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Valid Points: Ethereum Emerges From Bitcoin’s Shadow

Ethereum is finally either catching up to or surpassing Bitcoin across a number of key metrics.

Aug 25, 2021 at 11:25 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:44 p.m. UTC
This article originally appeared in Valid Points, CoinDesk’s weekly newsletter breaking down Ethereum 2.0 and its sweeping impact on crypto markets. Subscribe to Valid Points here.

Pulse check

The following is an overview of network activity on the Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain over the past week. 

For more information about the metrics featured in this section, check out our 101 explainer on Eth 2.0 metrics

Data as of Aug. 24, 2021, 20:28 UTC

Data as of Aug. 24, 2021, 20:34 UTC

Disclaimer: All profits made from CoinDesk’s Eth 2.0 staking venture will be donated to a charity of the company’s choosing once transfers are enabled on the network.

New frontiers: Ethereum is coming of age

One of the first articles I wrote about Ethereum for CoinDesk was headlined “Unstoppable Scams? Ethereum’s Gambling Problem Is Only Getting Worse.” 

At the time, in the late summer of 2018, Ethereum’s most popular decentralized applications (dapps), outpacing even the incumbent CryptoKitties gaming dapp, were gambling dapps that closely resembled Ponzi schemes. LastWinner, a clone copy of another infamous gambling dapp called FOMO 3D, had raised over $7 million in ETH from users within the span of a week and was eating up one-third of Ethereum’s total computational power, also called hashrate. 

Meanwhile, the biggest headline news about Bitcoin were the pending decisions by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on two bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) applications put forth by ProShares. 

As Ethereum attracted retail users and scammers looking to make a quick buck, it seemed the majority of investors and traders serious about adopting cryptocurrencies for a mass audience were focused on Bitcoin. 

In many respects, market infrastructure for and regulatory awareness about bitcoin has paved the way for cryptocurrencies like ether to follow. 

For example, the classification of being a commodity rather than security in the eyes of the SEC was first granted to bitcoin in 2018 and then for ether in 2019. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Canada were first approved for bitcoin then for ether. Crypto custody bank Anchorage Digital started its lending service with bank-grade, bitcoin-backed loans and only recently expanded its offerings to include ether-backed loans through an FDIC-insured bank this summer

However, trends are changing, and evidence is mounting to suggest that Ethereum has finally either caught up to or surpassed Bitcoin across a number of key metrics, even as other smart contract blockchains such as Cardano and Solana show promising signs of real adoption and value. 

Key metrics

For starters, Ethereum is surpassing Bitcoin in total value transferred on-chain. Using Coin Metrics’ adjusted transaction volume estimates, so far in August $185 billion worth of ETH has been moved on Ethereum while only $180 billion of BTC has exchanged hands on Bitcoin. The last time Ethereum passed Bitcoin in monthly transfer volume was in May 2021. 

Every month since June 2020, users have been paying more in fees to send transactions on Ethereum than Bitcoin. In 2021 alone, total fees in dollar terms on Ethereum were four times higher than Bitcoin, suggesting demand for block space on Ethereum is outpacing demand for block space on Bitcoin. 

total_fee_v1

Aside from on-chain metrics, spot market metrics such as the Puell Multiple, historically used to measure the relative value of new coins being mined on a proof-of-work blockchain, suggests the profit-taking opportunities for investors holding ETH have been greater than those for investors holding BTC almost consistently for the past 15 months. 

As a result, trade activity for ETH-USD pairs have surpassed or come close to surpassing that of BTC-USD pairs. For the first time ever, aggregated monthly trade volume in the ETH spot markets surpassed that of the BTC spot markets in May; so far in August, trade volumes for ETH are about 90% of the volumes being seen for BTC. This suggests market interest in ETH is trending as high as BTC. 

There are also telltale signs in the cryptocurrency derivatives market of a shift in market sentiment placing Ethereum in the same rankings as, if not more bullish rankings than, Bitcoin. According to  Alexander Blum, managing director of digital asset investment fund Two Prime, the technical and fundamental measures he uses to evaluate digital assets are beginning to show him that ether is a more promising investment than bitcoin. 

“How much people are willing to pay for bitcoin or ether one or three months out into the future is a good sense of the market sentiment around where things are going,” said Blum in an interview with CoinDesk. The “future premium you pay for ether is close to 10%, whereas for bitcoin it’s right around 7% to 8% right now and the amount of calls being bought out into the future is more skewed to the upside on ether than bitcoin.”

Institutions and professional investors that got involved in the crypto industry because of their interest in bitcoin are getting serious about their interest in ether, too, and, more importantly, they are beginning to value ether as a unique investment separate from bitcoin. 

Key competitors to Ethereum

Although Ethereum has the first-mover advantage of being the first general purpose, smart contract blockchain in the world, there are a number of up-and-coming competitors gaining user adoption and market value. 

