Ethereum Review – What is Ethereum

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Contents

Ethereum 101

Chapter 01

What is Ethereum?

Before you can understand ethereum, it helps to first understand the internet.

Today, our personal data, passwords and financial information are all largely stored on other people’s computers – in clouds and servers owned by companies like Amazon, Facebook or Google. Even this CoinDesk article is stored on a server controlled by a company that charges to hold this data should it be called upon.

This setup has a number of conveniences, as these companies deploy teams of specialists to help store and secure this data, and remove the costs that come with hosting and uptime.

But with this convenience, there is also vulnerability. As we’ve learned, a hacker or a government can gain unwelcome access to your files without your knowledge, by influencing or attacking a third-party service – meaning they can steal, leak or change important information.

Brian Behlendorf, creator of the Apache Web Server, has gone so far as to label this centralized design the “original sin” of the Internet. Some like Behlendorf argue the Internet was always meant to be decentralized, and a splintered movement has sprung up around using new tools, including blockchain technology, to help achieve this goal.

Ethereum is one of the newest technologies to join this movement.

While bitcoin aims to disrupt PayPal and online banking, ethereum has the goal of using a blockchain to replace internet third parties — those that store data, transfer mortgages and keep track of complex financial instruments.

The ‘World Computer’

In short, ethereum wants to be a ‘World Computer’ that would decentralize – and some would argue, democratize – the existing client-server model.

With ethereum, servers and clouds are replaced by thousands of so-called “nodes” run by volunteers from across the globe (thus forming a “world computer”).

The vision is that ethereum would enable this same functionality to people anywhere around the world, enabling them to compete to offer services on top of this infrastructure.

Scrolling through a typical app store, for example, you’ll see a variety of colorful squares representing everything from banking to fitness to messaging apps. These apps rely on the company (or another third-party service) to store your credit card information, purchasing history and other personal data – somewhere, generally in servers controlled by third-parties.

Your choice of apps is of course also governed by third parties, as Apple and Google maintain and curate (or in some cases, censor) the specific apps you’re able to download.

Take the example of an online document service like Evernote or Google Docs.

Ethereum, if all goes according to plan, would return control of the data in these types of services to its owner and the creative rights to its author.

The idea is that one entity will no longer have control over your notes and that no one could suddenly ban the app itself, temporarily taking all of your notebooks offline. Only the user can make changes, not any other entity.

In theory, it combines the control that people had over their information in the past with the easy-to-access information that we’re used to in the digital age. Each time you save edits, or add or delete notes, every node on the network makes the change.

It’s worth noting that the idea has been met with skepticism.

Although the apps appear to be possible, it’s unclear which blockchain applications will actually prove useful, secure, or scalable, and if they will ever be as convenient to use as the apps we use today.

Authored by Alyssa Hertig; Images by Maria Kuznetsov

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Chapter 02

How to Use Ethereum

The thought of using ethereum might sound intimidating, but it could be rewarding.

If the ‘unstoppable world computer’ develops according to plan, it could provide alternatives to the Facebooks and Googles that many people use everyday (as explained in “What is Ethereum?“).

Ethereum might not be as intuitive as the web as we know it today, but still, anyone with a computer or a smartphone can try the platform out as long as they own ‘ether‘ – unique pieces of code that allow updates to the blockchain’s ledger.

Ethereum wallets

First, you need a place to securely store your ether (or at least a place to store your private keys). This brings us to ethereum ‘wallets’.

One caveat is that losing your private key is a much bigger deal than misplacing a password: it means losing your ether, forever.

Removing trusted parties is a two-edged sword. While intermediaries are no longer needed to verify transactions, there’s no help desk to turn to for help recovering your secret key.

With that in mind, there are plenty of options for wallets to store cryptocurrency: desktop wallets, web wallets, hardware wallets and paper wallets.

Choosing one depends on your preferences for convenience and security. Usually these two concepts are at odds with one another: the more convenient, the worse the security (and vice versa).

Desktop wallets

Desktop wallets run on your PC or laptop. One option is to download an ethereum client (a copy of the entire ethereum blockchain). There are a few ethereum clients written in different programming languages and with different performance tradeoffs.

This process can take up to a couple days, and will only increase as ethereum grows. The wallet then needs to stay in sync with the latest transactions on the blockchain.

Mobile wallets

Mobile clients, or ‘light’ clients, require less data to be downloaded to connect to the network and make transactions, so they are more suitable for download to a smart phone.

The light client option is more convenient, but not quite as safe. Full ethereum clients offer a more secure way of receiving transactions because they do not need to trust miners or nodes to send them accurate information – they validate transactions themselves.

Storing private keys on a device that is detached from the internet (a method known as ‘cold storage’) is harder to hack and is best used for storing large ether holdings.

However, the method is not as easy to use as when ether is stored on a smartphone or internet-connected computer.

Hardware wallets

Hardware wallets, which are often as small as a finger or two, arguably offer the best of both worlds. These secure devices that can often be detached from the internet, and can sign transactions without being online.

But again, this deposit-box-like system is not a good option if you want to use ether frequently or on the move.

Paper wallets

Another cold storage option is to print or carefully handwrite a private key on a slip of paper, a ‘paper wallet’, and lock it somewhere secure like a deposit box. Online tools can generate key pairs directly on your computer – not on a website’s servers, which could leave keys vulnerable if the site is hacked.

It’s also possible to generate keys using the command line, provided you have the necessary cryptographic packages installed for your preferred language.

All that said, again, if you lose your private key, it’s gone for good.

So, best practice is to spend some extra time creating multiple copies of the private key and stashing them in different secure locations, in case one is lost or destroyed.

Buying ether

Obtaining ether varies by country, or at least by currency. You need to find someone either online or in-person who has ether and wants to trade.

