What is Ethereum?


Ethereum is a global, decentralized platform for money and new kinds of applications. On Ethereum, you can write code that controls money, and build applications accessible anywhere in the world.

If you want to know what is Ethereum, how it works, and what it can be used for, without going deep into the technical abyss, this guide is perfect for you.

Important Note: This guide assumes a basic understanding of blockchain technology. If you’re unfamiliar with blockchain, check out this step by step introduction for beginners.


What is Ethereum?

Beyond Bitcoin & first generation decentralized applications

Although commonly associated with Bitcoin, blockchain technology has many other applications that go way beyond digital currencies. In fact, Bitcoin is only one of several hundred applications that use blockchain technology today.


“[Blockchain] is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. Currency is just one.” Sally Davies, FT Technology Reporter

Until relatively recently, building blockchain applications has required a complex background in coding, cryptography, mathematics as well as significant resources. But times have changed. Previously unimagined applications, from electronic voting & digitally recorded property assets to regulatory compliance & trading are now actively being developed and deployed faster than ever before. By providing developers with the tools to build decentralized applications, Ethereum is making all of this possible.


What is Ethereum for beginners?

Key Highlights

November 2013: Vitalik Buterin publishes the Ethereum whitepaper.


January 2014: The development of the Ethereum platform was publicly announced. The original Ethereum development team consisted of Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Anthony Di Iorio, and Charles Hoskinson.

August 2014: Ethereum ends their ICO and raises $18.4 million.

May 2015: “Olympic” the Ethereum testnet releases.

July 30, 2015: The first stage of Ethereum’s development, “Frontier” was released.

March 14, 2016: Homestead, the first “stable” Ethereum release, went out on block 1,150,000.

June 2016: The DAO hack happens and the $50 million worth of Ether, which was 15% of the total Ether in circulation back at the time.

October 25, 2016: Ethereum Classic forks away from the original Ethereum protocol.

October 16, 2017: The Metropolis Byzantium hardfork update happens.

February 28, 2019: The Metropolis Constantinople hardfork update happens.

At its simplest, Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications.

Is Ethereum similar to Bitcoin? Well, sort of, but not really.

Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is a distributed public blockchain network. Although there are some significant technical differences between the two, the most important distinction to note is that Bitcoin and Ethereum differ substantially in purpose and capability. Bitcoin offers one particular application of blockchain technology, a peer to peer electronic cash system that enables online Bitcoin payments. While the Bitcoin blockchain is used to track ownership of digital currency (bitcoins), the Ethereum blockchain focuses on running the programming code of any decentralized application.

In the Ethereum blockchain, instead of mining for bitcoin, miners work to earn Ether, a type of crypto token that fuels the network. Beyond a tradeable cryptocurrency, Ether is also used by application developers to pay for transaction fees and services on the Ethereum network.

There is a second type of token that is used to pay miners fees for including transactions in their block, it is called gas, and every smart contract execution requires a certain amount of gas to be sent along with it to entice miners to put it in the blockchain.

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