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Three major events in the coming weeks will test whether blockchains are truly the next generation of distributed computing and digital finance.
Ethereum's shift to proof of stake. At a roughly $223Bln market cap Ethereum remains the highest valued blockchain in the crypto world outside of Bitcoin. The great migration away from proof-of-work mining begins Aug. 4th with a hard fork that changes the fee structure for use of the blockchain. It is a major step towards making proof-of-stake the core to running the system.
A burn of ETH with each transaction will create some deflationary effects. Gas fees, which have risen to astronomical heights, will now have a set level, augmented by a user-defined "tip" to miners to get their transactions through. Unfortunately this is likely to result in similarly high prices as market makers will pay for the processing power they need, squeezing out smaller users of the system. Still, the EIP1559 changes are significant and, if successfully implemented, will mark a major leap forward for the Ethereum ecosystem.
Cardano smart contracts — the much touted smart contract functionality (affectionately named American computer scientist Joseph Goguen) is set to go live in August. Once implemented an entirely new ecosystem of defi and dapps will launch on a blockchain that will be faster and cheaper than Ethereum.
If developers rise to the occasion, and with the ERC-20 bridge enabling full convertibility of existing Ethereum-based tokens, Cardano could become a real alternative to the hundreds of applications running on Ethereum. As with any tech competition (Microsoft vs. Apple comes to mind), first mover advantage matters, but better, faster, cheaper, can still win the day in a crypto world of many blockchains.
Polkadot parachain auctions — Polkadot is set to auction slots for access to its mainnet after its successful run of its testnet Kusama and a similar auctioning process (ongoing). This will be the real test of a new blockchain architecture that allows for up to 100 on ramps to their central relay chain processing blockchain.
The idea behind it all is similar to sharding dapps for Ethereum that take some of the load off the main network and process information before sending final transactions back. Ideally this speeds up transaction times as only critical information is transferred and processed. Some, however, are not thrilled with the restricted access system Polkadot has created versus more "open" access systems. The jury is still out on whether a limited set of dapps (akin to approved apps in the Apple store for example), will win over developers and ultimately users.