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Is Ethereum Dead in 2024? The Current State of ETH

Eric Huffman
Last updated: | 11 min read

The Ethereum project rose to prominence in 2015 by bringing smart contracts to blockchain networks. No longer was cryptocurrency just a digital asset; now, blockchains could host powerful applications, giving these digital assets new utility. However, other blockchain projects like Solana now offer smart contracts with much cheaper and faster transactions. With so many smart contract chains now, is Ethereum dead?

It may be a bit early to declare that Ethereum is dead. However, it does have some impressive competition. In this guide, we’ll take a pulse on the Ethereum project and market dynamics to analyze its health and prospects going forward. Let’s dig in.

Summary: Is Ethereum Dead?


New tech often improves on existing technologies, and nowhere is this more true than in the blockchain space. Ethereum itself was an improvement on Bitcoin in one primary sense: turing-complete smart contract support. Ethereum introduced a powerful programming language (Solidity) that made decentralized finance (DeFi) and web3 possible.

While other chains now offer similar features, Ethereum enjoys a network effect similar to Bitcoin’s and remains both the largest smart contract network and second largest cryptocurrency in the world.

  • ETH still holds the second largest market capitalization. With a more than $400 billion market cap, ETH’s market value is still 4.6 times larger than its closest smart contract competitor, BSC, and more than 6 times larger than Solana (SOL).
  • Ethereum ETFs are expected in 2024. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved applications from the CBOE, Nasdaq, and NYSE to list exchange-traded funds based on the price of spot ether (ETH). A flurry of ETF issuers are expected to launch products, with approvals expected over the summer of 2024.
  • Ethereum TVL eclipses all competing chains. The total value locked (TVL) on Ethereum — a measure of assets locked in smart contracts — is more than 60% of the entire market. The closest competitor, Tron, holds 8.28% of the market’s TVL. Solana trails with 4.24%, less than the combined TVL for Ethereum’s three largest Layer-2 chains, all of which use ETH as fuel and settle transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.

tvl all chains

Is Ethereum dead? Far from it. However, the project still faces challenges in scalability and transaction costs. Let’s examine the big picture for Ethereum.

What is Ethereum?


Ethereum is a smart contract-enabled blockchain launched in 2015 by a group of cofounders, including Vitalik Buterin, who is still seen as the face of the project. The Ethereum Whitepaper published in 2014 detailed the goals of the blockchain project and drew a sharp distinction between Ethereum and Bitcoin.

At the time, both projects used proof of work (PoW) to secure their respective networks, making Ethereum’s smart contract support its distinguishing feature. Smart contracts are computer programs that run on the blockchain, allowing applications like lending and borrowing apps, decentralized exchanges, and on-chain voting for decentralized protocols.

Like Bitcoin, Ethereum has a limited supply of its native token, ether (ETH). However, following Ethereum’s conversion to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus, the network now bases ETH supply on two key factors. Staking rewards inflate the supply, while transaction fees (paid in ETH) shrink the supply; the Ethereum network burns the base gas fee for transactions.

The resulting push-pull supply dynamic has led to a slightly deflationary market sentiment for cryptocurrency that remains in high demand. However, following the Dencun upgrade, the ETH supply ticked slightly upward.

The Current State of Ethereum


Ethereum’s move to proof of stake as the network’s consensus mechanism improved energy usage by more than 99%. The move also helped launch a new asset in form of liquid staked ETH, yield-bearing tokens that can be bought, sold, swapped, or used as collateral.

However, high network costs remained, and transaction times were still relatively slow compared to newer networks like Solana. Several Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) target higher fees and scalability issues for the chain.

  • EIP-4844: The March 2024 Dencun upgrade brought lower-cost transactions to Ethereum Layer-2 networks like Base, Optimism, and Arbitrum. The upgrade included proto-danksharding, an intermediary step toward full danksharding, with both steps saving storage space on the blockchain. Following the upgrade, median transaction fees on Arbitrum, the leading L2, dropped from more than $0.70 to less than a penny.
  • EIP-1153: Transient storage opcodes also promise to reduce Ethereum’s transaction costs. A shift to temporary storage for smart contract execution is expected to make smart contracts faster and more affordable.
  • EIP-5656: Adding the MCOPY opcode to Ethereum can reduce the cost of copying memory within a smart contract by more than 3.5 times.