There’s always the option of meeting in-person to buy or sell ether, especially if living in a city with frequent ethereum meetups, such as New York or Toronto.

That’s not always an option in less populated areas. Exchanges allow users to buy ether directly with dollars or bitcoin. Typically there is a sign-up process.

Buying ether with another currency might take an extra step.

Bitcoin is the most commonly used cryptocurrency, and people around the world are more likely to want to trade for it in their currency. So, if you want to buy ether for rubles, for instance, the easiest way might be to purchase bitcoin at an exchange and then trade that for ether.

Once you have ether, you can send it directly to another person (‘peer-to-peer’). It will likely cost a small transaction fee paid to miners.

Now what?

What can users do once they have ether?

You may have noticed that the wallet and exchange lingo up to this point has been quite similar to bitcoin. But ethereum applications are quite different.

Users with ether can join or create smart contracts (code that automatically executes the terms of an agreement so that you don’t have to rely on a third party).

Bundles of smart contracts can be used to create decentralized applications (‘dapps’), which you can use or join.

What’s the system?

But before we go any further, it’s worth explaining a little bit about how it works. Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have an admittedly confusing storage system.

Perhaps it’s useful to compare it to what we already know.

Notice the string of numbers on the front of your credit card? It’s necessary for banks to determine where they should send money when the card is swiped. Cryptocurrencies allow you to generate similar identification numbers that identify where to debit funds.

In this system, there are two main components that users need for identification: the public key and the private key. Usually represented as a scrambled string of numbers and letters, the two keys are linked together by cryptography.

The public key can be sent to others so that they know where to send your money. If you want people to send you ether, you need an address: a scrambled string of letters and numbers derived from the similarly scrambled public key, for people to send coins to.

To spend ether, you need to sign over the funds with your private key, which, as the name implies, is similar to a password. In the credit card analogy, it’s similar to the pin used to unlock your funds at the ATM or in a store.

So, what’s the benefit of this system? One key difference in open blockchains (such as bitcoin and ethereum) is that users can generate an identification number for their funds at any time. They don’t need to wait for a bank to approve a bank account application and present the credit card.

Authored by Alyssa Hertig

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Chapter 03

How Ethereum Works

Now that we’ve covered what ethereum is, let’s dive deeper into how the platform functions under the hood.

Consider the online notebook application described in “What is Ethereum?”

Using ethereum, the app doesn’t require one entity to store and control its data. To accomplish this, ethereum borrows heavily from bitcoin’s protocol and its blockchain design, but tweaks it to support applications beyond money.

Ethereum aims to abstract away bitcoin’s design, however, so that developers can create applications or agreements that have additional steps, new rules of ownership, alternative transaction formats or different ways to transfer state.

The goal of ethereum’s ‘Turing-complete’ programming language is to allow developers to write more programs in which blockchain transactions could govern and automate specific outcomes.

This flexibility is perhaps ethereum’s primary innovation, as explained in the guide “How Ethereum Smart Contracts Work“.

The ethereum blockchain

The structure of the ethereum blockchain is very similar to bitcoin’s, in that it is a shared record of the entire transaction history. Every node on the network stores a copy of this history.

The big difference with ethereum is that its nodes store the most recent state of each smart contract, in addition to all of the ether transactions. (This is much more complicated than described, but the text below should help you get your feet wet.)

For each ethereum application, the network needs to keep track of the ‘state’, or the current information of all of these applications, including each user’s balance, all the smart contract code and where it’s all stored.

Bitcoin uses unspent transaction outputs to track who has how much bitcoin.

While it sounds more complex, the idea is fairly simple. Every time a bitcoin transaction is made, the network ‘breaks’ the total amount as if it was paper money, issuing back bitcoins in a way that makes the data behave similarly to physical coins or change.

To make future transactions, the bitcoin network must add up all your pieces of change, which are classed as either ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’.

Ethereum, on the other hand, uses accounts.

Like bank account funds, ether tokens appear in a wallet, and can be ported (so to speak) to another account. Funds are always somewhere, yet don’t have what you might call a continued relationship.

What is the ethereum virtual machine?

With ethereum, every time a program is used, a network of thousands of computers processes it.

Contracts written in a smart contract-specific programming languages are compiled into ‘bytecode’, which a feature called the ‘ethereum virtual machine’ (EVM) can read and execute.

All the nodes execute this contract using their EVMs.

Remember that every node in the network holds a copy of the transaction and smart contract history of the network, in addition to keeping track of the current ‘state’. Every time a user performs some action, all of the nodes on the network need to come to agreement that this change took place.

The goal here is for the network of miners and nodes to take responsibility for transferring the shift from state to state, rather than some authority such as PayPal or a bank. Bitcoin miners validate the shift of ownership of bitcoins from one person to another. The EVM executes a contract with whatever rules the developer initially programmed.

Actual computation on the EVM is achieved through a stack-based bytecode language (the ones and zeroes that a machine can read), but developers can write smart contracts in high-level languages such as Solidity and Serpent that are easier for humans to read and write.

As explained in our guide “How Ethereum Mining Works“, miners are the ones that are preventing bad behavior – like ensuring that no one is spending their money more than once and rejecting smart contracts that haven’t been paid for.

There are a few thousand ethereum nodes out there, and every node is compiling and executing the same code.

But, you might be thinking, isn’t that much more expensive than a normal computation? Yes, it is. That’s why the network might only be used only for particular use cases.

The official ethereum dev tutorial concedes this inefficiency, stating:

“Roughly, a good heuristic to use is that you will not be able to do anything on the EVM that you cannot do on a smartphone from 1999.”

Authored by Alyssa Hertig; images by Maria Kuznetsov

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Chapter 04

What is a Decentralized Application?

Internet users don’t have sole control over the data they share on today’s websites.

Ethereum is unique in that it attempts to wield the blockchain as a way to correct what its designers believe is a problematic part of the internet’s design.

