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Thursday, February 16, 2023
HomeCryptoThe Layer-1 Panorama: Ethereum's Struggles And Competitor Evaluation

The Layer-1 Panorama: Ethereum’s Struggles And Competitor Evaluation


What do you do if you find yourself fashionable, however you’ll be able to’t deal with the warmth? This is the query Ethereum has been combating for the final two years, after a lot improvement since its launch in 2014. As the primary blockchain community to deploy and popularize dApps, Ethereum has skyrocketed in reputation since 2020. In truth, with out Ethereum, decentralized finance (DeFi) wouldn’t exist as we speak as we all know it.

What was as soon as reserved for banks and exchanges, Ethereum recreated with sensible contracts saved in its blockchain, linked with decentralized functions (dApps) because the end-point person interface. Overnight, it appeared that the times of banking tellers and different bureaucrats had been numbered. From lending and borrowing, to gaming and NFT marketplaces, Ethereum’s dApps now retailer $120.91 billion value of cryptocurrencies throughout 2,945 dApps.

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Total worth locked (TVL) in Ethereum. Its exercise ramped up drastically in the summertime of 2020. Source: DeFiLlama.com

This is a 20,000% rise from April 2020, indicating that a complete new monetary market was forming. Moreover, Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, ETH, went from $200 to over $3,000, mirroring the institution of Finance 2.0. In truth, this progress is much like Elon Musk’s Tesla popularizing electrical automobiles, mirrored by the inventory’s appreciation by over 1,000% since January 2020.

Unfortunately, there was a price to be paid for Ethereum’s explosive progress. The extra individuals began utilizing it, the extra its community grew to become congested, souring the expertise with huge charges and sluggish transaction speeds.

Ethereum’s Gas Fee Woes Explained

As any pc community, Ethereum can deal with solely a lot visitors. After all, there isn’t a such factor as infinite throughput. In the blockchain world, that is notably important as a result of customers do not simply expertise a slowdown after they need to execute a transaction. On prime of that, additionally they expertise excessive transaction charges when making them.

Even easy transactions, resembling exchanging USDT for ETH on decentralized exchanges (DEXes), prices an arm and a leg, particularly in comparison with centralized exchanges (CEXes) like Binance or Coinbase.


Some of Ethereum’s DEX dApps (protocols) are very costly to make use of. More complicated sensible contract interactions, like NFT minting, can run within the a whole bunch of {dollars} at peak community congestion. Source: Crypto.com

To make issues worse, as a result of a single ETH is rather more beneficial than a single greenback, even tiny share charges translate to large expenditures, as they’re denominated in Gwei (one billionth of an ETH). Additionally, the upper Ethereum’s demand due to make use of, the extra beneficial it turns into.

In flip, the extra fashionable Ethereum turns into, the costlier it turns into to make use of it. Kind of a self-defeating downside to have, is not it? Indeed, it’s a very tough downside to resolve, known as the blockchain trilemma. Every blockchain will be rated by its three essential attributes:

  • Decentralization: How many nodes (computer systems holding blockchain’s total document) are making up the community—and the way is authority distributed amongst these nodes?
  • Security: Based on its incentive mechanism and node depend, how tough is it to tamper with the community?
  • Scalability: How many purchasers can the community serve in a quick and inexpensive method with out compromising decentralization or safety?

This is a trilemma as a result of growing one attribute tends to lower the opposite one. Specifically, if a blockchain is extra decentralized, it takes longer to verify transactions as a result of there are extra nodes (run by validators) to run it via.

Likewise, if there’s much less decentralization, there’s extra chance of the community being compromised as a result of there are fewer nodes offering redundancy. In flip, if there are extra nodes for higher decentralization, it’s harder to cost-effectively scale up the community.

Suffice to say, Ethereum is extremely decentralized and safe, nevertheless it lacks scalability. The large query then is, what are Ethereum builders doing, headed by Vitalik Buterin, to alleviate this downside?

Ethereum’s Scalability Solutions

Contrary to fashionable perception, Ethereum’s upcoming transformation from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus will not be aimed toward fixing its unstable and excessive transaction charges. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum have been utilizing energy-demanding PoW to course of transactions and add new blocks (i.e. teams of transactions).

