Ethereum's (ETH -1.17%) long-awaited update, The Merge, has finally arrived. After months of delays, the update was successfully completed on Sept. 15, and the blockchain has officially moved from a proof of work (PoW) mining protocol to proof of stake (PoS).
This is one of the biggest and most historic transitions in the history of crypto and will open up a new chapter for Ethereum. Not only will a PoS model use around 99.95% less energy than PoW, but developers also say it will make the blockchain more secure and scalable.
So far, The Merge seems to be a success on all fronts. Does that mean now is the time to invest in Ethereum?
The future is brighter for Ethereum
Over the last several months, many critics have voiced their concerns over The Merge, saying that the update could lead to bugs, hiccups, and other disruptions in the blockchain. Some were also skeptical that The Merge would happen at all, especially after multiple delays.
Now that the update is complete, however, it should lay to rest some of those concerns. While nobody knows exactly how this will affect Ethereum's price over the coming weeks or months, The Merge went as smoothly as possible, which is a very good sign.
This update is also encouraging for those concerned about crypto's long-term environmental impact.
One of the biggest criticisms of cryptocurrency -- particularly Bitcoin and Ethereum -- is its massive environmental footprint. The PoW mining protocol is incredibly energy intensive, and Bitcoin uses more electricity than the entire country of the Philippines.
The Merge will reduce Ethereum's energy usage by more than 99%. Not only is that good for the environment, but it may ease many investors' concerns about crypto. Also, because Bitcoin still uses a PoW protocol, this update could help Ethereum close the gap between itself and its largest competitor.
The downside to The Merge
While The Merge was successful and is a huge step in the right direction, it won't do much to solve two of Ethereum's other most pressing problems -- its lack of speed and high transaction costs. Right now, the blockchain can only process around 14 transactions per second.
That causes a lot of congestion on the network, resulting in higher gas fees or transaction costs. While The Merge may increase speeds marginally, it likely won't be enough for users to notice a difference.
The good news is that this isn't the last update on the horizon, and Ethereum developers have plans to improve the blockchain in these areas. However, that update likely won't happen until 2023 or 2024, assuming there are no future delays.
Should you invest right now?
Ethereum isn't perfect, but it's making consistent strides to improve. It's already the second most-popular cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, it's the most widely used blockchain for decentralized applications, and The Merge will make it far more environmentally friendly. It's also proven that it can handle complex and difficult updates, which may improve investor confidence.
Ehtereum is still speculative, so if you choose to buy, be sure you're willing to take on higher levels of risk. After all, even the strongest cryptocurrencies are not guaranteed to succeed. However, there are a lot of factors in this crypto's favor.
While nobody knows exactly how Ethereum will perform in the future, it could be a fantastic long-term investment if it continues making consistent improvements.