It’s like a “decentralized appstore” where anyone can publish their unstoppable apps (dapps), which unlike today’s apps (think Gmail or Uber) don’t require a middleman to function or to manage a user’s information.

Dapps connect users and providers directly.

One example is to use this design for a decentralized Twitter that’s resistant to censorship. Once you publish a message to the blockchain, it can’t be erased, not even by the company that created the microblogging system.

There isn’t one definition of a dapp, though, as it’s a newer concept.

A couple of main characteristics are that they’re open source and don’t have a central point of failure.

Three types

With this new technology out in the wild, ethereum advocates might feel electrified by the thought of decentralizing “all the things.” But the types of applications that users can build with the computing platform might be somewhat narrow.

The ethereum white paper splits dapps into three types: apps that manage money, apps where money is involved (but also requires another piece), and apps in the “other” category, which includes voting and governance systems.

In the first type of app, a user may need to exchange ether as a way to settle a contract with another user, using the network’s distributed computer nodes as a way to facilitate the distribution of this data.

The second type of app mixes money with information from outside the blockchain.

For example, a crop insurance application that’s dependent on an outside weather feed. (Say a farmer buys a derivative that automatically pays out if there’s a drought that impacts his work.)

To execute, these smart contracts rely on so-called “oracles” that relay up-to-date information about the outside world. (Though, it’s worth noting that some developers are skeptical that this use case can be done in a decentralized way.)

If bitcoin can do away with financial authorities, is it possible to do the same for companies and other types of organizations?

Decentralized autonomous organizations are one particularly ambitious breed of dapp (this is explained further in ‘What is a DAO?‘).

The goal is form a leaderless company, program rules at the beginning about how members can vote and how to release company funds and then… let it go.

Authored by Alyssa Hertig; images by Maria Kuznetsov

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Chapter 05

How Do Ethereum Smart Contracts Work?

Like many ideas in the blockchain industry, a general confusion shrouds so called ‘smart contracts’.

A new technology made possible by public blockchains, smart contracts are difficult to understand because the term partly confuses the core interaction described.

While a standard contract outlines the terms of a relationship (usually one enforceable by law), a smart contract enforces a relationship with cryptographic code.

Put differently, smart contracts are programs that execute exactly as they are set up to by their creators.

First conceived in 1993, the idea was originally described by computer scientist and cryptographer Nick Szabo as a kind of digital vending machine. In his famous example, he described how users could input data or value, and receive a finite item from a machine, in this case a real-world snack or a soft drink.

In a simple example, ethereum users can send 10 ether to a friend on a certain date using a smart contract (See our guide “What is Ether?“).

In this case, the user would create a contract, and push the data to that contract so that it could execute the desired command.

Ethereum is a platform that’s built specifically for creating smart contracts.

But these new tools aren’t intended to be used in isolation. It is believed that they can also form the building blocks for ‘decentralized applications’ (See: “What is a Dapp?“) and even whole decentralized autonomous companies (See: “What is a DAO?‘)

How smart contracts work

It’s worth noting that bitcoin was the first to support basic smart contracts in the sense that the network can transfer value from one person to another. The network of nodes will only validate transactions if certain conditions are met.

But, bitcoin is limited to the currency use case.

By contrast, ethereum replaces bitcoin’s more restrictive language (a scripting language of a hundred or so scripts) and replaces it with a language that allows developers to write their own programs.

Ethereum allows developers to program their own smart contracts, or ‘autonomous agents’, as the ethereum white paper calls them. The language is ‘Turing-complete’, meaning it supports a broader set of computational instructions.

Smart contracts can:

  • Function as ‘multi-signature’ accounts, so that funds are spent only when a required percentage of people agree
  • Manage agreements between users, say, if one buys insurance from the other
  • Provide utility to other contracts (similar to how a software library works)
  • Store information about an application, such as domain registration information or membership records.

Strength in numbers

Extrapolating that last point, smart contracts are likely to need assistance from other smart contracts.

When someone places a simple bet on the temperature on a hot summer day, it might trigger a sequence of contracts under the hood.

One contract would use outside data to determine the weather, and another contract could settle the bet based on the information it received from the first contract when the conditions are met.

Running each contract requires ether transaction fees, which depend on the amount of computational power required.

As explained in our guide “How Ethereum Works“, ethereum runs smart contract code when a user or another contract sends it a message with enough transaction fees.

The Ethereum Virtual Machine then executes smart contracts in ‘bytecode’, or a series of ones and zeroes that can be read and interpreted by the network.

Authored by Alyssa Hertig; images by Maria Kuznetsov

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Chapter 06

How Ethereum Mining Works

Today, miners play an important role in making sure ethereum works.

This role isn’t immediately obvious, though.

Many new users think that the sole purpose of mining is to generate ethers in a way that doesn’t require a central issuer (see our guide “What is Ether?“). This is true. Ethereum’s tokens are created through the process of mining at a rate of 5 ether per mined block. But mining also has another at least as important role.

Usually, banks are in charge of keeping accurate records of transactions. They ensure that money isn’t created out of thin air, and that users don’t cheat and spend their money more than once.

Blockchains, though, introduce an entirely new way of record-keeping, one where the entire network, rather than an intermediary, verifies transactions and adds them to the public ledger.

Although a ‘trustless’ or ‘trust-minimizing’ monetary system is the goal, someone still needs to secure the financial records, ensuring that no one cheats.

Mining is one innovation that makes decentralized record-keeping possible.

Miners come to consensus about the transaction history while preventing fraud (notably the double spending of ethers) – an interesting problem that hadn’t been solved in decentralized currencies before proof-of-work blockchains.

Although ethereum is looking into other methods of coming to consensus about the validity of transactions, mining currently holds the platform together.

How mining works

Today, ethereum’s mining process is almost the same as bitcoin’s.

