The surging cryptocurrency wave in 2023 has elevated the value of various digital assets, though certain ones have soared higher than the rest. Riding the ETF optimism wave, Bitcoin has increased by a hefty 132% this year and is now worth far more than all other digital assets put together. Rival cryptocurrency Solana, which has climbed over 400% in 2023, looks to have finally moved past its Sam Bankman-Fried association. This week, it surpassed XRP to become the fifth-biggest token in the world. Ethereum, too? It’s up by a very slight 66%.
Naturally, price fluctuations are not the only criterion for evaluating a currency. Despite their apparent popularity on social media, meme currencies such as Doge, BONK, and others continue to defy logic in their value proposition. However, emotion, or vibes, if you will, is reflected in pricing, and at the moment, Ethereum feels extremely stale.
Ethereum is dealing with the well-known issue of ridiculously high gas prices that render even basic transactions unfeasible as we enter what appears to be a new cryptocurrency bull market. While its lauded layer-2 solutions do reduce the cost of the blockchain, they also add an unnecessary layer of complexity that casual cryptocurrency users do not appreciate. There are no indications that the old tale will alter anytime soon.
In his yearly industry forecast, Messari creator and cryptocurrency expert Ryan Selkis argues that Ethereum is beginning to lose some of its shine.
“ETH is straddled. The interest of institutional allocators in the digital gold ‘pure play’ has caused BTC to outperform ETH as a digital currency, while the widespread availability of Ethereum replacements (L0s, L1s, and L2s) is expected to cause those substitutes to outperform the Ethereum main chain as they absorb onchain volumes. I fail to envisage a situation in which ETH beats both bitcoin and its more promising, higher-beta counterparts.”
But Selkis also notes that Ethereum’s fall from grace was probably unavoidable as rivalry in the market for smart contracts, which it helped to establish, grew. If anything, being skeptical about ETH in relation to the field is a sober awareness that ETH has been extraordinarily dominating thus far and has set a very high bar for maintaining over 60% of the market share in its peer group of network tokens. Rather, it is not an indictment against Ethereum. In terms of relative strength, I think of Visa vs. Mastercard when comparing Ethereum vs. Solana, not Google vs. Bing.”
That seems about correct. Although Ethereum has numerous advantages, including a broad developer community and the reputation for honesty left by its founder, Vitalik Buterin, it was never going to be the only game in town. Its position as the second-most significant blockchain is still uncontested for the time being, but that could change in 2024 if the blockchain doesn’t improve its vibe game.