When will Ethereum stakers be able to withdraw their funds? Here’s what we know so far

December 1, 2022, 4:41 PM UTC
Illustration by Fortune

The Ethereum Merge happened two months ago, and investors are now anxious to receive a definitive timeline for the next network upgrade: Shanghai.

That’s because the Shanghai fork is supposed to include EIP (Ethereum Improvement Proposal) 4895, which will allow Beacon chain withdrawals.

Before the Merge, users were able to stake Ether—or lock it in the network’s Beacon chain smart contract—to be eligible for withdrawal post-upgrade. In return, stakers were offered rewards.

For a while, Ethereum developers and the Ethereum Foundation have said that withdrawals would likely be possible six to 12 months after the Merge.

Now, however, things are a bit more up in the air. The Ethereum Foundation removed an estimated timeline for Shanghai from its website, and developers have gone back and forth on the date during community calls.

Stakers, of course, are wondering when they’ll actually be able to retrieve their funds—especially in today’s market, where sentiment is understandably fearful after the FTX debacle and BlockFi’s recent bankruptcy declaration that followed freezing customer withdrawals.

Though Ethereum, its developers, and the Foundation are not in any way an exchange, many stakers still want to know when they can access their staked Ether.

The answer depends on a few factors, Ethereum core developer Marius van der Wijden tells Fortune. Nothing is set in stone, but currently, March seems likely.

“It’s so hard to schedule because a lot of people want to get their EIP included in Shanghai, and they are in different states of readiness,” van der Wijden said. “So it’s hard to gauge which EIPs are beneficial, easy enough to couple with withdrawals, and in a state to be implemented by all teams.” 

By this, he is referring to the debate between teams to determine what other proposals should or shouldn’t be implemented during the Shanghai fork alongside EIP 4895 for withdrawals. The more complicated proposals that are included, the more time teams need to prepare.

Tim Beiko, protocol support lead at the Ethereum Foundation, agreed.

“We aren’t sure if anything else will go alongside withdrawals in Shanghai. If so, then it would delay things. We’ll try and make that decision on the Dec. 8 call,” Beiko tells Fortune.

As of now, developers mostly agree that EIP 4844 for “protodanksharding,” the highly anticipated Ethereum scaling solution, should ship separately from EIP 4895 for withdrawals. But they continue to debate other specifics.

In addition, “as always, it’s hard to predict the amount of testing [and] debugging we’ll need. We’ll always choose to ship something safe versus fast, so March is a best-guess estimate, assuming the scope doesn’t change much and nothing surprising comes up during testing,” Beiko said, adding that the Ethereum Foundation doesn’t set the timeline or road map for the upgrade.

“[Personally] I think that [Shanghai] might shift by one or two months depending on if we add EOF,” van der Wijden said. EOF, or EVM Object Format, EIPs include many very technical implementations. If done, some within the Ethereum community say that EOF EIPs will be the Ethereum Virtual Machine’s “biggest change since genesis.”

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