However, as a result of PoW makes use of computational work to show transaction validity, such a blockchain community is an vitality hog. This is greatest exemplified by how a lot much less vitality Ethereum will use after it transitions to PoS-only.


By going full PoS by the tip of 2022, Ethereum is poised to scale back its carbon footprint by an element of two,000x. Image credit score: Ethereum Foundation.

While it’s good to know that Ethereum will go inexperienced, as this may open up the doorways to establishments involved with socially accountable investing, this can be a far cry from scalability. Essentially, the scalability downside is considered one of computing and storage of transactions, no matter how a lot energy is required to make it occur. It is that this computing useful resource that’s measured as “gas”.

Instead, what would possibly enhance Ethereum’s scalability throughout its 2.0 improve course of is sharding – partitioning the community into smaller and unbiased chains (shards). This means, break up large information chunks would permit for higher community speeds and decrease charges. In Ethereum’s case, this splitting will occur throughout 64 shards, however solely a while in 2023 or 2024.

In the meantime, the only approach to improve scalability could be to extend the blockchain’s block measurement. As the title implies, every blockchain consists of blocks chronologically chained to make up an immutable ledger. This means, if one had been to tamper with a single document on that chain, a brand new one must be created, known as a tough fork.

Moreover, if the scale of these information blocks is elevated, permitting for extra transactions to be saved inside a single block, this would cut back the charges. By the identical token, if block time (how lengthy it takes so as to add a brand new transaction) can also be elevated, this may decrease charges nonetheless. In truth, that is so apparent a scalability resolution that Elon Musk proposed it for Dogecoin (DOGE).

Vitalik Buterin himself, the co-founder of Ethereum, stepped in and dismissed the thought, saying that it will compromise blockchain’s decentralization. That’s as a result of growing the block measurement would elevate {hardware} and web necessities to run a node, successfully decreasing their quantity.

In the tip, Ethereum’s scalability decision will come from each sharding and layer 2 networks. The latter are merely attachments to Ethereum’s essential chain (layer 1), simply as one would connect a highway to a freeway to alleviate it of its congestion. There are numerous such L2 networks to select from, as they import Ethereum’s dApps and develop their very own inexpensive ecosystems.


Ethereum’s prime 10 layer 2 networks. Some are common, whereas some cater to particular niches, resembling feeless NFT buying and selling. Image credit score: L2beat.com

To illustrate their effectiveness, on April seventh 2022, regular ETH fuel payment prices $3.73, whereas Arbitrum reduces it to a negligible $0.059.


However, is it attainable to realize scalability with out resorting to hooked up L2 networks?

What Are Other Blockchains Up To?

Ethereum might have pioneered DeFi and spawned its ample $203 billion market, however different blockchain initiatives weren’t idling. Although they’re removed from reaching Ethereum’s DeFi dominance, Ethereum has left its fuel payment doorways vast open for them to step in.


Ethereum hovers above different sensible contract platforms as its personal class. Image credit score: The Block.

Foremost, Ethereum options are all proof-of-stake blockchains, simply as Ethereum is about to be. This means all of them have very low vitality draw as they do not use computational transaction proofing referred to as mining. With that stated, there are some important variations.

Algorand (ALGO)

Algorand (ALGO) is a pure proof-of-stake blockchain (PPoS), so all ALGO token holders obtain community rewards. In distinction, solely Ethereum’s validators obtain transaction charges with the requirement being fairly excessive – 32 ETH stake or $102.2k.

However, as a result of Algorand has an exceedingly low barrier to entry, at simply 1 ALGO stake ($0.78), this interprets to elevated community invulnerability. After all, increased stake equals higher care to not misbehave. This is exacerbated by Algorand not having a slashing mechanism (stake discount) for malicious habits.

There was an try to implement it final yr, however the proposal wasn’t accepted. Nonetheless, as a result of Algorand makes use of a two-tier structure, during which one chain layer handles easy transactions, whereas the opposite one handles extra complicated ones, this makes it inherently maintain a scalability resolution that Ethereum seeks in exterior L2 networks.

For this motive, Algorand vastly outcompetes Ethereum in transactions per second, at 1,000 tps vs 14 – 17 tps respectively. Furthermore, its minimal payment is simply 0.001 ALGO. On the opposite hand, the Algorand ecosystem is a fraction of Ethereum’s, with fewer than 80 dApps. This is mirrored in ALGO’s worth efficiency.


