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Flash Crash and ICO Fever


If you blinked yesterday, you may have missed something that sent some investors – briefly – into panic. The price of Ether experienced a flash crash on the GDAX exchange, falling from $328 to a temporary trading price of as low as $0.10. A “multi-million dollar” amount of Ether was dumped on the market, buying up orders between $317.81 to $224.48 and triggering a cascade of liquidations that sent the price plummeting. Despite quickly recovering, the event (which has happened before and will happen again) highlighted how much the market can be moved by a single whale – of which there are now many.

The timing wasn’t ideal, as the price of Ether had already been experiencing significant volatility following the token sale. Status, which was raising funds to develop its mobile “gateway to the decentralized world of Ethereum” had raised so much money (exact amount to be confirmed) in such a short period of time that the Ethereum network ground to a near-halt. At the time of writing, nearly 100,000 transactions have been sent to the token sale contract which opened 48 hours ago – this does not take into account the many tens of thousands of transactions that were not even broadcast through 3rd party services like MyEtherWallet. To put that figure into perspective, the entire network averaged only 50,000 transactions per day this time last year.

The falling price may well have been a wake up call to those unaware of just how challenging Ethereum’s scaling problem is. With a maximum network throughput of roughly 15 transactions per second, there is desperate need for a scaling solution if Ethereum is to become the “world computer”. However, unlike Bitcoin’s scaling debate which has lasted a number of years, the solutions to scaling the Ethereum blockchain are generally agreed and may be realized in the coming months. These solutions include “offchain” payment channels like Raiden and the shift to a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism and “sharding“. A proposal by the Ethereum Foundation’s, Nick Johnson also highlighted the potential for running token sales through an “offchain auction-based smart contract” which could dramatically reduce the pressure on the network.

The honeymoon period of 1000% returns for Ethereum investors may be showing signs of fading. And with a very possible split in the Bitcoin blockchain in August, there is plenty of uncertainty ahead.

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Nick Founder