What is Ethereum?

How the digital currency works

Ethereum is the digital backbone of the Ether (ETH) digital currency. Like Bitcoin, Ethereum relies on blockchain technology to facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) monetary transactions via the internet.

What Is Ethereum?

There are a lot of similarities between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Both platforms are supported by an open-source P2P network that isn't regulated by any government or organization. Because the network is decentralized, it can never go offline. Ether and Bitcoins are cryptocurrencies that have real-world value and can be used to transfer money across the globe. There are no banks or other payment processing platforms involved.

Created by Vitalik Buterin in 2013, Ethereum is secured by a public ledger that keeps a record of all Ether transactions. Ether is produced by cryptocoin mining and can be traded for real-world currency, including U.S. dollars. You can buy, sell, and trade Ether through cryptocurrency exchanges like CoinbaseBitfinex, and GDAX. The value of Ether fluctuates just like any currency.

All Ethereum blockchain activity is public, so you can view and search for blockchain transactions on sites like Etherchain.org and EtherScan, but all personal data remains on your computer. Blockchains are difficult to hack or manipulate, but there have been cases of hackers stealing Ether from exchanges.

Beware of the warning signs of cryptocurrency scams. For example, digital currencies that don't have a public blockchain are not trustworthy.

How Is Ethereum Different From Bitcoin?

In addition to maintaining a log of every transaction like Bitcoin, the Ethereum blockchain uses smart contracts to track the current state of each account, ensuring faster and more secure transfers.

Ethereum is also the first programmable blockchain, giving software developers the ability to make unique applications using the Ethereum Virtual Machine. The Ethereum Virtual Machine, which is separate from the Ethereum network, is a runtime environment for developing smart contracts and apps. For example, Ethereum apps can be used to keep track of data, securely execute contracts, and set up automatic money transfers.

Because Ethereum runs on a decentralized network, there's never any downtime for apps. Developers maintain complete control over their assets, and they don't have to worry about the restrictions of platforms like Google Play or the Apple App Store. It's even possible to create your own cryptocurrency using Ethereum.

How Does Ethereum Work?

The Ethereum blockchain has two types of accounts: User accounts, also known as externally owned accounts (EOAs); and contract accounts, which are made up of code. Web developers can deploy code to the Ethereum blockchain by creating contract accounts. Each time an EOA sends a request to a contract account, the user is charged a small fee in Ether based on the computing power required.

Ethereum is supported by a system of nodes, which resides on the computers of volunteers who download and run the blockchain in exchange for Ether. These volunteers, called "miners," utilize their GPU and CPU resources to validate transactions and produce new Ether. The blockchain cannot be altered by individuals; all transactions are processed automatically by an algorithm.

You can join Ethereum mining pools like EthpoolF2Pool, and DwarfPool to split the responsibilities and rewards of running the blockchain with other users.

Ethereum Wallet

To use Ether and Ethereum applications, you must create an Ethereum Wallet. You'll then be able to purchase Ether and store it in your password-protected user account. Your Ethereum Wallet can be accessed via a desktop, mobile, or web app.

Only download the Ethereum Wallet app from Ethereum.org.

Ethereum Apps

Ethereum has been used to develop decentralized apps such as:

  • EtherTweet: An open-source Twitter alternative
  • Etheria: A Minecraft-clone built on the Ethereum blockchain
  • Weifund: A transparent crowd-funding platform
  • Mist: An Ethereum-based web browser
  • Gnosis: An open-source prediction and forecast market

Ethereum Classic vs Ethereum 2.0

Ethereum also allows for the creation of decentralized organizations, which are run entirely by code on the blockchain. In 2019, one such app, known as the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) was hacked, resulting in a loss of 50 million U.S. dollars in Ether.

The developers of Ethereum were able to return the funds by implementing a hard fork, which split the blockchain in two. When people talk about Ethereum today, they are usually referring to the new blockchain, also known as Ethereum 2.0. The original blockchain is now referred to as Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum Classic currency (ETC) is still mined and traded, but the value is much lower than ETH. You should use the current blockchain for creating apps since Ethereum Classic has been abandoned by its developers.