Ethereum is a decentralized finance giant that has seen significant growth over the past few years, spurred on by events like “DeFi Summer” and the rise of nonfungible tokens (NFTs).
Ethereum’s popularity, however, may be leading to its downfall, as other protocols look to eat away at or completely consume its market position.
Bitcoin and the birth of Ethereum
Bitcoin (BTC) is the mother of all blockchains and was the first modern iteration of what is widely known today as cryptocurrency. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to provide users greater functionality, but most have not had the staying power. One that has risen to the challenge is Ethereum, with its native Ether (ETH) coin now the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.
Cointelegraph Research has released a 74-page report that does a deep dive into Ethereum’s rise to this position, starting off by examining Bitcoin alongside Ethereum’s history and where it is today. Ethereum provided users with a way to create smart contracts in a way Bitcoin could not, which helped propel Ethereum to its current status as the leading blockchain for DeFi. It’s clear that Bitcoin is here to stay, and there have been advancements in its DeFi capabilities — mostly utilizing layer-2 solutions to help scalability, such as Lightning Network, Portal and DeFiChain. However, Ethereum is still out in front of Bitcoin in the DeFi space, but can it stay there?
The current strengths and weaknesses of Ethereum
Ethereum saw unprecedented adoption in 2021, peaking at 800,000 daily active users in November. It has real-life adoption use cases, with a total value locked of over $150 billion across DeFi applications running on the blockchain in 2021. Some of the services offered by decentralized applications on Ethereum include lending, derivatives, asset management, stablecoins, trading and insurance. However, due to the increasing adoption of the blockchain over the past several years, its popularity is also its curse.
The more the network is used, the more congested it gets and the higher the transaction costs, also known as gas fees, subsequently become. These fees are there to help incentivize the network’s miners to engage with the proof-of-work consensus mechanism it utilizes. There is an answer to the congestion and scaling issue, and that is Ethereum’s switch to proof-of-stake and other upgrades in its full transition to what is known colloquially as Ethereum 2.0. However, delays in going live with the various stages of Eth2’s full rollout, combined with the rising popularity of other smart contract blockchains, could knock the crown off of Ethereum’s head.
New kids on the block
There are plenty of blockchain protocols out there trying to climb to the top of the crypto charts. In recent years, only a few have shown strong adoption, popularity and real-world use cases, and they are starting to get attention from some in the blockchain space who would normally go to Ethereum. Cointelegraph Research’s report dives into three of these blockchains: Solana, Polkadot and Algorand. Each protocol’s history, unique characteristics, ecosystem and potential to scale are explained in detail to help determine if any of these chains have what it takes to be the “Ethereum Killer.”
Solana reports that it can process over 50,000 transactions per second (TPS), but the network has yet to reach these levels, though it still provides faster transaction speeds than Ethereum at a small fraction of the cost per transaction. Polkadot brings interoperability to the picture, allowing various chains to work seamlessly together. However, this has not been fully launched yet, and it is unclear how Polkadot will function when it really counts in the real world. Algorand is a blockchain created by some of the best minds in cryptography, with high TPS, low network fees, and no downtime history. Its adoption metrics show a slow but steady pace — will that strategy be a winning one in the end?
Solana, Polkadot, and Algorand operate very differently from one another, and each offers advantages over Ethereum in its current form. While it is true that the future may be multichain and complete with paths toward interoperability, only the best can dominate in the DeFi space — which one will it be?
Can Ethereum hold its position in 2022 and beyond?
Ethereum has some stiff competition in the likes of Solana, Polkadot and Algorand. Each provides solutions to Ethereum’s current issues. If the full rollout of Eth2 is not executed well or continues to be delayed, these up-and-coming protocols would be happy to take Ethereum's place as King of DeFi.
This article is for information purposes only and represents neither investment advice nor an investment analysis or an invitation to buy or sell financial instruments. Specifically, the document does not serve as a substitute for individual investment or other advice.