The Ethereum merger is still fresh. Not even a month has passed since the second-largest blockchain transitioned from a power-intensive proof-of-work validation mechanism to a proof-of-stake, reducing its power consumption by 99.5%.
But the context clarifies the magnitude of this change. In the summer before the merger, Ethereum was consuming almost 60 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, which was roughly the annual energy needs of the country of Uzbekistan. This also meant that the blockchain had a carbon footprint comparable to that of Azerbaijan, emitting around 33 megatons (MT) of carbon per year.
Take a look at the graph below. See the part of the line dipping down? This is the effect of the Ethereum merger on September 15. Ethereum now uses around 0.01 TWh of energy per year, which puts it below PayPal in terms of annual energy consumption. Since one of the main concerns about blockchain technology (and, by proxy, NFTs) was directly related to its environmental impact, the conversation about the future of the NFT ecosystem in a post-merger landscape has become much more durable and therefore productive. Likewise, the merger has opened up a crucial discussion about how society responds to new and disruptive technologies.
The atmosphere of pre-merger condemnation
Much remains unanswered. And, while it’s still too early to say for sure how the merger will affect the Web3 landscape in the long term, some have begun to glimpse what its immediate effects might be.
“It’s a complex problem and it’s easy to misunderstand how things work,” Jonathan Perkins, chief product officer and co-founder of SuperRare Labs, said in an interview with nft now. “I agree that most of the reviews were wrong, and I think most of the intentions [behind them] was good. I am an environmentalist and I am very happy that we were able to move on to proof of stake.
Perkins, as well as SuperRare Labs co-founder and CEO John Crain, are no strangers to controversy in the NFT space. After launching the SuperRare platform in 2018, the couple have seen the full gamut of reviews thrown at Web3 platforms and the artists who use them. Until the merger, these condemnations became increasingly vitriolic.
“We started to see […] artists are being demonized and attacked in a very aggressive and traumatic way online.
“We’re used to taking a lot of things on the chin, as a company in this space,” Perkins continued. “But what we started to see last year was artists being demonized and attacked in very aggressive and traumatic ways online. And that’s when we decided we needed to take the gloves off and really come out and help clear this stuff up. Basically, we said, “Say what you want about us, but leave the artists alone.” I’m also a bitcoin fan, but I think from day one the Ethereum community stood out, making it clear that we’re using proof of work during an interim phase to get this network off the ground and proof of concept. But the goal [was] become less energy intensive. I’m pretty proud of the community for that.
This is one of many examples of how the proliferation of misinformation online can have tangible effects on people’s lived experiences. Blockchain and NFTs have long been hailed as an inherently pro-artist technology, something that can help eliminate the demeaning “starving artist” trope that has haunted society for hundreds of years. The last thing creatives need is more unwarranted stigma. Fortunately, fusion has done a lot to reduce these types of attacks.
Why merging optics is important for integration
The merger could be one of the reasons why platforms like SuperRare are seeing increased activity. Take away the main concern that many had about the Ethereum blockchain (justified or not), and you will find people who wanted to participate all along and finally feel they can do so without a bad conscience.
“It’s unclear if this is directly related to the merger, but we’ve seen an increase in trading volume over the past few months,” SuperRare Labs CEO John Crain said in an interview with nft now. . “I think the merger is one of them. There were people on the sidelines who read the headlines and wanted to wait until Ethereum was proof of stake before hitting things on it.
This increase in activity could be a bullish omen for the future of the Ethereum blockchain and the countless platforms and applications built on it. The SuperRare founders have also heard of a general narrative shift in the NFT ecosystem, moving from an ecosystem dominated by PFPs and collectibles to a more inclusive environment that is more appealing to those working in the field. the fine Arts.
“Generally, we’ve seen a pick-up in activity,” Crain continued. “We’re starting to see real traction from the more traditional fine art community. And I wouldn’t necessarily attribute that to the merger. But we see world-class galleries and artists who don’t come from Web3, but who see the power of technology. There really is an artistic revolution going on. It’s not just Bored Ape Yacht Club. NFTs are a powerful base layer technology that is very well positioned to be the foundation of digital art.
