However, when asked, most market observers chose to position the hard fork as a sign of “progress” in the ethereum community, emphasizing that this challenging event could prove beneficial in the long run.
Chris Burniske, analyst and blockchain products lead for investment manager ARK Invest, addressed the question of immutability by stating he believes ether’s market is developing differently than bitcoin’s.
“Ethereum has a different value proposition than bitcoin, notably the flexibility of its scripting language and the way which the state of the network is maintained. The DAO hack and remediation has proven ethereum’s flexibility in both regards,” he said.
Boonen also weighed in on this question, taking aim at so-called ‘bitcoin maximalists’ by stating that he believes immutability to be an overstated feature of the bitcoin blockchain.
“Bitcoin’s blockchain can be altered too, and it has. People misconstrue public blockchains. They are nothing more than what miners decide to mine and what nodes decide to validate. If enough people agree to, they can alter a blockchain in any way they want,” he said.
Others, including former Deutsche bank trader and BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes, see the event as creating a precedent that could perhaps undermine the value of ether.
For example, Hayes went so far as to envision a situation whereby a government regulator could pressure developers to shut down a popular ethereum service through a similar change to its code.
“This incident clearly demonstrates that the Ethereum Foundation has some modicum of control over the Ethereum network. Whether or not the case is successful is irrelevant, the Foundation could be in court for years spending millions of dollars that could be used to further develop the protocol,” he said.
Others see ether facing additional resistance going forward.
Algorithmic trader Jacob Eliosoff spoke to the future prospects of the ethereum platform, which is built to support projects like The DAO, emphasizing that it remains to be seen whether other developers will succeed where its contributors failed.
“It may take a few weeks for people to be comfortable that the DAO nightmare is over, and meanwhile there is risk of further exploits,” he said.
Eliosoff indicated that traders may be looking to see if the difficulties The DAO’s developers faced in using ethereum’s solidity smart contracting language will hold back adoption or lead to other project failures. Still, he was largely optimistic, despite concerns.
“Assuming no major bugs, I would expect the ETH price to resume its upward trend since the start of the year, at least as long as developers and entrepreneurs maintain their fast progress,” he told CoinDesk.
Burniske also provided some bullish remarks, thought he included the caveat that this depends on whether developers are able to continue to launch successful projects on ethereum.
“Over the coming months the community can get back to ‘creation’ as opposed to ‘remediation and maintenance,’ which should continue to move demand for ether up and to the right,” he said.
Going forward, only time will tell how quickly the ethereum community will move forward from this event. However, should the software platform progress as much as bitcoin has over the last seven years, ether prices may hold significant upside potential.
Balloon image via Shutterstock; Price chart via Poloniex