Proposed and already implemented changes to Ethereum range from incremental to monumental, with the network addressing scalability concerns in a deliberate fashion that prioritizes stability.

Throughout the process, Ethereum remains the leading smart contract network, with both Ethereum Mainnet and its leading Layer-2 networks hosting some of the most popular decentralized finance (DeFi) applications. The Base Layer-2 chain has also become a hub for meme coins, alongside powerful DeFi protocols.

All this is reflected in ETH dominance, a measure of ETH as a percentage of the crypto market capitalization. ETH dominance has risen from single digit percentages as recently as 2020, to more than 20% at times within the past year.

eth dominance 5 year

The expected rollout of spot ETH ETFs could push ETH’s price and market cap dominance further as investment capital flows to these easy-to-access funds.

Ethereum Price Performance in 2024


While still below the highs reached in 2021’s bull-market euphoria, ETH’s price has steadily climbed throughout 2023 and 2024, surging in early 2024 amid rumors of ETF approvals. Many expect a consolidation at the current trading range of $3,000 to $3,800 before moving higher. This parallels Bitcoin’s price action following the launch of spot Bitcoin ETFs.

eth price year chart

The crypto landscape can change quickly, making price predictions seem fanciful at times. However, Cathie Wood of ARK Invest sees a potential for ETH to reach a $20 trillion market cap by 2032. This suggests a token price of more than $166,000. Traders on Binance predict the ETH price will reach about $4,700 by 2030, a 34% increase from the current price of $3,500.

The Bullish Case for Ethereum: Why it Isn’t Dead


Much like Bitcoin, Ethereum enjoys a network effect that makes it difficult to shake from its position as the world’s largest smart contract blockchain. This position is fortified by the popularity of ERC-20 tokens, the availability of battle-tested decentralized applications (dApps), and the largest development community of any blockchain.

The Biggest Smart Contract Blockchain

During 2021’s bull market, Ethereum represented nearly 70% of TVL for all chains. By 2022, this figure fell just below 50% as the cryptocurrency market chased yields on ill-fated projects like Terra Classic. Following the collapse of Terra’s stablecoin in 2022, TVL flocked to Ethereum again, with TVL increasing by nearly 20% in a single month. Today, Ethereum represents more than 60% of TVL, with Ethereum Layer-2 projects pushing the aggregate closer to 70% again.

While other blockchains offer smart contracts, the most used and most trusted dApps are found on Ethereum Mainnet and Layer-2 chains like Arbitrum and Base.

ERC-20 Token Standard

Ethereum’s ERC-20 token standard makes the chain attractive for users who want an easy experience and provides countless ways for developers to create utility with new tokens. Leading crypto wallets support the top ERC-20 tokens and offer an easy way to add newer tokens by using the token’s contract address.

Leading Network for DeFi and dApps

Ethereum is also home to the leading dApps and DeFi protocols. These range from liquid staking to lending and swaps.

  • Lido (liquid staking): $33.83 billion TVL
  • Aave V3 (lending and borrowing): $10.43 billion TVL
  • EigenLayer (ETH restaking): $10.27 billion TVL
  • Uniswap V3 (decentralized swaps): $6.61 billion TVL
  • Maker DAO (lending/asset-backed stablecoin): $6.08 billion TVL

Many of Ethereum’s top applications, such as Aave and Uniswap, are also available on Ethereum Layer-2 networks.

Largest Active Developer Community

Ethereum has the largest developer community by far, with nearly 8,000 developers in 2023, compared to just over 1,600 for Solana, less than 1,100 for Bitcoin, and under 500 for Cardano, according to data from DeveloperReport. EVM-compatible L2 chains that settle on Ethereum Mainnet also boast impressive developer activity, with developers for leading L2 chains adding another 3,800+ developers to the Ethereum ecosystem.

ethereum monthly active developers

The Bearish Case for Ethereum: Why it Could Die


Smart contracts set Ethereum apart from other blockchains at its launch. However, several prominent chains now offer smart contract functionality with lower fees and faster transaction speeds.

Struggles with Scalability

Although proposed improvements promise to increase Ethereum’s throughput to as much as 100,000 transactions per second (TPS), the current performance remains well below that figure. Transaction speeds of 15-30 TPS make Ethereum marginally faster than Bitcoin, albeit with faster finality. By comparison, Solana boasts top speeds of up to 65,000 TPS. The combination of lower costs and faster transactions lets newer networks gain market share.

