Bitcoin is getting most of the attention these days with prices repeatedly hitting new all time highs (although today saw a slight correction). However, Bitcoin is getting beaten on one area. For the first time ever, Ethereum yesterday had more than 400,000 transactions, a record for any public blockchain, and around 40,000 higher than Bitcoin’s record day.
The high transaction volumes haven’t caused much movement in Ether prices though, which have been pretty stable at around $300 over the last week (yes, there have been swings of +- $20, but that’s within the usual volatility in crypto). In the past, Ether prices have usually been very tightly coupled to Bitcoin’s, almost immediately following its ups and downs. This time seems to be an exception, though, and there are a few possible reasons for this.
First, a lot of people want to be part of the Bitcoin rally we’ve seen over the last few days and are moving their Ether to exchanges to sell for Bitcoin. Second, the constant influx of new Ethereum-based ICOs is affecting the price, with people sending their ETH to these projects. Finally, on top of this, you have the usual market manipulation, known as “whale games,” with the big players keeping the prices down.
Even though prices aren’t increasing much yet, the transaction numbers means the network is being used. And if it’s being used more than the other frameworks, then maybe the Ethereum framework has some intrinsic value, which at some point will ultimately be reflected in the price.
There definitely isn’t any lack of speculation in price increases in the community. Ethereum’s next major update, named Metropolis, is probably only a couple of months away. In the 35 days leading up to the last protocol upgrade, Homestead, Ether prices rose 430 percent, and investors are hoping it will see a similar run this time around.
Metropolis is bringing several protocol improvements to improve scalability, increase privacy, and reduce inflation. Among the most interesting updates is Zk-SNARKs, known as zero knowledge transactions, which will bring the privacy features of ZCash and Monero to Ethereum transactions. Users will have the option of sending transactions privately rather than having their address displayed on the blockchain. Basically, this will allow you to send money completely anonymously, and no one will know who sent how much to whom.
The upgrade also lets smart contracts pay for a transaction instead of users. This would allow the recipient or middleman in a transaction to cover the transaction fees rather than forcing the sender to pay. As a result, it will be easier for end users to use Ethereum-based applications, as they won’t have to buy Ether in order to conduct transactions.
The Metropolis update could also reduce inflation since it will reduce the mining reward by around 40 percent, from 5 Ether per mined block to 3 Ether per block.
Trond Vidar Bjorøy is head of product development and implementation – Nordics at travel management company ATPI.