The relative resilience of the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ethereum, in May’s cryptocurrency rout has put the spotlight back on the idea that it could one day overtake Bitcoin by market value.
Right now, Bitcoin is more than twice as big as Ether but in May, the gap narrowed by about $350 billion, courtesy of one of Bitcoin’s worst drops and a smaller retreat in Ether. Ethereum supporters cite its popularity for blockchain-based financial services and digital collectables, as well as an ongoing upgrade to boost the efficiency of the affiliated Ethereum network.
Ether “will likely exceed Bitcoin at some point in the future, as Ethereum will be superior when it comes to innovation and developer interest,” said Tegan Kline, co-founder of blockchain software company Edge & Node, according to Bloomberg. But she also informed that investors should be allocating capital to both tokens.
The speed of change in the crypto sector makes predictions dangerous. Even so, star investor Cathie Wood and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists are among those who highlighted Ether’s potential recently. More broadly, interest in virtual currencies has expanded out beyond Bitcoin. According to data from CoinGecko, Bitcoin’s share of $1.6 trillion in total crypto market value is down to 42% from about 70% going into 2021.
In a report last week, Goldman commodity strategists Mikhail Sprogis and Jeff Currie wrote that Bitcoin’s first-mover advantage appears “fragile,” adding there’s a high chance it will “eventually lose its crown as the dominant digital store of value to another cryptocurrency with greater practical use and technological agility.”
They said Ether seems the most likely candidate to surpass Bitcoin while adding the rider that such an “outcome is far from certain.” They also said that Ether’s annual supply growth is capped, which aids its credentials as a store of value.
Pat LaVecchia, chief executive of crypto broker Oasis Pro Markets LLC, argues Ether is starting to be viewed “as a better growth story” for the long term.
Bitcoin is down some 37% in May, one of its worst monthly slumps ever, while Ether is down about 11%. As of 8:27 a.m. in London, according to Bloomberg, the largest token retreated 1% to $35,750 and Ether was little changed at $2,447. Virtual currencies have been under pressure after Elon Musk criticized Bitcoin’s energy profile and China stepped up regulatory rhetoric.
For some, Bitcoin will not give up its top spot to any rivals, not least because of the sheer amount of attention it gets. For instance, Andrew Kiguel, chief executive of Tokens.com, argues Bitcoin has “the best outside validation signals” given how institutions and tycoons like Musk keep talking about it.
“Bitcoin will still remain king of the cryptos,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp. “Bitcoin had too big of a lead for Ethereum to catch and has one major advantage, a fixed supply of only 21 million coins.”
Ether is up more than 900% over the past year, exceeding Bitcoin’s 275% climb. Given the huge gains, the debate on what crypto insiders call “the flippening” — a future where Ether’s value overtakes Bitcoin — will likely stay alive for a while yet.