What ETF Approval Could Mean for Ethereum

The SEC recent approval of ETH ETFs might eventually prove a more important event for Ethereum than it was for Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s dominance, niche, and value proposition as a store of value are well-established and unlikely to be challenged in the near term. Ethereum, however, faces far stiffer competition, sometimes struggling to distinguish itself among narratives of smart contract platforms — until recently.

Now we know there are two major crypto assets likely not at risk of being called securities by U.S. regulators. This might not mean much for retail investors, especially outside the U.S., but clearing up the regulatory uncertainty will influence many institutional investors in considering chains to use, build and invest in.

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Ethereum will likely continue dominating developer activity in the blockchain space, at least when it comes to large projects. According to Electric Capital’s Developer Report, Ethereum (and EVM chain in general) attracted vastly more developers than all other chains last year. The potential capital inflows from the ETFs, accessible institutional pathways like Coinbase’s BASE L2, and now this stamp of legitimacy could further strengthen its dominance.

From a project point of view, the Ethereum chain has a robust pipeline including EigenLayer, Ethena, and BlackRock’s BUIDL. Just Ethena synthetic dollar (USDe) alone amassed in a few months the entire market cap of stablecoins on Solana, a staggering $3 billion. This doesn’t mean that other chains won’t host important crypto projects – they certainly will. But only Ethereum (for now) hosts protocols with the history and track record necessary for institutions to participate with meaningful capital. Think of AAVE or Uniswap, for example.

Lastly, a higher ETH price could kick-start the Ethereum DeFi economy, setting off a powerful feedback loop. To take a simple example: just on AAVE, there is ~$9 billion of ETH-linked collateral (between wETH, wstETH, weETH), plus another $1 billion or so in L2s. Sure, some of this collateral is used for delta-neutral strategies like recursive lending and points farming, but most of it is likely not.

A higher ETH price – and collateral value – could act like a stimulus package for its crypto economy. It creates wealth effects, more spending, more investment, more leverage. Especially if ETH-related altcoins follow higher.

It’s too early to say, but we might look back at this moment when Ethereum establishes itself as the “Amazon” of the digital asset economy. If scenario unfolds (still a big “if”), it might relegate other smart contract layer 1s to niche players (like “Etsys”), even if still supporting thriving communities. It’s unclear (to me at least), whether this is the best path for the industry; perhaps a more balanced multi-chain world would ultimately maximize adoption – we may never know. But at this stage, Ethereum dominance sure looks like the most likely outcome.

Note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CoinDesk, Inc. or its owners and affiliates.

Edited by Benjamin Schiller.


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