For each block of transactions, miners use computers to repeatedly and very quickly guess answers to a puzzle until one of them wins.

More specifically, the miners will run the block’s unique header metadata (including timestamp and software version) through a hash function (which will return a fixed-length, scrambled string of numbers and letters that looks random), only changing the ‘nonce value’, which impacts the resulting hash value.

If the miner finds a hash that matches the current target, the miner will be awarded ether and broadcast the block across the network for each node to validate and add to their own copy of the ledger. If miner B finds the hash, miner A will stop work on the current block and repeat the process for the next block.

It’s difficult for miners to cheat at this game. There’s no way to fake this work and come away with the correct puzzle answer. That’s why the puzzle-solving method is called ‘proof-of-work’.

On the other hand, it takes almost no time for others to verify that the hash value is correct, which is exactly what each node does.

Approximately every 12–15 seconds, a miner finds a block. If miners start to solve the puzzles more quickly or slowly than this, the algorithm automatically readjusts the difficulty of the problem so that miners spring back to roughly the 12-second solution time.

The miners randomly earn these ether, and their profitability depends on luck and the amount of computing power they devote to it.

The specific proof-of-work algorithm that ethereum uses is called ‘ethash’, designed to require more memory to make it harder to mine using expensive ASICs – specialized mining chips that are now the only profitable way of mining bitcoin.

In a sense, ethash might have succeeded in that purpose, since dedicated ASICs aren’t available to mine ethereum (at least not yet).

Furthermore, since ethereum aims to transition from proof-of-work mining to ‘proof of stake’ – which we discuss below – buying an ASIC might not be a smart option since it likely won’t prove useful for long.

Shift to proof of stake

Ethereum might not need miners forever, though.

Developers plan to ditch proof-of-work, the algorithm that the network currently uses to determine which transactions are valid and protect it from tampering, in favor of proof of stake, where the network is secured by the owners of tokens.

If and when that algorithm is rolled out, proof-of-stake could be a means for achieving distributed consensus that uses fewer resources.

Authored by Alyssa Hertig

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

What is Ethereum (ETH)?

What is Ethereum (ETH)?

Ethereum is an open platform that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications such as smart contracts and other complex legal and financial applications. You can think of Ethereum as a programmable Bitcoin where developers can use the underlying blockchain to create markets, shared ledgers, digital organizations, and other endless possibilities that need immutable data and agreements, all without the need for a middleman. Released in 2020, Ethereum is the brainchild of the prodigious Vitalik Buterin, who saw the potential uses of Bitcoin’s underlying blockchain technology as the next steps in furthering the expansion of the blockchain community. Ethereum is now currently the cryptocurrency with the second highest coin market cap and is expected by some to surpass Bitcoin as both a valued investment and as the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.

The Ethereum Blockchain & Ethereum Virtual Machine

The interesting thing about the blockchains that came before Ethereum is that their operating systems were only designed to exchange specific coded items over transactions, primarily being the network’s supported cryptocurrency. Vitalik Buterin saw this as a feature that had plenty of room for expansion, and in response he proposed a solution that would allow developers to customize the form of the data they could send and store over a blockchain network. This was made possible with the introduction of the Ethereum Virtual Machine and its corresponding programming language Solidity that allows developers to develop customizable transactions known as smart contracts.

Smart Contracts on Ethereum Blockchain

When Vitalik Buterin expanded on Bitcoin’s secure transaction technology, he found on an abstract level that a transaction in itself is secured with a contract. Simply put, a contract is an agreement between two parties securing the promise of a one- or two-way exchange. Buterin therefore designed the Ethereum Virtual Machine with this in mind; that any transaction over the blockchain network should be self-executed once agreed upon by both parties and should be recorded on a public blockchain ledger. This self-execution is what makes these contracts “smart,” and thereby opened up an entirely new universe for business accountability and in turn a new economy.

Decentralized Applications (DAPPS) on Ethereum Blockchain

So by now you are probably asking yourself about what kinds of applications can be made on the Ethereum blockchain. The answer is truly limitless. Just imagine all of the transactions that you make on a daily basis; whether it be the emails you send your colleagues, the money that you donate to charity, or the rent you pay for your home, all can make use of smart contracts. For convenience sake, we decided to include the examples of potential applications that can make effective use of smart contracts brought to us by the Ethereum whitepaper: token systems, financial derivatives, identity and reputation systems, decentralized file storage and voting systems.

Ether (ETH) and the Economics of Ethereum Gas

Just like the Bitcoin blockchain and all the blockchains that come before, Ethereum requires miners to maintain and secure the network, incentivized by the reward of an Ethereum token, known as an Ether. While Ether can be used just like Bitcoin to send tokens from one address to another, they can also be used to pay for Ethereum gas.

Gas runs the Ethereum Network. Every transaction made on the Ethereum Virtual Machine and every smart contract executed costs gas. The amount of gas required to carry out the transaction is determined by the size of the contract or transaction. This gas system keeps the network from wasting resources on lengthy transactions. If a developer creates a smart contract application that does not supply enough gas to complete the transactions, miners on the network will quit validation on that task. This poses an issue for developers who naively develop applications on the Ethereum Virtual Machine–if the application does not allocate enough gas to specific contracts, those contracts will not be carried out over the network. This will negatively affect the reliability of the application and the overall experience of the application’s user base. Ultimately, this system keeps the computational power contributed to the network by miners working in full economic efficiency.

You can also think of Ethereum gas as the wage for mining contributions. The Ethereum Virtual Machine schedules miners on specific tasks to keep the machine running most efficiently. Despite the number of transactions that happen over the network, this efficiency scheme keeps the transaction validation timely, and thus the velocity of blockchain confirmations much shorter than blockchains who chose not to utilize a gas system.

What is Ethereum’s Legacy?