Decentralization in a proof-of-stake system
Proof-of-stake validation is not without potential problems. For example, the possibility of censorship remains an issue, and it works like this: the fewer validators there are in a system, or the larger the staking pool that a validator controls, the more centralized the network becomes. This situation has led some to fear the possibility of bad actors pushing validators to censor the Ethereum protocol.
Crain and Perkins recognized the need to be on the lookout for such censorship and advocated for more people to join as validators, to ensure a robust ecosystem. They also talked about the whispers about SuperRare itself becoming a validator among the members of the SuperRare DAO.
“There is a strong interest from people to run a validator as a community built on top of the [Ethereum] platform,” Crain said of SuperRare DAO members’ desire to join the proof-of-work validation system. “As a council member, I would certainly support such a decision. It’s good for the whole ecosystem, it would be a good use of the ETH that is in the community treasury. It seems like a very logical next step that the DAO can run one validator, maybe even more than one validator.
Decentralization has always been a moving target in Web3 communities. The conversation about when to turn decentralization into tangible rules on Web3 platforms versus when to use it as a broader guiding principle is unlikely to end anytime soon. The SuperRare market itself has been a compelling case study over the years of trying to find and maintain that balance.
The platform has long had a reputation for curatorial exclusivity, but it has also done what it can to step aside and give control to its users whenever possible. When the platform launched in 2018, the founders decided to relinquish editorial control over what artists on its platform posted. Rather than asking artists to email the platform with the coins they wanted to mint, Crain, Perkins and SuperRare’s third co-founder Charles Crain let artists mint whatever they wanted without any approval process.
“There’s this kind of inherent polarity in crypto art,” Perkins observed of the decentralization dichotomy. “During the first few months of operating the platform, we imagined that within 12 months we would retire as custodians and there would be AI algorithm curators to filter the art It was just pretty obvious that we had to grow on a large scale. [first]. So we instituted the least bad method of curation, having a phone call with all the artists who wanted to get on the platform and adding a few a month to kind of increase the number of collectors that there were .
“We are trying to delegate more and more important parts of the power structure to the community.”
This, according to Perkins, was a natural and necessary step in building the platform so that it could then become more decentralized.
“As a startup, we’ve done things that don’t scale, and I think our approach to exclusivity is part of that,” Perkins explained of his approach to building the platform over the years. . “And the reason for that is that we wanted to help start a healthy collectible market. We never had an explicit desire to be exclusive, it was more of a necessary stepping stone. And what we’ve proven is that collectors respond to conservation and authenticity.
The creation of The spaces was one of the ways the company attempted to move out of the centralized gatekeeper role. Spaces are independent galleries in the marketplace that curate, promote and sell art, with each gallery elected into the network by SuperRare DAO members. The pair reiterated that not all aspects of centralization are bad, emphasizing the need for balance in aiming for Web3 ethics.
“There have been projects that promise and attempt to complete decentralization from day one,” Perkins said of the importance of taking a slow approach to the issue. “And it often doesn’t work because of coordination issues. We had about three and a half years under our belt when we officially became a DAO. We had customers, we had a lot of artists and collectors, and we had kind of a product market suited as a startup. And more and more, we see ourselves as standard bearers in this space. We are trying to delegate more and more important parts of the power structure to the community. I think it’s always important to be a loud voice rather than just going out and letting chaos ensue.
Optimism for the future of NFTs
Ultimately, the two are hoping for the long-term health and impact that NFTs seem destined to have. Bear markets and crypto winters aside, Perkins and Crain have faith in blockchain’s ability to become a daily and widespread part of people’s lives.
“We’ve been building on Ethereum for over five years,” Perkins pointed out. “NFT volumes are down from a USD perspective, but we actually continue to see very strong collection activity on SuperRare. [The merge] gives me a lot more confidence and we all sleep better at night. It’s a feather in the hat of this infrastructure. I met an artist this weekend, a self-proclaimed digital artist who never hit anything because he didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon too soon. I think there are a lot of people waiting to see if this technology will prove itself, whether for environmental reasons or otherwise. And the more concrete steps we can take toward scalability and sustainability, the more business will fall into the gravity well.