2018 could be Ethereum’s big year

As cryptocurrency values vaporize, ether may be solidifying

A Cornell University team published findings on Monday that the Ethereum network is at least as decentralized and as secure as bitcoin’s network. While the cryptocurrency news of the day is still all about the recent market crash, the finding brightens ether’s already growing spotlight.

In the past 10 days, the market cap of all cryptocurrency dropped from $830.3 billion to $582.3 billion—that’s $248 billion of value, vaporized in days, according to data compiled by CoinMarketCap. The drop in bitcoin alone accounts for $102 billion—more than one whole Goldman Sachs in market cap—completely gone. These days, the crypto universe resembles the trash compactor scene in “Star Wars” and investors are desperately looking for any good news. Ethereum has so far been a good source of it, with some in the crypto hivemind holding up reasons for why they think ether will eventually exceed bitcoin and other currencies.

Vitalik Buterin’s blockchain platform has a few tricks up its sleeve that imbue it with special investor appeal. For example, transactions with Ethereum are faster and cheaper than bitcoin, which doesn’t make full use of its network. Furthermore, Ethereum is not just about moving units of value from one place to another, but can in fact run decentralized computer programs as well. Lastly, Ethereum is coded in such a way that engineers can update and optimize the network as it grows. Bitcoin’s network, on the other hand, just grows.

Ethereum network naysayers have previously knocked it for inferior decentralization and security compared to bitcoin. Yet the Cornell team’s report finds that the opposite is true—some 56% of bitcoin nodes live in data centers versus Ethereum’s 28%. With more than half of bitcoin’s network spread over fewer locations, Ethereum’s network is actually more decentralized.

While ether certainly took its lashings along with everyone else during the crash, it did so at a reduced rate. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong was surely glad to own more ether than BTC.

The popular notion of cryptocurrency is nine years old, so these remain nascent, unpredictable times for something with a potentially infinite lifespan. People lately are making proclamations ranging from “bitcoin will hit record highs this year” to “bitcoin will be dead next year.” These predictions occasionally come from the same person.

Pundits are saying all kinds of strange things in the aftermath of this crash, but questions about cryptocurrency are fundamentally questions about technology. If Ethereum indeed has better technological traits than its crypto-siblings, then we can expect to hear a lot more good things about it in the future.

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Dylan Love is an editorial consultant, contributing reporter, and fiendishly curious technology enthusiast. He owns no cryptocurrencies.