Whether it be the Ethereum Virtual Machine, Ethereum smart contracts, or Ethereum gas, many of the innovative features that Ethereum has brought to the blockchain community have made a significant impact on further developments in blockchain technology. Smart contracts have started a new wave of technology consulting services; firms that can implement transactions as smart contracts have been contracted as consultancies by numerous organizations that wish to decentralize their network transactions. Whether it be supply chain, financial derivatives, or political party voting systems, smart contracts have been the biggest takeaway from the crypto craze in 2020. Several organizations in a range of sectors now have Blockchain departments in order to monitor and expand on cryptocurrency research/ technology.

Ethereum has also inspired us here at Ethos in numerous ways. Ethereum is one of the most popular cryptocurrencies on the market right now, and it can be stored on the Ethos Universal Wallet . As always, we remind our readers and users alike to educate themselves as much as possible on cryptocurrency concepts and blockchain news. We make this reminder in the hopes of ensuring that our users make educated, well-informed decisions when participating in the blockchain community.

Что такое Эфириум (Ethereum) простыми словами

Ethereum (эфириум, эфир) – это одновременно и криптовалюта, и функциональная децентрализованная среда, которая по-настоящему революционизировала всю IT-сферу.

Создатели эфира, среди которых выделяется Виталик Бутерин, при запуске этой платформы преследовали стандартные для авторов криптовалют цели – улучшение Bitcoin. Однако, эфир сложно назвать биткоином 2.0. Они в чем-то похожи, но между ними есть и ряд концептуальных отличий.

Об этом мало где говорят, но криптовалютный бум 2020 года связан именно с запуском и популяризацией Ethereum. Новая среда позволила максимизировать потенциал блокчейн в финтех сфере и дала толчок для запуска новых стартапов и проектов, которые в свою очередь привлеки огромные инвестиции.

ETH плотно захватил статус второй самой популярной криптовалюты в мире и самой революционной. В этом материале мы поговорим об особенностях Ethereum на понятном обычному читателю языке, не вникая в технические тонкости.

Что такое Ethereum

Если придерживаться догматической терминологии, платформа Ethereum разработана для создания и функционирования децентрализованных приложений на базе blockchain с использованием smart-контрактов.

Внутренняя валюта платформы – это ether или эфир. Сокращенное обозначение – ETH. Эфиры применяются не только в качестве расчетной единицы. Также они гарантируют исполнение умных контрактов, исполняя роль такого себе «топлива» для сети.

Кто создал Эфириум

Создателем и главным идейным вдохновителем Ethereum является канадский разработчик российского происхождения Виталик Бутерин. Он заинтересовался криптовалютами еще в 2020-м году, какое-то время издавая журнал Bitcoin Magazine. Тогда же он плотно изучает программирование и задумывается о создании усовершенствованной платформы, работающей на блокчейн.

Вот как это вспоминает сам Бутерин:

«Идея создать Ethereum пришла не сразу. Сначала я пытался продвинуть ее в проекте, на который работал. Но мне сказали, что нужен год на реализацию. Тогда я уволился. Помню, как гулял по Сан-Франциско, размышлял, а потом взял и написал white paper, отправил своим друзьям, а они своим. Так все началось».

Шел 2020 год. Уже в 2020-м начался сбор средств на развитие платформы через краудфандинг. ICO Ethereum собрало 31 191 BTC (более 18 миллионов долларов), а сам проект также привлек банки и финансовые организации. Запуск платформы состоялся в июле 2020 года. Однако она полноценно заработала только в марте 2020-го с выпуском протокола Homestead.

Для чего был создан Ethereum?

Ethereum дал абсолютно новые возможности по созданию децентрализованных проектов и стартапов на основе блокчейн и умных контрактов. Одним из подобных стартапов стал The DAO. Это платформа для поиска проектов для инвестирования, построенная на смарт-конрактах. ICO The DAO стало одним из самых успешных в истории. За время краудфандинга удалось собрать 150 000 000 долларов инвестиций. Однако из-за ошибки в исходном коде часть средств (60 миллионов) было украдено.

Чтобы вернуть украденные средства, было предложено сделать откат сети путем хардфорка. Это позволило бы сделать бэкап блокчейна в начальное состояние – еще до кражи с The DAO. Полного консенсуса в сети добиться не удалось, поэтому параллельно с Ethereum появился Ethereum Classic – версия «до отката». Несмотря на то, что хардфорк позволил вернуть украденные инвестиции, его подвергли критике, так как был нарушен один из главных принципов работы блокчейн – необратимость операций.

Запуск Ethereum серьезно оживил весь криптовалютный мир, показав универсальность и гибкость блокчейн. Авторы платформы реализовали среду с удобными инструментами, в которой создать стартап или приложение децентрализованного характера может человек без серьезной технической подготовки. Например, исходный код криптовалюты Namecoin занимает всего 5 строчек. Поэтому Эфириум можно назвать адаптированным фреймворком, в котором все разработки базируются на умных конрактах.

Как работает Ethereum

Ранее мы упоминали о понятии умного контракта, как одной из основ Ethereum. Он представляет собой компьютерный алгоритм, обеспечивающий проведения контрактов внутри блокчейн. Смарт-контракты выстроены так, что выполнение определенного действия происходит только при достижении определенных условий.

Работу умного контракта можно объяснить на простом примере с арендой квартиры. Обязательное условие использования жилья – это внесение оплаты. Если арендатор платит, то спокойно может пользоваться жильем. Если нет, тогда теоретически умный контракт можно запрограммировать на блокировку дверных замков. И человек попросту не сможет попасть в квартиру до того момента, пока не оплатит аренду. Пример условный, но зато в понятном формате объясняет назначение и принцип умных контрактов. Он гарантирует децентрализацию, ведь арендатор и арендодатель сотрудничают напрямую. Без банковских чеков, счетов и так далее.

