A hard fork is a kind of tool for reaching agreement between members of the crypto community regarding the changes being implemented, and it can also be used to launch new crypto projects.
The development team of the world's second most popular cryptocurrency Ethereum conducted a Shanghai-Capella (Shapella) hard fork in the Goerli testnet. In essence, this was the preface to its activation in the main network, scheduled for mid-April 2023. The hard fork includes changes for the consensus and execution levels of Ethereum, and its main task is to open access to receiving ETH from staking - that is, the withdrawal of coins blocked there.
The Shapella update, as its name implies, combines two upcoming Shanghai and Capella hard forks. Shanghai is a fork for the execution layer (formerly ETH 1.0), and Capella is for the consensus layer (formerly ETH 2.0). To implement the update, validators are required to deposit at least 32 ETH ($52 thousand), this is necessary to verify transactions in the Ethereum blockchain.
Is the introduction of Shapella important? Definitely. At least because the whole market is waiting with bated breath for the momentous moment when 16 million ETH, currently blocked in staking, will be able to be withdrawn by network validators to their own wallets. This means that a stream of coins will pour into the open market - and those that the validators initially deposited as collateral, and those that they received for processing transactions in the blockchain. It is worth saying that the update contains a number of other useful features, but they will be noticeable only to the most advanced users, so much emphasis is not placed on them.
Thus, this hard fork has become one of the most anticipated by all investors in the community. And all because the situation with Ethereum staking developed as follows. Those who decided to participate in it knew in advance that their assets and the income received from them would be blocked indefinitely. The first validators started placing coins in the betting back in 2020. And in July 2022, analysts at Glassnode concluded that 2/3 of those whose coins were blocked suffered serious losses due to the May collapse of the crypto market, but technically could not influence it in any way. And it is the upcoming long-awaited update that should make the assets available again both for early network validators and for those who joined it later, after Ethereum switched to PoS.