Axios Crypto

A multicolored cube.
August 12, 2022

GM, Friday! Today we have the status update on The Merge and explain CrypToadz. Plus, a popular risk-to-earn game with a nonworking website.

This newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and is 1,268 words, a 5-minute read.

📆 1 big thing: Ethereum will change forever in September

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ethereum finished its last test of The Merge, the name it uses for its upgrade to a new engine. It's had three dry runs now, and it has worked each time, Brady writes.

  • All systems point to the blockchain switching over to its new version in the middle to late part of September.

Why it matters: For investors, it will very likely mean strong price appreciation for ether, the coin of the realm on the Ethereum blockchain.

  • A less avaricious answer, though, is that Ethereum is the world's second-biggest blockchain and home to all the uses that have gotten people talking about crypto in the last few years. (NFTs, stablecoins, etc.)

What's happening: In short, it's switching from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. That is, it's going from a system secured in the time-tested — but environmentally controversial — manner of bitcoin to a new approach, one that's based on the system's live auditors (validators) posting assets as a guarantee that they won't cheat.

Calendar item: There's no date precisely. They are pinning it to total accumulated difficulty of the blockchain.

  • Every block has a difficulty score for how hard it is to "solve" in proof-of-work.
  • Adding up the difficulty of each block yields the total difficulty. The plan is to merge the two chains after closing the block that hits 58,750,000,000,000,000,000,000.
  • It will likely happen on Sept. 15 or 16.

Of note: The people who verify the Ethereum blockchain (a decentralized band of strangers) all run software that does it. The timing isn't final until the code that runs that software has been updated and distributed.

The intrigue: A prominent miner in China has said he plans to keep running the original chain.

Yes, but: Ethereum is more than just ethers now. There's a bunch of other tokens represented on there, and they can't all be copied.

  • Circle said it would only honor its stablecoin, USD coin, on the new proof-of-stake version of Ethereum. Other applications are likely to follow its lead.

In other words, the new Ethereum is where the real use will be and the proof-of-work straggler is just a bet.

The bottom line: Running Ethereum will use 99% less electricity after the merge but other than that, nothing else will really change.

  • If you're a normal user, you don't need to do anything. Literally, nothing.

🐸 2. What's this? CrypToadz

An image of a CrypToadz #8000000
Image: CrypToadz (Public Domain)

This is a CrypToad NFT. Specifically, it is #8000000. There are 6,969 of them. This one sold in October for 150 ETH, or about $500,000 at the time.

Why it matters: NFTs are a great way to illustrate why there can only be one authentic version of Ethereum, Brady writes.

How it works: This file is an image that exists under a Creative Commons license. Anyone can show it anywhere they want, but only one person can say they own it.

  • It's the person who controls the private key for the wallet that holds the token associated by the CrypToadz smart contract with this image. This wallet.
  • If there are two versions of Ethereum, there are two wallets that claim to own this token. At first, they will be the same wallet, but what happens if the owner tries to sell the toad on one blockchain and not the other?

The bottom line: Ownership of any kind is a social construct, so it's whatever everyone agrees to. If the consensus is the new version of Ethereum has the legitimate ownership, then it does.

  • But obviously, there can't be two people claiming to own the same thing.

ğŸŽ° 3. A popular Avalanche game without a website

Illustration of a computer with a shrug emoji on the screen
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Here's a story about the weirdness of crypto in general and NFTs in particular, Brady writes.

Why it matters: The very architecture of information is different in a decentralized world, which means the very nature of communication changes. Understanding some of the weirder applications of it now can give (maybe, possibly) glimpses of its future.

Driving the news: The highest volume NFT on the Solana blockchain right now, according to Avax NFT Stats, is the "Navy Seal Game."

  • And yet: Its website doesn't load. Its Twitter seems to have been deleted. The link to its Discord is no good.
  • The smart contracts on the Avalanche blockchain, however, still seem to be OK. At least well enough that the NFTs can trade.

What's happening: As of this morning, the game — whose actual gameplay is not readily visible — had an estimated market capitalization of $820,000 and over $9,700 in 24-hour volume.

  • It's not a lot compared to NFTs trading on Ethereum.

How it worked: They call it a "risk to earn" game. Basically, players are guessing how much to push their luck. The object of the game is to collect the TNT token earned by the game's NFTs, which can take different levels of risk.

The gameplay seems to amount to staking and unstaking characters.

  • The longer Terrorist NFTs are staked for, the more TNT they earn — but they risk getting caught by Navy Seals, who then have to share their haul with POTUS NFTs.

The intrigue: I can't find anyone trading TNT anywhere, however — another mystery.

Meanwhile, there seems to be no game world that folks run around and look in. It's all just random chance.

  • Some folks on Twitter are calling the game a scam, but people (or bots) are still trading it for some reason.

OK, but: That's kind of a new gaming mechanic (you could call it a "gambling" mechanic). It's a pretty crude one, but it's one people are going to keep playing with.

Between the lines: Considering crypto's taste for nonconformity and dissidents, Navy Seal Game might be popular simply because its subject matter is one most people would likely find distasteful.

The value of tokens reflects how much interest they generate in the public, so crypto gaming might ultimately be, in part, about driving social intrigue and conversation, as well as gameplay.

🛹 4. Catch up quick

🕸 Dutch authorities have arrested a developer for the transaction privacy app, Tornado Cash. (Fiscal Information and Investigation Service)

🥊 "Shark Tank" investor Mark Cuban faces a lawsuit over a partnership with crypto lender Voyager Digital. (Dallas Morning News)

🤝 Huobi Global is shopping a 60% stake in the company to parties including FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried and Tron founder Justin Sun, reportedly. (Bloomberg)

🤫 The SEC proposed that large hedge funds report their crypto holdings via a confidential filing. (Wall Street Journal)

Top coins

Data: CoinGecko; Table: Axios Visuals

📍5. Culture hash: Bitcoin has arrived

Tweet saying "BlackRock CEO says "The hits on BlackRock's website were: 3,000 hits on Covid... 600,000 hits on bitcoin.
Screenshot: @DocumentingBTC (Twitter)

Bitcoin was made legitimate by way of institutional endorsement when the world's largest asset manager launched a spot bitcoin private trust yesterday for its well-heeled clients, Crystal writes.

  • BlackRock's about-face is resurfacing videos on social media that show the firm's CEO, Larry Fink, criticizing the cryptocurrency.

Flashback: On April 15, 2021, Fink told CNBC that BlackRock was not seeing broad interest in crypto from their institutional clients.

  • Fink in this clip from Dec. 1, 2020, said bitcoin's market is thin, volatile and untested.

What they're saying (now): "Bitcoin is the oldest, largest, and most liquid cryptoasset, and is currently the primary subject of interest from our clients within the cryptoasset space," a company blog post said.

🌪 Still grappling with this news about Tornado Cash. Everyone is freaking out, out there. —C & B