In the wake of The Merge, Ethereum (ETH 3.38%) faces new questions about where it is headed next. Some of the much-hyped Ethereum improvements that were supposed to happen as a result of The Merge may take a lot longer to materialize than many people thought. People are realizing that The Merge was just the first stage in a multi-stage process.

On Nov. 4, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin unveiled an updated roadmap and it includes a new, additional stage. As a result, the full path to Ethereum 2.0 now includes five stages, not four. Complicating matters further, we really don't know when any of these stages are going to be completed. Each stage could take months -- or each could take years. So is it time to pump the brakes on Ethereum?

The new roadmap

In July, Vitalik Buterin warned supporters that, even after The Merge, the transition to Ethereum 2.0 would only be 55% complete. At the time, he said there would be four distinct stages after The Merge -- the Surge, Verge, Purge, and Splurge -- before the technological upgrade to Ethereum 2.0 would be complete. So many investors knew heading into September that The Merge was just the start, not the end goal. That might explain why the price of Ethereum never skyrocketed immediately after The Merge. 

Ethereum coins.

Image source: Getty Images.

Buterin is calling the new stage "The Scourge" and it is designed to fit in between The Surge and The Verge. It will address two vexing technological problems still facing Ethereum that require immediate attention. That makes sense. However, if you take a close look at the full roadmap, it seems blindingly complex, filled with technical terms like "Verkle Trees" and "SNARKs." It is hard to tell at first glance which improvements are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves.

Milestones, goals, and metrics

My primary concern is that Ethereum is paying so much attention to technological issues (many of them so arcane that they are practically irrelevant for the casual investor), that it is losing focus of what investors want to hear. Investors want to hear about concrete milestones, key metrics, and expected time horizons. And, while this might sound deeply cynical, investors also want to hear how a blockchain project is going to make them money in the future.

For example, I love how Buterin has included a goal of 100,000 transactions per second as part of The Surge, which is the current stage. This is a very concrete milestone. It lets investors know exactly how fast the Ethereum blockchain is going to become in the near future. Investors can then compare that to the transaction processing speeds of other blockchain rivals and make a few conclusions about what that means for the future growth of Ethereum. 

But contrast that concrete milestone with the amorphous goal for The Splurge: "Fix everything else." I don't know about you, but this doesn't sound like a splurge to me. Ethereum is going to pass through four new stages of development, and still end up having to fix things at the end?

That being said, I have tremendous faith in Buterin. He's obviously a genius and someone who sees things that others don't. For example, when Ethereum first announced it would be creating new ERC-721 tokens back in 2018, nobody could have predicted that these tokens would become an entirely new digital asset type -- non-fungible tokens (NFTs) -- and launch an entirely new market within the blockchain space. So when I look at the current roadmap and see mention of a new token coming in the future called ERC-4337, I'm cautiously optimistic that this represents some kind of genius new technological breakthrough that I simply don't have the capacity to understand right now.

Is Ethereum a buy?

People thought The Merge was going to solve everything, but it looks like we're just getting started. Over the short to medium term, investors need to be prepared to get frustrated. Some traders are already warning that Ethereum could drop below $1,000 in the near-term future. That's why I think it's so important for Ethereum to include concrete milestones, goals, and metrics for investors as part of any future roadmap. This will help recalibrate expectations.

As a long-term play, Ethereum has a lot to offer. It is still the preeminent Layer 1 blockchain in the world and it just pulled off one of the greatest technological feats in crypto history. But if you think Ethereum is headed to the moon in 2023, it might be time to pump the brakes of your rocket ship.