Binance Smart Chain, Cardano and Solana are just a few of the platforms that have made headlines this year for wildly popular decentralized applications (dapps) or outlandish token returns of over 1,000% year to date in some cases. 

As important as measuring these competitor networks by their potential is through evaluating their developer teams, white papers and roadmaps, it’s equally important to put their performance and current progress into perspective with the metrics used to evaluate the top cryptocurrencies of the industry. 

As of Aug. 24, 2021, 24-hour trade volume for the native tokens of the Cardano (ADA), Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and Solana (SOL) blockchains combined barely exceed half the daily trade volume for ETH. Public data around total value transferred on-chain for these three networks is scarce and regulated derivatives products for ADA, BSC and SOL are almost non-existent. 

Other important metrics specific to evaluating the performance of smart contract blockchains include number of dapps, total value locked in dapps and number of active dapp users. For some networks such as Cardano, smart contract functionality to support the development of dapps has yet to be launched. For others such as Binance Smart Chain and Solana that do have smart contract functionality, the total value locked in dapps is multiples lower than the value locked in Ethereum dapps. 

As bitcoin paved the way in many respects for the institutional adoption and awareness of cryptocurrencies broadly, the increasing awareness of ether’s use case and design raises the profiles of competing assets and propels investment in their continued development. 

This in turn fuels innovation through market competition in smart contract blockchain technology, which presents opportunities for alternative networks to Ethereum to shine and steal market share even as Ethereum continues to evolve. 

In an industry like crypto where little is established and much is fueled by speculation, the rise of Ethereum over the past six years stands as an example for how quickly user adoption and institutional interest can catch fire, challenging the status quo.  

Validated takes

  • Ethereum’s most popular software client, Geth, has issued a hotfix to a high severity security issue in their code. BACKGROUND: All users were encouraged to upgrade immediately to the latest version of Geth, v.1.10.8. The last time a fix for a bug in Geth code was released to users, it caused a temporary chain split on Ethereum due to a lack of communication between Geth developers and users about the urgency of the upgrade.
  • Crypto investment firm Paradigm helped mitigate a potential $350 million bug in decentralized exchange SushiSwap’s launchpad code. BACKGROUND: Paradigm is a well-known investor in Uniswap, the original exchange that inspired the creation of SushiSwap. Paradigm Research Partner Sam Sun identified a vulnerability in SushiSwap code that could have allowed hackers to drain users’ funds from the exchange. Sun disclosed his findings with the SushiSwap team, pulling off one of the biggest whitehat rescues ever in the crypto industry.
  • Visa announced that it bought a CryptoPunk NFT on Monday, spending roughly $150,000 on the digital art piece. BACKGROUND: Visa’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, said in a blog post that the main purpose behind the purchase was to learn more about the growing non-fungible token market. "We think NFTs will play an important role in the future of retail, social media, entertainment and commerce," Sheffield wrote.
  • $1.5 million has been awarded to Ethereum software client teams such as Besu, Erigon, Geth, Nethermind and Nimbus. BACKGROUND: These client teams build the software that enable users and businesses to connect to the Ethereum network. The grant money was donated by Compound Grants, Kraken, Lido, Synthetix, The Graph and Uniswap Grants.
  • Decentralized exchange (DEX) volume is projected to hit around $80 billion for the month of August. BACKGROUND: June and July showed slowing trading volume, but August is on pace to be the second-best month in DEX history. EIP 1559, a revival in governance tokens and an emerging cross-chain ecosystem have helped bring positive sentiment back into the decentralized finance market this month.
  • Ether price and active sending addresses have started to diverge over the past week in a way that suggests bearish price trends to follow. BACKGROUND: The number of active addresses on Ethereum is usually a leading indicator on ETH price. While prices have increased 4.87% over the last seven days, the number of active addresses has dropped 5.50% over the same time period. 

Teddy Oosterbaan

Factoid of the week

Find the full naming convention for the Ethereum metric system here.

Open comms

Valid Points incorporates information and data about CoinDesk’s own Eth 2.0 validator in weekly analysis. All profits made from this staking venture will be donated to a charity of our choosing once transfers are enabled on the network. For a full overview of the project, check out our announcement post. 

You can verify the activity of the CoinDesk Eth 2.0 validator in real time through our public validator key, which is: 

0xad7fef3b2350d220de3ae360c70d7f488926b6117e5f785a8995487c46d323ddad0f574fdcc50eeefec34ed9d2039ecb. 

Search for it on any Eth 2.0 block explorer site.

New episodes of “Mapping Out Eth 2.0.” with Christine Kim and Consensys’ Ben Edgington air every Thursday. Listen and subscribe through the CoinDesk podcast feed on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocketcasts, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Stitcher, RadioPublica, IHeartRadio or RSS.

DISCLOSURE

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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