Will Ethereum Overtake Bitcoin? Crypto 'Flippening,' Explained

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Nov. 1 2021, Published 1:07 p.m. ET

Bitcoin has been the biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, while Ethereum holds the second rank. However, markets are now speculating that Ethereum could overtake Bitcoin to become the largest crypto by market cap—a process that in crypto lingo is known as “flippening.” Will crypto flippening happen and what are the implications?

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The cryptocurrency market has been red hot over the last year. After falling below $150 billion during the March 2020 crash, the total cryptocurrency market cap is now around $2.5 trillion.

Cryptocurrencies have been very volatile.

Cryptocurrencies have been very volatile in 2021. Earlier this year, Bbitcoin prices rose above $60,000 for the first time. However, they soon plunged below $30,000 amid the crackdown in China. Bitcoin hit a new record high in October after the launch of the bitcoin ETF in the U.S.

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Bitcoin versus other cryptocurrencies

While Bitcoin has historically been the biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, its dominance, or the percentage of Bitcoin’s market cap to the total cryptocurrency market cap, has been very volatile. For example, Bitcoin’s market cap was over 94 percent of the total crypto market cap in 2013, which was two years before Ethereum launched.

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Bitcoin’s market cap as a percentage of the total crypto market cap was generally around 80 percent until 2016. However, as Bitcoin prices crashed in the first half of 2017, the metric fell below 50 percent by the middle of the year. Since 2019, Bitcoin’s market cap has been around half of the total crypto market cap.

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However, Ethereum’s market cap as a percentage of the total crypto market cap has swelled to almost 20 percent. It's the second-largest crypto by market cap even though its total value is less than half of Bitcoin’s market cap. Looking at the volatility in cryptocurrency markets, flippening looks like a real possibility.

Cryptocurrency flippening

Kelvin Ting, the head of blockchain strategy at crypto exchange EQONEX, said, “Ethereum has generally gained pace on bitcoin during bullish runs.” He added, “If it’s to overtake bitcoin in market cap terms, it is more likely to occur when both are increasing in value.” Crypto trader Michaël van de Poppe thinks that flippening in crypto markets could happen over the next nine months.

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Many other people scoff at the idea that Ethereum can ever overtake Bitcoin in terms of market cap. This isn't the first time that crypto traders are speculating about flippening. Such chatter has gained traction in the past.

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Currently, Ethereum’s market cap as a percentage of Bitcoin’s market cap is just above half of the all-time highs that we saw in the middle of 2017. In June 2017, Ethereum’s market cap as a percentage of Bitcoin had risen above 83 percent, according to Buy Bitcoin Worldwide. Currently, the ratio is about 45 percent.

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What would flippening mean for crypto markets?

Some traders think that flippening would take crypto markets to uncharted waters. Markets have been used to seeing Bitcoin as the biggest cryptocurrency, which earned it the title of "digital gold." There has been flippening of sorts in the meme cryptocurrency space and Shiba Inu's market cap swelled above Dogecoin.

Flippening isn't something that can be ruled out. In the past, Ethereum has come closer to overtaking Bitcoin and could very well do so again.

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