High Gas Fees

Ethereum Mainnet has an unfortunate reputation for high gas fees. As of this writing, the average gas fees on Mainnet are $1.07. These costs fluctuate based on network demand and the complexity of the smart contract, leading to much higher costs in many cases.

eth average transaction fee

By comparison, Solana’s average fee typically ranges from $0.03 to $0.04. However, in context, Solana network fees for many types of transactions are three to five times higher than those of Ethereum Layer-2 networks like Arbitrum, Base, and Optimism. Higher fees remain a problem on Ethereum Mainnet.

Competition from ‘Ethereum Killers’

Lower gas fees and faster transactions have led several networks to be dubbed “Ethereum Killers.” While the rumors of Ethereum’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, some competing networks have taken a notable market share.

  • Solana: The Solana network’s average speed of 400 TPS and $0.03 transaction costs make it a popular alternative to Ethereum.
  • Cardano: Founded by Charles Hoskinson, an Ethereum co-founder, Cardano enjoys a loyal community. The project now includes support for smart contracts and is known for its stability. Gas fees of $0.10 and up are higher than on Solana but much lower than Ethereum Mainnet gas fees.
  • Avalanche: The Avalanche network uses a blockDAG rather than a blockchain, allowing more transactions to execute in parallel. The project allows subnets, which are independent networks that can be customized to specific tasks. Transaction fees on Avalanche average about $0.30.

Is Ethereum a Good Investment in 2024?


Ethereum has some notable competition now and still faces some big challenges in bridging the scalability gap between its current performance and Ethereum’s theoretical performance after proposed network upgrades. However, the scalability upgrades already live on Layer-2 networks negate much of the criticism leveled against Ethereum’s usability.

So, is Ethereum a good investment? Most industry experts agree that ETH should still represent a significant part of a diversified crypto investment portfolio. Let’s consider the pros and cons of Ethereum as an investment.

Pros

  • Staking rewards of up to 4% provide crypto passive income.
  • Ethereum Layer-2 networks provide a cost-effective way to transact.
  • Ethereum is home to the leading dApps for DeFi and other protocols.
  • Spot ETH ETFs are expected to increase demand for ETH

Cons

  • Transaction costs on ETH Mainnet remain higher than on Solana, Cardano, or Avalanche
  • The SEC is currently investigating the Ethereum Foundation.
  • Ethereum’s Dencun upgrade made ETH slightly inflationary, with its effect on future supply unknown.

Buying Ethereum vs ERC-20 Tokens

Buying ETH itself is the most common way to invest in the Ethereum ecosystem. However, a number of ERC-20 tokens could also represent attractive investment opportunities. Ethereum’s fully diluted market cap of $423 billion suggests that promising ERC-20 tokens could return higher gains.

Tokens like Chainlink (LINK), Uniswap (UNI), and Aave (AAVE) play key roles on Ethereum and its Layer-2 networks and could potentially run much further in percentage gains. Several Ethereum meme coins, including Shiba Inu (SHIB). PEPE, and FLOKI, could also outperform ETH itself, some of which provide utility in addition to being a fun way to speculate.

Conclusion


Is Ethereum dead? No. The Ethereum ecosystem continues to dominate the smart contract blockchain segment, and the project improves incrementally through well-tested upgrades. Expect to see additional growth in Layer-2 market share and, in the long term, impressive scalability improvements for Ethereum Mainnet. Ethereum’s Solidity programming language and the vast library of open-source code help endure a robust development environment for the foreseeable future.

FAQs

Does Ethereum have a future?

Yes. The Ethereum project continues to improve, addressing scalability issues and cost concerns. Expect slower rollouts due to Ethereum’s governance model and thorough testing to ensure reliability.

Will Ethereum ever go back up?

Most experts expect ETH’s price to move higher, with some ambitious estimates putting the cost of ETH as high as $166,000 by 2032.

Is Ethereum going to disappear?

To date, competing projects have only reached a small percentage of Ethereum’s market cap and total value locked. In the short term, there is no reason to expect that Ethereum will disappear.

Is ETH still a good investment?

ETH is still expected to increase in value in the coming years, and the ability to stake ETH to earn a yield provides passive income for investors who are betting on future price increases.

References