Если обобщить, то можно выделить основные объекты смарт-контрактов:

  • Взаимодействующие стороны или подписанты;
  • Предмет договора (аренда, услуга, перевод денег);
  • Условие для выполнения (описаны математически и программно).

Именно смарт-контракты лежат в основе всех ICO, гарантируя автоматическое зачисление токенов инвесторам после перевода эфира на указанные кошельки.

Работа блокчейн Ethereum поддерживается майнерами (читайте наш материал о майнинге). В платформе используется алгоритм Proof-of-Work – доказательство работы, требующий вычислительные мощности участников для безопасного функционирования сети. Майнеры получают вознаграждение за найденную подпись блока – все это очень напоминает Bitcoin.

Возможности и сферы использования Ethereum

Ethereum или, как его еще называют, эфир – это одна из самых гибких и популярных криптовалют. Она способна выполнять все те же функции, что и Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash, Ripple:

  • Платежный инструмент;
  • Форма хранения активов;
  • Инвестиционный актив.

В плане поддержки и распространенности ETH входит в ТОП существующих цифровых валют на рынке. При этом функции эфира также затрагивают внутренние расчеты и регистрации сделок в платформе.

Однако, главная ценность Ethereum не в его «криптовалютных» свойствах. Эта платформа позволяет создавать децентрализованные проекты на блокчейн, начиная от благотворительных фондов, и завершая приложениями для ставок на спорт или покерными румами. При этом платформа открытая, так что доступ к ней может получить каждый. Для этого достаточно скачать браузер Mist или специальное расширение для Google Chrome MetaMask.

Интересные приложения/проекты, реализованные на блокчейн Ethereum:

  • Платформы для банков и инвестиционных фондов;
  • BackFeed – социально-экономическая платформа, составляющие разного рода рейтинги;
  • FreeMyVunk – программа для монетизации рейтинга в видеоиграх;
  • The Rudimental – краунфандинговая среда для писателей, журналистов и других творческих людей;
  • First Blood – платформа для геймеров и любителей делать ставки на киберспорт.

Виртуальная машина Эфириума

Характерно, что платформа Ethereum воспринимает любой язык программирования, включая языки визуального программирования. Это и делает ее настолько универсальной и гибкой.

Как удалось создать подобную среду? Благодаря виртуальной машине Эфириум (EVM). Она представляет собой машину Тьюринга и компилирует умные контракты в байт-код перед их дальнейшей отправкой в блокчейн. Здесь также используются циклы, что гарантирует выполнение практически любых операций по умным контрактам. Потенциально «бесконечные» циклы отсеиваются платформой через механизм, именуемый газом (gas). При этом вы не будете платить за использование этой мощной вычислительной машины. Все расходы берет на себя сеть.

Получается, что Ethereum – это такая себе блокчейн-пандора с почти неограниченными возможностями по использованию, благодаря своей гибкости, мощности и универсальности. Это действительно так. Иначе бы к ней не проявляли интерес компании вроде Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan. Волна ICO 2020 – это результат появления Эфириума с его умными контрактами. Большинство этих краундфандинговых проектов выпускают токены стандарта ERC-20 (эфирирум классик) и используют именно блокчейн Ethereum.

Разница между Bitcoin и Ethereum

Bitcoin и Ethereum в чем-то похожи, так как обе являются платформами на блокчейн. Только вот сфера применения и функционал биткоина куда более ограничены. Эта платформа, предназначенная для проведения псевдоанонимных транзакций. В то время как Ethereum – это полноценная среда для реализации децентрализованных приложений (Dapps) с использованием умных контрактов.

Отличаются и особенности внутренней валюты платформы. У Bitcoin она так и называется биткоин и выполняет в первую очередь функцию электронного платежного метода. То есть, это криптовалюта в полном понимании этого слова. В Ethereum используется эфир (ether), который по своей концепции является токеном, используемым для проведения умных контрактов.

Вот как можно описать Bitcoin:

  • Глобальная цифровая валюта, которую можно хранить и за которую можно покупать товары и сервисы;
  • Децентрализованная финансовая среда без посредников с минимальными комиссиями;
  • «Цифровое золото» с анонимными транзакциями и механизмами защиты денег людей в нестабильных экономиках.

То есть, Bitcoin – это в первую очередь функциональный финансовый инструмент с элементами анонимности и децентрализации. А вот Ethereum – это платформа по созданию децентрализованных программ и приложений на блокчейн. Умные контракты, лежащие в основе сети, универсальные. В Bitcoin умный контракт гарантирует только проведение платежных операций. А в Ethereum их можно применять в самых разных сферах.

В обеих сетях используется один и тот же протокол Proof-of-Work – «доказательство работы». Это означает, что для майнинга используются вычислительные мощности компьютеров, гарантирующие защиту от двойного расходования и хакерских атак. И если в Bitcoin есть установленный потолок эмиссии (21 000 000), то в Ethereum его нет. Именно по этой причине команда Эфириум рассматривает варианты с переходом на алгоритм Proof-of-Stake (доказательство доли) и возможным «сжиганием» части добытых монет. Подобные разговоры показывают еще одно отличие Ethereum от Bitcoin – гибкость. Платформу легче изменять, обновлять и модернизировать.

Чтобы нагляднее продемонстрировать разницу между Ethereum и Bitcoin, мы создали сравнительную таблицу:

Bitcoin Ethereum
Дата запуска Январь 2009 Июль 2020
Создатели Сатоши Накамото Виталик Бутерин, Гэвин Вуд, Джозеф Любин
Алгоритм Proof-of-Work, SHA-256 ВProof-of-Work, EThash. Рассматривается переход к Proof-of-Stake
Максимальная эмиссия 21 000 000 BTC Как такового потолка нет
Время генерация блока 10 минут 15 секунд
Вознаграждение за найденный блок 12,5 BTC 5 ETH
Основное назначение Цифровая валюта/платформа для расчетов и хранения денег Платформа для создания Dapps на основе умных контрактов.

