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Coinbase Will Consider Listing Ethereum Forks Following Merge

The announcement from Coinbase comes as ETHW, a proposed proof-of-work Ethereum alternative, has plunged 93% in daily trading volume.

3 min read
Coinbase is the leading crypto exchange in the U.S. Image: Decrypt/André Beganski

With Ethereum’s long-anticipated merge just around the corner, crypto exchanges are now having to decide whether to support a controversial attempt to resist the transition

On Thursday, America’s largest crypto exchange signaled it may be willing to do so. 

Coinbase will consider listing forked, proof-of-work versions of Ethereum as they arise post-merge, the company announced in a blog post

At Coinbase, our goal is ​​to list every asset that is legal and safe to list, so that we create a level playing field for all the new assets being created in crypto while continuing to protect our customers,” stated the company, in an updated portion of a statement first published on August 16. “Should an ETH PoW fork arise following The Merge, this asset will be reviewed with the same rigor as any other asset that is listed on our exchange.”

The company had previously been mum on the subject of supporting forked Ethereum tokens, and has been vocal in its support for the new, proof-of-stake model of Ethereum set to be created by next month’s merge.

That new, staked Ethereum is what will power the upgraded, more energy-efficient proof-of-stake network. But it will also end the practice of proof-of-work ETH mining. Currently, ETH is created by an energy-intensive process in which so-called miners direct huge amounts of computer power at difficult-to-solve puzzles, in the hopes of obtaining blocks of newly-minted ETH.

In an effort to preserve the practice of ETH mining post-merge, a prominent Chinese crypto miner recently launched a campaign to fork, or split, the Ethereum network upon the merge, and in the process create an alternative, still-minable version of Ethereum operating on proof of work. That forked, proof-of-work version of ETH is called ETHW. 

Since that campaign began earlier this month, multiple crypto exchanges—including Justin Sun’s Poloniex, Huobi, BitMEX, and Bitrue—have begun listing ETHW-affiliated financial products, such as futures and exchange-specific “IOU” tokens that are contingent upon the ETHW fork actually taking place next month. 

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, did not jump to list such a financial product, but also did not rule out the possibility of eventually listing ETHW, stating it would consider supporting any forked Ethereum assets on a case-by-case basis dependent on “the same strict listing review process” used for other coins.

Thursday’s revised announcement from Coinbase is consistent with such an approach; both companies appear to be waiting to see if an ETHW fork actually occurs, and how its affiliated token fares in a post-merge environment. 

“IOU” versions of ETHW, meanwhile, have plummeted since receiving an initial round of speculative buzz. In the weeks following the token’s debut on Poloniex on August 8, ETHW plummeted some 62%, to $52.59. 

At writing, ETHW has plunged a further 13%, to $45.68, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

Further, 24-hour trading volume for the token has all-but collapsed, down 93% from a high of $13.8 million shortly after ETHW’s debut, to $957,589 on August 25.

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