Have you noticed how your Ethereum transactions seem to be going through faster after the blockchain’s hard fork on Monday?
The upgrade, named Byzantium, was the first part of Ethereum’s Metropolis development phase, and one of the improvements it introduces, is the time it takes to mine a block in Ethereum. Before Byzantium it took around 30 seconds to mine a block, known as block time, and this is now down to about 14 seconds. This means better transaction throughput, less congestion (although big ICO/TGEs happening over a short time period will still be felt) and generally a faster network.
Over the past week, there have been a maximum of a few hundred pending transactions whenever I’ve checked (although it was spiking earlier today due to the request network tokens becoming tradable), impressive numbers considering Ethereum is currently averaging around 21,000 transactions per hour. For comparison, Bitcoin’s average block time is currently 7.5 minutes with roughly 14,000 hourly transactions. October 17th saw a record high 505,000 transactions on Ethereum, and the median waiting time for a transaction to process on Ethereum is currently 77 seconds. The best part of this is that, unless you’re in a hurry and can wait a few minutes for your transaction to go through, according to ETH Gas Station, transaction fees are almost non-existent.
To avoid the improvement in block times from doubling the returns for miners, known as block rewards, and thus inflation, also included in the upgrade was a 40 percent reduction of the block reward, pulling it down from five to three ETH per block. So with these impressive numbers, Ethereum community should be happy, right? Despite some rumours and speculation on potential issues that could have caused security bugs, none seems to actually have occurred, and the developers and user communities are pleased with what looks to have been a smooth upgrade process. Although with any extensive system upgrades like Byzantium, it will take some more time and testing before the system can be deemed fully secure and stable.
For investors, however, the Ether price is a bit of a disappointment so far. The price increase that many expected to see in the weeks leading up to Byzantium and in the days after, hasn’t happened yet. With an Ethereum Enterprise Alliance meetup in New York today and Ethereum Developers Conference (Devcon3) in two weeks, there’s still room for movement, although the upcoming Bitcoin forks could be holding Ether back as well, as many people are holding their funds in BTC now to be able to claim their free coins after the chain splits.
However, the Ether price bleeding after Byzantium just goes to show that crypto prices aren’t yet based as much on strong fundamentals that ETH investors would like to believe. The market is still small enough to allow for heavy price manipulation, while people new to crypto are buying and holding Bitcoin and will probably continue doing that for a while. To most people, the underlying technology of the different currencies out there, isn’t important. They don’t care if Ethereum is now one step closer to being able to handle the number of transactions that all the protocols and dapps currently being built on it, will be generating in a few years. Ethereum at present is a smooth running system but with little real world usage. I’m looking forward to see that change.