The PoW versus PoS debate

The current big question in the battle between bitcoin and Ethereum, as ETH plans to move from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake, is which works best: PoW or PoS. although it has been an ongoing argument, it has been given some fresh prominence due to the steps Ethereum is taking to speed up the move.

Simon Chandler asks: “While the Ethereum developers have decided that PoS is the best way forward for Ethereum, the question remains as to whether it might offer advantages to Bitcoin, which, as a store of value, has different aims.”

According to Chandler opinion is quite divided in the crypto community: those supporting PoW believe that it is better fro Bitcoin, because it offers greater stability and security. The PoS supporters say that PoS offers similar security, and that it provides more simplicity and scalability, which is very important.

It also has less of an impact on the environment compared with transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. Pierre Rochard commenting on Twitter wrote, “When Ethereum switches from proof-of-work mining to proof-of-stake, they’re going to push the “green” anti-Bitcoin narrative *hard*. It’s going to be well funded and highly coordinated. If you thought the 2017 scaling debate was ugly, this is going to be much much nastier.” Needless to say, the tweet brought up a lot of differing responses.

Chandler contacted a confirmed Bitcoiner who responded by saying the PoW vs. PoS debate isn’t even worth addressing, adding, “I don’t use shitcoins.” Those who are less partisan see both Proofs as having their own strengths and weaknesses, although it would seem ther is a consensus that PoW is better for Bitcoin.

The main ‘weakness’ with the PoS model is that it is “theoretically more prone to centralization and has the inherent security issue of using the native tokens of a blockchain to decide the future of those tokens or the blockchain,” according to Mike Collyer, CEO at Foundry, a crypto mining finance company. And even those who support Ethereum acknowledge that PoW has its strengths. Lex Sokolin, co-head at Ethereum-focused major blockchain company ConsenSys said, “One of the strongest advantages of proof of work is that it has worked as the chassis for cryptographic security for over 10 years, and now secures a trillion in value. It is technically and economically complex, which plays a role in attracting specialized mining companies to the work of maintaining the network.”

However, Sokolin also said, “Proof of stake is an easier-to-understand system, which allows easier participation through the staking of capital. It is also able to achieve similar security outcomes without the electricity consumption of the proof of work mechanism, and has been proven to work through a number of smaller but functional crypto economic networks.” He also explained why PoS is better for the Ethereum network, which is aiming to provide the digital infrastructure for a future decentralized/crypto-based financial system. “The blockchain-based economic activity that we see is now far above and beyond moving one type of value around on a single protocol. Rather, we see software executed by a global network across payments, lending, banking, investing, and insurance substitutes,” Sokolin said, and stated that this is the main reason Ethereum needs to move to PoS.  But it seems that this is a debate that will rage on in the crypto community for some time to come.

Ethereum fights off its ‘killers’

Ethereum has hit another all time high (ATH), even though the gas fees associated with using some complex DeFi protocols has increased above $1,000. This makes many decentralized finance protocols unusable for casual investors, with average Ethereum transaction fees now at a record $17.67, according to Cointelegraph. However, Bitcoin’s gas fees are not much lower.

But this is not deterring DeFi developers, who appear to be abandoning the so-called ‘Ethereum killers’, such as EOS, and sticking with the old guard. According to a Blockchain Development Trends report by venture capital firm Outlier Ventures, reported by Cointelegraph, “Ethereum remains the most actively developed blockchain protocol, followed by Cardano and Bitcoin.” The report adds, “while some new platforms such as Polkadot, Cosmos, and Avalanche are seeing an increase in developer activity, many of the traditional Ethereum competitors are seeing a decline in core development.”

You can read the Outlier Ventures Full Report here.

DeFi strength supports Ethereum

Certainly in 2020, the majority of DeFi platforms were Ethereum based, and even now “Ethereum still remains the king overall though, with 14% more developer activity than its closest rival, Cardano, and almost double that of Bitcoin in terms of commits,” Outlier Ventures says.

“Ethereum miners have been the key beneficiaries of the fee spike. The industry earned some $830 million in ether last month with 40% attributed from fees alone,” Coindesk reports, also noting that the increase in fees correlates with ETH’s current bullish price run, which also reflects the high demand for ERC-20-based tokens for stablecoin and DeFi projects.

