The moment finally arrived, in the last minutes before midnight on the West Coast on Wednesday.
After years of delays, discussions and frantic experimentation, the popular cryptocurrency platform Ethereum completed a long-awaited software upgrade known as the Merge, shifting to a more environmentally sustainable framework.
Ethereum is arguably the most crucial platform in the crypto industry, a layer of software infrastructure that forms the basis of thousands of applications handling more than $50 billion in customer funds. The upgrade is expected to reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption and set the stage for future improvements that will make the platform easier and cheaper to use.
Celebrations erupted on a YouTube livestream where engineers and researchers who worked on the Merge had gathered to mark the milestone. It was a rare moment of joy in a grim year for crypto that saw a devastating market crash drain nearly $1 trillion from the industry, forcing some prominent crypto companies into bankruptcy.
announced in August that it would pause certain Ethereum deposits and withdrawals during the Merge as a precautionary measure.
In interviews before the Merge, Ethereum developers said they had prepared for snags, though they downplayed the possibility of a systemwide collapse.
“I don’t want to claim everything will go perfectly without a hitch,” said Tim Beiko, who works for the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit that helps maintain the platform. “We’re kind of confident we won’t see network-level issues just because we’ve run through the thing so many times before.”
The technical details of the Merge are mind-bendingly complex. But, ultimately, the process boils down to a shift in how cryptocurrency transactions are verified.