After literally years in the making, the genesis block of the Ethereum 2.0 beacon chain has finally seen the light of day.

The repeatedly delayed scalability and security upgrade to the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap confidently took its first breath as planned, at just after 12 pm UTC on Dec. 1. The launch suffered no hiccups and immediately reached the required stake participation rate to finalize the blockchain.

Vitalik Buterin joked about how the first block did not include any meaningful messages “about some giant leaps for mankind or whatever.”

The biggest change is the introduction of a proof-of-stake consensus to the network, which has previously been purely based on the same proof-of-work consensus as Bitcoin.

PoS aims to provide a more energy-efficient method of securing the network by requiring validators to lock Ether (ETH) into a staking contract, rather than solve cryptographic puzzles using computing power.

The planned launch date was confirmed just a week ago, as the seven-day countdown could only be initiated once a total of 524,288 Ether had been deposited in the staking contract.

After a painfully slow start, the staking total was reached with just hours to spare in order to hit the anticipat target of Dec. 1.

The transition to PoS paves the way for future planned upgrades to be implemented, such as sharding to improve scalability.

Currently staked ETH are likely to be locked up until Phase 1.5 of the Ethereum 2.0 rollout, currently planned for late 2021 or early 2022. This will see the current Ethereum mainnet merge with the new beacon chain and sharding system.

Anticipation for the Eth2 launch has been building throughout 2020, and has been reflected in the price of Ether, which started the year at just $130 but is currently riding high at over $600.

The launch will be especially welcomed by those in the decentralized finance community. The explosion of DeFi during 2020 saw a huge increase in traffic and gas fees on the Ethereum network.