It would also appear that Ethereum’s new ATH is bringing DeFi tokens along with it. Coindesk says: “According to research firm Messari, after ether went on a tear several DeFi tokens including chainlink (LINK), sushiswap (SUSHI) and aave (AAVE) followed the bullish trend, logging historic high prices Wednesday.”

Hunain Naseer, senior content editor at crypto exchange OKEX’s research unit, OKEx Insights said: “Ether made a significant push [since Tuesday] and that is causing projects linked to the DeFi space – as well as DOT, which is seen as a potential ‘Ethereum killer’ – to appreciate and aim for new all-time highs.”

Ethereum also got a big push from Grayscale, which added approximately 24,800 ETH on Tuesday, then worth more than $37.8 million, and it reopened its Ethereum Trust (OTCQX: ETHE) for accredited investors. This had been closed in late December, but as of 29th January 2021, the Grayscale Ethereum Trust had more than $4 billion in assets under management.

What is causing this price drive? It is thought that more investors are starting to see value in the projects behind these DeFi tokens, so market excitement is building. And with so many on the Ethereum blockchain, it seems the Ethereum killers may have more of a fight on their hands than they realised.

Visa goes for USDC with Circle

Visa, the credit card giant, has joined with Circle to connect 60 million merchants to the US Dollar Coin (USDC), a coin on the Ethereum blockchain. This is yet another sign that cryptocurrencies are integrating even further with mainstream payment currencies.

Although Visa won’t have custody itself of the USDC, it is going to work with Circle to select Visa credit card issuers and integrate the USDC software with their platforms, so that it can be used for payments. What this means is that businesses will soon enough be able to make international payments in USDC to other businesses supported by Visa. The funds will then be converted into national currencies when they are spent anywhere that accepts Visa.

Circle is a part of Visa’s Fast Track program, and when it completes the course next year, that is when this new USDC program will begin, with the issuance of a new credit card that allows users to spend USDC. Visa’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, said, “This will be the first corporate card that will allow businesses to be able to spend a balance of USDC. And so we think that this will significantly increase the utility that USDC can have for Circle’s business clients.” 

The partnership between Visa and Circle, helped by the $40 million investment Visa made in another firm developing a platform for holding similar assets issued on a blockchain, “is the latest evidence that the credit card giant sees the technology first popularized by bitcoin as a crucial part of the future of money,” Michael de Castillo writes at Forbes.

Sheffield said, “Blockchain networks and stablecoins, like USDC, are just additional networks. So we think that there’s a significant value that Visa can provide to our clients, enabling them to access them and enabling them to spend at our merchants.”

Currently, according to Visa’s data, “$120 trillion in payments annually are made using checks and instant wire transfers, costing as much as $50 each.” By contrast, since USDC settles on the ethereum blockchain, transactions can close in a little a[s] 20 seconds and, importantly, can be done for nearly free.

Visa has been making strong moves in the cryptocurrency sphere this year. In February 2020. Coinbase became the first company granted principal membership status by Visa. This means that Coinbase, one of the biggest crypto exchanges globally, can in turn issue cards to others.

Circle has done some rethinks of its own in regard to cryptocurrency. In 2019 it had a fire sale of its assets including Poloniex, Circle Invest and Circle Pay. It also rebranded its home page with a focus exclusively on stablecoins and central bank digital currencies. The attraction of the USDC is that it is built on the Ethereum block chain and only tiny amounts of the cryptocurrency ETH are used as “gas” to pay for the transactions.

Jeremy Allaire, the CEO of Circle Internet Finance, says of the new partnership and its probable outcome: “Imagine a capital marketplace that is for anyone who needs capital, or anyone who needs to offer capital that has the same efficiency that Amazon has for e-commerce, the same efficiency that YouTube has for content, effectively, capital markets with the efficiency of the internet, which is essentially zero.” He added, “And that will ultimately return trillions of dollars in value back to the economy, it will reduce costs for every business in the world, it will accelerate the way in which individuals can participate in commercial activity and commerce activity, in conducting their labor and interacting with businesses around the world.”

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