Ethereum Shanghai Upgrade is scheduled for April 12th and includes key economical changes to Ethereum and fee optimizations that will improve the network. This upgrade is part of Ethereum’s upgrade plan into Ethereum 2.0 – a faster, cheaper and more stable public blockchain. The main purpose of the Shanghai Upgrade is financial – it will allow stakers and validators to withdraw staked ETH from the Beacon Chain, which has been locked since December 2020. Some users have feared that this change will unlock $26 billion USD worth of Ethereum, potentially causing Ethereum’s prices to fall.
Staked Ethereum is Unlocking
The key feature of the Shanghai Upgrade is Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 4895, which will enable validators to withdraw staked ETH. Validators have staked approximately 16 million ETH to secure the network. Validators can participate in validating blocks by staking 32 ETH in the chain, and each staked ETH increases the likelihood of a validator receiving block rewards.
Validators have been staking ETH and earning rewards for validating blocks since the launch of Ethereum’s Beacon Chain in December 2020. However, the rewards earned by validators have been locked since the transition to PoS consensus in September 2022. With the Shanghai Upgrade, validators will finally be able to withdraw their rewards.
The withdrawal of staked ETH has been successfully simulated on the Zhejiang testnet. The Zhejiang testnet is the first of three testnets that will run the simulation. The Sepolia and Goerli testnets will follow, running the simulation in the coming weeks.
Key Improvements (EIP) in the Shanghai Upgrade:
EIP-3651: Warm COINBASE – This EIP aims to lower the gas cost of accessing the COINBASE address, which is a software component that allows developers to receive new tokens.
EIP-3855: PUSH0 instruction – This EIP aims to lower the gas cost of deploying contracts by introducing a new PUSH0 instruction.
EIP-3860: Limit and meter initcode – This EIP introduces a gas cost limit and meter for contract initialization code, which should help to reduce gas costs for developers.
EIP-4895: Beacon Chain push withdrawals as operations – This EIP is one of the key features of the Shanghai upgrade, as it allows validators to withdraw staked ETH from the Beacon Chain.
EIP-6049: Deprecate SELFDESTRUCT – This EIP aims to reduce the risk of contract failure by deprecating the SELFDESTRUCT instruction, which can lead to the loss of funds if used improperly.
These EIPs will reduce gas costs related to Maximal Extractable Value payments when accessing the COINBASE address, lower gas costs for developers, cap developer gas costs in certain cases, and address a similar concern.
The Shanghai Upgrade does not include EIP-4844, which facilitates the “sharding” of the Ethereum blockchain into multiple chains to enhance scalability. Sharding is a scalability solution that divides the whole network of a blockchain into multiple smaller networks called shards.
Validators will have two options for withdrawing their staked ETH. The first option is to create a “withdrawal credential” to unstake their staking rewards accumulated over the past years. The second option is to exit the Beacon Chain completely by unstaking all of their 32 ETH, which is the maximum allowed per validator.
The Shanghai Upgrade is expected to have a significant impact on the market. Approximately 16 million staked ETH will be available for withdrawal, and traders are paying attention to how the market may move. Some traders believe that the upgrade will trigger a selling wave, with many taking profit once staked ETH is unlocked. Others believe that the upgrade will encourage more staking.
The Ethereum Shanghai Upgrade is a minor upgrade for the Ethereum network (albeit a large upgrade in terms of unlocked Ethereum). The Ethereum core developers use this upgrade to stabilize the network rather than to deploy aggressive changes. This is why most of the improvements are smaller quality of life improvements rather than fundamental architecture changes.
The biggest impact of Shanghai has to do with staking and locked tokens. It will enable validators to withdraw staked ETH from the Beacon Chain, which has been locked since December 2020. The upgrade includes several other EIPs that aim to reduce gas costs for Ethereum developers. While it is unclear how the upgrade will impact the market in the short term, it is certain that traders will be watching how much of the available ETH will be cashed out, which could push the price of ETH down.