В целом, Bitcoin лучше справляется с функциями платежного средства. Если вам нужна криптовалюта для покупок или хранения денег, то BTC с этим справится лучше Эфира. Его принимает большее количество сайтов, да и статус цифрового золота говорит сам за себя. Ethereum стоит рассматривать не столько как криптовалюту, а как универсальную платформу по созданию децентрализованных программ на основе смарт-контрактов. То есть, у Эфириума более широкие «полномочия», если можно так выразиться.

Преимущества и недостатки Ethereum

Когда речь заходит о преимуществах и недостатках Ethereum, то здесь важно уточнить, о чем идет речь: о платформе или же о криптовалюте (ether).

Для начала поговорим именно об эфире – токене (криптовалюте). Каких-то серьезных недостатков у Ether в сравнении с Bitcoin и другими популярными монетами нет. Более того, сеть быстро обрабатывает транзакции, что потенциально повышает платежный потенциал ETH.

Проблем с тем, чтобы купить эту криптовалюту или обменять на другие coins нет. Однако с экономической точки зрения у эфира есть несколько недостатков. Во-первых, это курс и механизмы, которые на него влияют. Если в случае с Bitcoin можно говорить о рыночном формировании цены, то в случае с Ethereum наблюдается прямая зависимость с успехами самой платформы. Стоит кому-то выпустить улучшенный вариант или найти недочет в Ethereum, как это обрушит стоимость токенов.

Во-вторых, нет потолка эмиссии. Это «обесценивает» криптовалюту и заставляет говорить о возможном переходе на Proof-of-Stake или о разработке механизма по сжиганию токенов.

Описание преимуществ и недостатков платформы Ethereum представим в табличном формате:

Преимущества Недостатки
Универсальность – поддерживает различные языки программирования и разные по сложности алгоритмы, а смарт-контракты применяются в разных сферах;
Гибкость – платформа открыта к улучшениям, модернизациям, обновлениям;
Публичность – у Ethereum есть лидер в лице Виталика Бутерина, детали обновлений и нововведений анонсируются заранее;
Доступность – Ethereum открытая платформа для разработки децентрализованных приложений. Причем в качестве разработчика может выступать почти кто угодно.
Централизация – хотя Ethereum позиционирует себя как DAO (децентрализованная автономная организация), но случая с хардфорком сети в 2020-м, показывает, что в платформе есть элементы централизации;
Уязвимости – случай с The DAO показывает, что платформа может «пропускать» несовершенные проекты;
Документация – разработчики жалуются на отсутствие четкой документации, что усложняет взаимодействие с платформой.

Как получить Ethereum

Криптовалюта ETH в 2020 году сделала солидный рывок в своей стоимости, параллельно заняв второе место по уровню капитализации среди других криптомонет. Одного этого было достаточно, чтобы эфир появился практически на всех крупных биржах, а также появился в различных онлайн-обменниках.

Чтобы получить Ethereum, у вас есть несколько вариантов:

  • Купить его на криптовалютной бирже, например на CEX за фиат;
  • Купить в обменном сервисе в Интернете;
  • Получить в криптомате;
  • Намайнить самому.

Первые два варианта самые простые и доступные. Перейдите в раздел ”Рейтинг валют”, чтобы посмотреть текущий курс эфира, затем вы можете приобрести его удобным для вас способом. Если говорить о криптоматах, то они пока не очень распространены и далеко не все поддерживают эфир.

Чтобы получить эту криптовалюту, нужно завести кошелек. Мы рекомендуем для хранения эфира надежный аппаратный кошелек – Ledger Nano S. Его взлом практически невозможен – кошелек не подсоединен к сети Интернет, так как средства хранятся на отдельном устройстве, похожем на USB-накопитель. Вы можете купить криптовалюту на бирже и заказать кошелек, а после его получения просто направить ее c биржи на свой адрес кошелька Ledger.

Больше о кошельках вы можете почитать в этой статье.

Вариант с майнингом требует начальных инвестиций, будь это самостоятельная добыча ETH, или использование облачных сервисов. Эфир – одна из основных опций «шахтеров», которые работают с пулами. Добыча происходит на фермах, составленных с мощных видеокарт от Radeon и GeForce. Но уже осенью 2020 появился первый ASIC для майнинга Ethereum. После чего и начались активные разговоры о переходе на протокол PoS. Как только сеть сделает этот переход, майнинг эфира станет экономически невыгодным. Поэтому ETH сложно рассматривать в качестве долгосрочной майнинговой опции.

Причины популярности Ethereum и перспективы на будущее

Многие недооценивают момент, когда вышла полноценная версия сети Эфириума (Homestead). Это стало отправной точкой для всего криптовалютного рынка и спровоцировало бум, который продолжается несколько лет. Платформа Ethereum позволила разрабатывать децентрализованные проекты в распределенном реестре с использованием смарт-контрактов. И фактически стала катализатором притока инвестиций (ICO) в криптомир и как следствие серьезного роста курса основных валют.

Ethereum позволяет использовать блокчейн не только для записи и хранения данных о транзакциях. Она открыла его для новых сфер, заложив кирпичик потенциальной IT-революции. Революции, которая децентрализует ряд процессов и упразднит посредничество во многих сферах. Именно поэтому Ethereum настолько популярный. И тот факт, что сеть постоянно развивается, только добавляет ей престижности.

Новая эра Ethereum наступит вместе с переходом к версии Serenity. До этого также запланирован релиз Metropolis. Однако именно в Serenity реализуется переход с PoW на PoS, что должно сократить затраты на поддержку сети и обезопасить ее от пресловутой «Атаки 51% (когда 51% всей криптовалюты принадлежит одному владельцу). В дополнение к этому, рассматривается вариант с масштабированием сети путем шардинга, то есть, разделением на меньшие части.

