Everything You Need to Know About Ethereum's Big Upgrade

A rundown of CoinDesk's coverage of the biggest crypto update since the Merge.

AccessTimeIconApr 12, 2023 at 5:13 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 12, 2023 at 5:18 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconApr 12, 2023 at 5:13 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 12, 2023 at 5:18 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconApr 12, 2023 at 5:13 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 12, 2023 at 5:18 p.m. UTC

Ethereum is set for its largest upgrade since the Merge, when the most-used crypto network fully transitioned to proof-of-stake. The Shanghai upgrade, also known as Shapella, will finally enable users to unlock their staked ether (ETH) – some of which has been locked up since the “deposit contract” went live in 2020.

Many predict this event could force major selling pressure on ETH. Others say this is just the impetus Ethereum needs to regain institutional interest, as unstable ETH rewards (paid to “validators” who stake their assets to secure the network) could be treated as something like Ethereum’s risk-free rate. In either case, the situation is like anything else in crypto – where it likely made sense to buy ETH weeks or months ago rather than now because many will “sell the news.”

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Of course, time will tell. CoinDesk has published a number of explainers, guides and articles all about Shanghai and what it could mean for Ethereum going forward. Here’s a quick roundup in case you need to get up to date.

The Shanghai hard fork has been a long time coming. But so has the Capella update. If you’re confused about the nomenclature, CoinDesk tech reporter Margaux Nijkerk has you covered with this account of how both upgrades came to be and what exactly they’ll do. “Technically the Shanghai upgrade is only on the execution side of Ethereum. Capella is the simultaneous upgrade happening on the consensus side,” she writes. Also check out Nijkerk’s “What’s Next After Ethereum’s Shanghai Upgrade?” to get a sense of all the updates Ethereum developers still plan to make – including the Verge, the Purge, the Scourge and “danksharding.”

Hosts of flagship CoinDesk TV show "First Mover" discuss the basics of the Shanghai upgrade, expected to take place at 22:27 UTC (6:27 p.m. ET). Part of the conversation, as mentioned, is whether this is a moment to buy or sell the news. Later, Casa CEO Nick Neuman joins to discuss the importance of crypto self-custody. Incidentally, self-custody of ETH is at above average levels, suggesting that many holders are planning to sell their holdings for fiat on crypto exchanges.

Given the momentous occasion, the Ethereum community plans to celebrate the Shanghai upgrade. CoinDesk tech reporters Margaux Nijkerk and Sage D. Young give a concise rundown of public watch parties as people gather around to see who will be first to unlock their staked ETH. The reporters also give an overview of the analytics tools you can use to watch the event in real time – from Etherscan to open-source Ethereum explorer beaconcha.in. “Look out for epoch 194,048, which is when Shanghai will be triggered,” they write.

“Analysts differ on the amount of ETH selling pressure that could result from the Ethereum blockchain’s Shanghai upgrade, scheduled for later today,” CoinDesk’s Will Canny writes. JPMorgan, for instance, said because some 1 million in ETH staking rewards will soon be available to sell – many will. Coinbase analysts think this “mass sell-off” is overstated. And Bank of America is a bit ambivalent, though looking towards historic price action following the Merge and predicts increased trading volatility, in part due to rising exchange inflows and derivatives trading that typically follows any big announcement.

On-chain analytics firm Glassnode estimates that something like 170K ETH are “intended to be sold after the Shanghai upgrade” though thinks only 100K ETH may ultimately be “withdrawn and sold.” This is based on a “50% withdrawal credential update, our segmentation of depositors, and assumptions regarding investor conviction, and profitability,” according to Glassnode. Relatedly, Amphibian Capital’s James Hodges looks at other on-chain indicators suggesting many Etherans are planning to hold rather than sell their assets (including that the vast majority of ETH holders would be selling at a loss). Hodges further claims the Shanghai update will “permanently alter” ETH’s economics, and gives a sense of the “risk-free rate” claim.

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Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn is a deputy managing editor for Consensus Magazine. He owns minor amounts of BTC and ETH.