After years of development and delays, Ethereum's long-awaited "merge" occurred this week, changing the network's consensus mechanism from proof-of-work (POW) to proof-of-stake (POS) (specifically, Ethereum's newer POS-based "Beacon Chain," unveiled in December, "merged" with the original Ethereum blockchain). The update ends the network's reliance on the energy-intensive process of cryptocurrency mining to create blocks on the Ethereum blockchain. Instead, the Ethereum network will now rely on "validators" — people who "stake" or "lock" ETH by sending their ETH to an address on the Ethereum network where they cannot be bought or sold. The more ETH a validator stakes, the more likely it will be chosen by the network to validate/write the next "block" of transactions for Ethereum's blockchain. The upgrade is expected to reduce Ethereum's energy consumption (by more than 99 percent according to some estimates) and make the platform easier and less costly to use.

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