ALGO vs. ETH year-to-date (YTD) worth efficiency comparability. Image credit score: Trading View

Terra (LUNA)

Terra (LUNA) is the most important shock amongst Ethereum options. A yr in the past, its TVL market share was merely 1.21%. Today, it’s 13.45% ($30b TVL), second solely to Ethereum itself. Even extra surprisingly, Terra is constructed from one other platform – Cosmos SDK – an open-source framework for constructing PoS blockchains.

For this motive, Terra additionally borrows from the Cosmos’ consensus engine, Tendermint Core. Without going into minutia, it was designed for enterprise-grade use, so its transaction velocity can go up as a lot as 10,000 tps. Furthermore, Terra’s fuel payment is ready at 0.6%.

Because Terra was envisioned as a blockchain counter to Visa, the ensuing fuel charges are exceptionally low, ranging between $0.13 and $0.16, in accordance with Statista. For this motive, Terra is massively fashionable in South Korea, its house base. For occasion, the CHAI fee app makes use of Terra blockchain for reasonable and quick cash transfers.

As a cherry on prime, Terra tries to make life simpler for crypto customers by avoiding crypto volatility. It accomplishes this with its personal algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD (UST), which is pegged to the greenback at a 1:1 ratio. This is the engine that powers Terra’s ecosystem as UST’s peg is dynamically maintained by increasing and contracting LUNA tokens.

In flip, staking LUNA tokens to stabilize UST yields rewards as passive revenue. Lastly, Terra’s basis, Luna Foundation Guard (LFG), is slowly buying Bitcoin (BTC) to additional fortify UST’s peg of as much as $10 billion collateral. With these tailwinds, Terra (LUNA) is the uncommon exception in outperforming Ethereum.


LUNA vs. ETH year-to-date (YTD) worth efficiency comparability. Image credit score: Trading View

Binance Smart Chain (BSC)

Recently rebranded into BNB Smart Chain, this blockchain community represents the try by the world’s largest crypto change – Binance – to take a chunk from the increasing sensible contract pie. This means, when individuals use it, Binance will get a further supply of revenue on prime of its core enterprise mannequin.

Consequently, BNB is a extremely centralized community with solely 21 validators, though there’s a plan to extend the quantity to 41. Yet, this exact same centralization signifies that it’s a superior performer. Its block time is round 3 seconds, whereas Ethereum’s is at underneath 5 minutes.

Likewise, at peak congestion, BNB can deal with as much as 160 tps, with a $0.3579 common transaction payment. This will be additional diminished with a 25% low cost if paying for charges with the native BNB tokens. Such perks add up with the truth that Binance is probably the most handy approach to commerce cryptos.

Accordingly, BNB worth intently follows Ethereum regardless of being on the other finish of the decentralization spectrum.


BNB vs. ETH year-to-date (YTD) worth efficiency comparability. Image credit score: Trading View

Is Ethereum Too Entrenched to Be Dethroned?

Similar to how the primary mover benefit benefited sure social media platforms, so too did Ethereum snowball into its present DeFi king standing. Its subsequent large replace to PoS will probably be an enormous take a look at whether or not it might preserve this dominance. Will Ethereum finally be labeled because the “MySpace” of the blockchain house—or one thing nearer to “Facebook”?

If the transition goes easily, with out main bugs and code exploits, Ethereum traders can rejoice. Yet, fixing its fuel charges is a long-term venture, particularly if its reputation is boosted once more because of profitable PoS transformation. This makes Ethereum options as related as ever.

The excellent news is that crypto’s adoption price stays comparatively small, and is anticipated to develop. Perhaps there’s room for multiple smart-contract blockchain on the prime of the mountain—however this may all come right down to person expertise and the way these blockchains efficiently navigate the prevailing ‘trilemma’.

Did you get pleasure from this learn? If so, take into account subscribing to Five Minute Finance, The Tokenist’s weekly e-newsletter masking crucial macro traits to affect monetary markets and rising know-how. Join as we speak – it’s free.

Updated on Apr 7, 2022, 1:24 pm


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