What is Ethereum?


In simplest words, Ethereum is an open-source, public blockchain much like Bitcoin, having its own cryptocurrency – Ether (ETH). It was launched in July 2015 by a blockchain enthusiast Vitalik Buterin, along with a Canadian entrepreneur Joseph Lubin and a British programmer Gavin Wood. Features of bitcoin blockchain like decentralization, digital currency, consensus mechanism, immutability, auditability, transparency, availability, cryptography etc. are applied to Ethereum as well.

However, it surpasses Bitcoin in features by being a programmable blockchain. While bitcoin blockchain can store just values, Ethereum can keep and execute code on its network. The code is called a smart contract and can be written in many languages, Solidity is the most popular.

Smart contract, once written and tested, is stored on Ethereum blockchain where it gets executed automatically when certain conditions are met. Ethereum executes smart contracts using Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) which is the runtime environment.

As per its flagship website – https://www.ethereum.org, Ethereum is the foundation of next-generation internet. An internet where:

  • money and payments are built-in.
  • users can own their data, and your apps don’t spy and steal from you.
  • everyone has access to an open financial system.
  • it is neutral, open-access infrastructure, controlled by no company or person.

Returning to the programmable part of Ethereum, let’s see how it can shape application development of the future. Smart contract feature of Ethereum blockchain gives birth to DApps, short for ‘Decentralized Applications’. Their fancy name comes from the fact that they live on the Ethereum network, and not on any centralized server.

Not just that, being on the blockchain means it is not controlled by anyone and it will run as programmed, always! Ethereum’s core belief is decentralization. This is precisely why its open source. Much of the Ethereum’s evolution is attributed to its versatile global community which contributes to every aspect of Ethereum development and growth.

Application (or rather DApp) developers, Ether holders, core protocol developers and researchers, miners, companies eager to leverage Ethereum etc. are some of the significant participants of the Ethereum spectrum which are growing by the day.

Ethereum is often touted as ‘World Computer’. In computer science language, it is described as a deterministic as well as unbounded state machine which features a globally accessible singleton state and a mechanism to apply changes to that state. Here, the ‘deterministic’ part of Ethereum states that with a given input, it will always produce the same output. There is no randomness as far as its execution is concerned.

‘Unbounded’ part highlights the fact that it can continue to grow as blockchain as new blocks are created and append to it, practically unbounded. ‘Singleton state’ here is being referred to as any Ether or data value which always stays across the nodes of the Ethereum network.

Ethereum is said to be pioneering the next evolutionary state of world wide web – Web 3.0! As a refresher, when the internet arrived in the 90s with static web pages, it was really the first version of the Web. Then in the early 20s, when websites started hosting user responsive interfaces, dynamic content, etc, it was referred to as Web 2.0.

Now, with Ethereum paving way, Web 3.0 will have peer-to-peer and decentralization embedded in web development protocol.

Promises, claims and expectations towards a better future are on the rise as Ethereum is being embraced by industry but only time will be the eternal judge of the success of Ethereum and its magnitude.

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