The price of Ether (ETH) — the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain — surged to a new all-time high today US$2,544.30 following the successful deployment of the “Berlin” upgrade. ETH is currently trading at above US$2,400 as of publishing time, an increase of over 220% since the start of 2021, according to CoinGecko data

What is the Berlin hard fork?

Ethereum’s Berlin hard fork went live at block 12,244,000 on April 15 at 10:07:03 a.m. UTC. A hard fork — a significant change that reorganizes a blockchain — usually results in the previous version becoming incompatible with the hard-forked version of the blockchain.

The Berlin upgrade incorporated four Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP) — EIP-2565, EIP-2929, EIP-2718 and EIP-2930 — which will optimize the usage of gas fees and improve the security of the network. 

The upgrade resulted in a temporary outage in some Ethereum network services, such as Ethereum analytics platform Etherscan, due to a consensus error at block #12244294

“Single client systems relying on OpenEthereum were down for part of today as the client could not sync past the problem block and this led to some high-profile outages like with Etherscan itself,” tweeted Alex Stokes, an Ethereum researcher. “Luckily, the bug was not severe enough to cause a major chain fork, but it is always a possibility. We can improve by taking advantage of multiple client implementations — a huge benefit we have in the Ethereum ecosystem — and pushing your infrastructure providers to do the same.” 

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase tweeted that it had temporarily disabled ETH and ERC-20 withdrawals from Coinbase and Coinbase Pro due to the network upgrade. ETH and ERC-20 withdrawals and receives on the exchange were back to normal hours later. 

What’s next for Ethereum?

Ethereum’s next network upgrade, London — which incorporates the EIP-1559 on fee market change — is expected to improve the efficiency of Ethereum transaction fees by replacing the transaction pricing mechanism from the current price auction model, where users send transactions with bids (“gas prices”) and miners choose transactions with the highest bids, to a fixed-per-block network fee. The London upgrade is scheduled to take place in July or August.

The upgrades are part of the Ethereum 2.0 transition from a “proof-of-work” to “proof-of-stake” protocol to make Ethereum more scalable, secure and sustainable.

See related article: The best of Ethereum 2.0 is yet to come, says Infura GM

Competing blockchains such as Binance Smart Chain (BSC), Polkadot, Cosmos and Cardano, have emerged to challenge Ethereum’s dominance and first-mover advantage. In recent months, decentralized finance (DeFi), Non-fungible token and gaming decentralized applications (DApps) have also expanded to other blockchains.

In March, Cardano, a decentralized proof-of-stake public blockchain and cryptocurrency project transitioned to a multi-asset blockchain. ADA — the native cryptocurrency of the Cardano network is the sixth largest cryptocurrency by market value. However, unlike Ethereum, Cardano doesn’t have smart contract functionality yet. 

Earlier this week, the total market value of dollar-linked stablecoin tether (USDT) on the Tron blockchain exceeded that on Ethereum. “Finally! After 729 days’ endeavors, USDT on #TRON (23.9B) has surpassed USDT on #Ethereum (23.4B). It is a historic moment,” tweeted Justin Sun, founder and chief executive officer of the TRON Foundation. 

Binance Smart Chain, in particular, is emerging as a contender to Ethereum — in less than a year since its launch, the BSC blockchain has overcome Ethereum in several metrics such as daily unique active wallets, according to the DappRadar Q1-2021 industry report. Nonetheless, Ethereum has maintained its lead in terms of total value locked and is still the most popular blockchain within the DeFi ecosystem, the report found.

See related article: How liquid staking can unlock cross-chain interoperability and DeFi value

ETH, which has a total market value of about US$280 billion, is the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value after Bitcoin and the vast majority of DeFi protocols and stablecoins operate on the Ethereum network. The total value locked (TVL) in DeFi protocols on the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem remained the largest, with a TVL of US$$58 billion.  

See related article: 74% of stablecoins are issued on Ethereum, according to new report

“The Berlin network upgrade, followed by the London upgrade planned over the summer, are stepping stones on the way to “Serenity” or Ethereum 2.0,” Charles d’Haussy, managing director of Asia Pacific at ConsenSys, an Ethereum software company, told Forkast.News in an email. 

“The Ethereum ecosystem is firing all cylinders on this exciting journey,” d’Haussy added.