London Hard Fork Brings The Burn To Ethereum

The Ethereum network has activated the London Hard Fork successfully (12:34 UTC, Block# 12,965,000, 8/5/2021). In the first two days, $30 Million of ETH (Ether) were burned. That amount of ETH burned, removes approximately 3,000+ ETH from circulation. This is part of the EIP 1559 specification in which a certain portion of the transaction fee is burned per transaction. The hard fork also makes transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain more predictable. This creates lower gas fees that can bring the costs of transactions down since there is now a base fee.

The introduction of a base fee addresses the volatility in transactions. This is regarding the cost of gas prices during times of network congestion. When the network is at its busiest, the cost of gas can suddenly increase which is why recent transaction costs on the Ethereum network has been high. With a base fee, this can prevent gas prices from suddenly shooting up to levels where it makes more sense to send large transactions than lower ones.

Since Ethereum uses an inflationary currency model, the burning introduces a deflationary system for the first time. This puts a check on the amount of ETH in circulation, which can affect prices to the upside. This has become controversial since it affects miner rewards, but the Ethereum network is moving away from mining (Proof-of-Work) consensus. A protocol difficulty bomb is part of the design for Ethereum 2.0 (ETH2.0) that will make mining more difficult, encouraging validators to move towards staking (Proof-of-Stake) consensus. The London Hard Fork will delay this at the moment to allow time for transition.

In a nutshell the London Hard Fork has enabled the following features:

  • Establish a base fee for transactions
  • Provide more transparency and predictability to transaction fees
  • Make ETH a more deflationary asset with a burning mechanism

Here are other EIPs activated during the London Hard Fork:

EIP 3554 delays the “difficulty bomb”.

EIP 3529 reduces gas refunds. Gas tokens (e.g. Chi) will become obsolete.

EIP 3198 allows users to return the base fee opcode.

EIP 3541 enables future upgrades to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

Overall this introduces steps that will bring Ethereum closer to a minerless future. This gives time for miners to transition to staking, but once the difficulty bomb is activated it begins the “Ice Age” for mining. The new structure for transaction fees is also a positive development in light of the skyrocketing costs to run a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t exactly lower gas prices, but makes it more manageable with a base fee. At least users will not have to deal with sudden increases when all they want to do is transfer ETH to another wallet or swap tokens. ETH will also be headed towards a more deflationary asset as well, with the burning of portions of its transaction fees. All of this creates positive market signals that drives further utility on the Ethereum blockchain.

(Photo Credit by Chris Schippers)

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