The Flippening Narrative: Bitcoin vs Ethereum
The concept of the “Flippening” has been increasingly gaining traction in the crypto space. It refers to the hypothetical moment when Ethereum (ETH) surpasses Bitcoin (BTC) as the most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization. The Flippening is important because it would signify a major shift in the overall direction of the crypto landscape, signalling a change in investor sentiment and adoption patterns.
While the Flippening is not set in stone, there are compelling data that indicate it is coming, and sooner than you think… Here’s why:
The Case for Bitcoin
Being the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has maintained its throne on the crypto market since its genesis block in 2009. It is often considered as the safest digital store of value by investors, with its limited supply structure similar to the scarcity of gold, hence its nickname “digital gold.” As such, Bitcoin is usually the primary choice of cryptocurrency for financial institutions looking to get involved. As far as mainstream adoption goes, Bitcoin has led the way so far.
However, Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus model is highly energy-intensive, sparking criticisms of the network’s impact on the environment. Additionally, the usage of Bitcoin is only limited to exchanging and storing value. This is where Ethereum has much more to offer.
The Case for Ethereum
As the second most valuable cryptocurrency, Ethereum is designed to be used as the foundation of a decentralized, blockchain-based internet — an idea that is become known as Web3. Apart from exchanging and storing value, Ethereum introduced smart contract functionalities that allows developers to do all kinds of innovative and creative things on the network. This brought about a proliferation of financial products that have enabled a much broader range of investors.
Ethereum earned its nickname “digital oil” because it is a utility-based asset like oil, fuel or gas, and its value is largely dictated by supply and demand mechanisms. Similar to how the world’s global supply chain is fueled by crude oil, Ethereum lays at the heart of the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) space as well as GameFi and Non-Fungible Token (NFT) market. And as the Web3 landscape progresses, demand will increase as more and more people are recognizing the potential of a decentralized internet. It is only a matter of time when Web2 evolves to Web3, and Ethereum is at the centre of that.
Do “Ethereum Killers” Hinder the Flippening?
It is worth noting that Ethereum faces competition from other prominent layer-1 blockchains such as Aptos, Cardano, Solana, BNB Chain, Polkadot, and Avalanche. There is a trending “Ethereum Killer” narrative in which user adoption will be distributed amongst these blockchains instead of focusing on Ethereum only. However, most of these blockchains in fact depend on Ethereum, as one way or another they are associated with the network’s smart contract. As shown in the image below by Cryptowatch, all of the top layer-1 blockchains are closely correlated with Ethereum’s price action.
Comparing Market Share between Bitcoin and Ethereum
As of 11th January 2023, Ethereum’s market share increased by 3% among global crypto assets, signalling its dominance on the rise. According to Coinmarketcap, Ethereum’s market dominance is at 19%, valued at around $856 billion. On another note, Coingecko’s metrics were slightly different, indicating Ethereum’s dominance at 18.3%. But both aggregation websites show that Bitcoin’s market dominance is decreasing, from 40% to 38%.
It is unclear whether this trend will continue, but according to data sourced from Blockchain Center, the Flippening has been on an uptrend since July 2021. And we are nearly halfway for it to happen. It is also worth noting that Ethereum came closest to the Flippening in 2017, when Bitcoin’s market dominance’s dropped by 40.6% and Ethereum took over 32% of the market amidst the situation.
In reference to the data provided by Blockchain Center, there are also other metrics apart from market cap that determines the Flippening. As of now, Bitcoin is still by far superior in trading volume, which is a crucial metric for adoption usage. However, Ethereum has Bitcoin beat in active addresses, transaction count and volume, and total USD transaction fees.
Outperformance of Ethereum will be primarily driven by the strength of its post-Merge fundamentals. The upcoming Shanghai Upgrade will significantly reduce the risk and opportunity cost of staking ETH, which is likely to attract participation from more crypto users.
Despite Ethereum’s increasing adoption and market dominance, Bitcoin still reigns supreme in the crypto space. In fact, Bitcoin saw significant adoption in 2021-2022 from retail and institutional investors, public companies, and even countries. As of now, El Savador and the Central African Republic (CAR) have adopted Bitcoin as a legal currency. This is a monumental step towards mainstream adoption.
But that is not to say the Flippening will never happen — it is certainly a possibility. After all, both Bitcoin and Ethereum have different visions. Bitcoin aims to become the global reserve currency, whereas Ethereum aims to become the infrastructure of a global digital economy. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) applies to both assets, but it all comes down to supply and demand mechanisms. If demand in digital money is higher, then Bitcoin dominates. But if demand in utility-based asset in building out a decentralized ecosystem is higher, then Ethereum is generally favored.