Если новинки успешно реализуются, то это положительно отобразится на курсе эфира. Некоторые эксперты предполагают, что у ETH есть потенциал для того, чтобы обогнать Bitcoin. Правда, команда Эфириума не гонится за статусом главной криптовалюты на рынке. Их основная цель – это развитие платформы, создание механизмов для борьбы с инфляцией внутреннего токена. Токен этот, по мнению Бутерина, должен нести в себе реальную стоимость, а не быть предметом спекуляций. Это еще одно направление развития эфира.

Блокчейн Эфириума со смарт-конрактами – это и есть та перспектива, которая делает ETH привлекательным с точки зрения инвестиций. Будущее покажет, насколько мощной станет платформа. Но уже сейчас в нее верят такие гиганты как Microsoft, Santander, JP Morgan, Intel, Сбербанк. Все они входят в Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, активно изучая варианты использования блокчейн в своей работе.

What is Ethereum? [The Most Updated Step-by-Step-Guide!]

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.

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

Is Ethereum better than Bitcoin?

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.

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? [Video]

Key Highlights

  • November 2020: Vitalik Buterin publishes the Ethereum whitepaper.
  • January 2020: 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 2020: Ethereum ends their ICO and raises $18.4 million.
  • May 2020: “Olympic” the Ethereum testnet releases.
  • July 30, 2020: The first stage of Ethereum’s development, “Frontier” was released.
  • March 14, 2020: Homestead, the first “stable” Ethereum release, went out on block 1,150,000.
  • June 2020: 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, 2020: Ethereum Classic forks away from the original Ethereum protocol.
  • October 16, 2020: The Metropolis Byzantium hardfork update happens.
  • February 28, 2020: 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 Bitcoin is used to track ownership of digital currency (bitcoins), Ethereum focuses on running the programming code of any decentralized application.

In the Ethereum, 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.

Bitcoin is first and foremost a currency; this is one particular application of a blockchain. However, it is far from the only application. To take a past example of a similar situation, e-mail is one particular use of the internet, and for sure helped popularise it, but there are many others.” – Gavin Wood, Ethereum Co-Founder

What is a Ethereum smart contract?

Smart contract is just a phrase used to describe a computer code that can facilitate the exchange of money, content, property, shares, or anything of value. When running on the blockchain a smart contract becomes like a self-operating computer program that automatically executes when specific conditions are met. Because smart contracts run on the blockchain, they run exactly as programmed without any possibility of censorship, downtime, fraud or third-party interference.

While all blockchains have the ability to process code, most are severely limited. Ethereum is different. Rather than giving a set of limited operations, Ethereum allows developers to create whatever operations they want. This means developers can build thousands of different applications that go way beyond anything we have seen before.

The Ethereum Virtual Machine

Before the creation of Ethereum applications were designed to do a very limited set of operations. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, for example, were developed exclusively to operate as peer-to-peer digital currencies.

Developers faced a problem. Either expand the set of functions offered by Bitcoin and other types of applications, which is very complicated and time-consuming, or develop a new blockchain application and an entirely new platform as well. Recognizing this predicament, Ethereum’s creator, Vitalik Buterin developed a new approach.

“I thought [those in the Bitcoin community] weren’t approaching the problem in the right way. I thought they were going after individual applications; they were trying to kind of explicitly support each [use case] in a sort of Swiss Army knife protocol.” – Vitalik Buterin, inventor of Ethereum

Ethereum’s core innovation, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is a Turing complete software that runs on the Ethereum network. It enables anyone to run any program, regardless of the programming language given enough time and memory. The Ethereum Virtual Machine makes the process of creating blockchain applications much easier and efficient than ever before. Instead of having to build an entirely original blockchain for each new application, Ethereum enables the development of potentially thousands of different applications all on one platform.

What can Ethereum be used for?

Ethereum enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications. A decentralized application or Dapp serve some particular purpose to its users. Bitcoin, for example, is a Dapp that provides its users with a peer to peer electronic cash system that enables online Bitcoin payments. Because decentralized applications are made up of code that runs on a blockchain network, they are not controlled by any individual or central entity.

Any services that are centralized can be decentralized using Ethereum. Think about all the intermediary services that exist across hundreds of different industries. From obvious services like loans provided by banks to intermediary services rarely thought about by most people like title registries, voting systems, regulatory compliance and much more.

Ethereum can also be used to build Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO). A DAO is a fully autonomous, decentralized organization with no single leader. DAO’s are run by programming code, on a collection of smart contracts written on Ethereum. The code is designed to replace the rules and structure of a traditional organization, eliminating the need for people and centralized control. A DAO is owned by everyone who purchases tokens, but instead of each token equating to equity shares & ownership, tokens act as contributions that give people voting rights.

“A DAO consists of one or more contracts and could be funded by a group of like-minded individuals. A DAO operates completely transparently and completely independently of any human intervention, including its original creators. A DAO will stay on the network as long as it covers its survival costs and provides a useful service to its customer base”

  • Stephen Tual, Slock.it Founder, former CCO Ethereum.

Ethereum is also being used as a platform to launch other cryptocurrencies. Because of the ERC20 token standard defined by the Ethereum Foundation, other developers can issue their own versions of this token and raise funds with an initial coin offering (ICO). In this fundraising strategy, the issuers of the token set an amount they want to raise, offer it in a crowd sale, and receive Ether in exchange. Billions of dollars have been raised by ICOs on the Ethereum platform in the last two years, and one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies in the world, EOS, is an ERC20 token.

Ethereum has recently created a new standard called the ERC721 token for tracking unique digital assets. One of the biggest use cases currently for such tokens is digital collectibles, as the infrastructure allows for people to prove ownership of scarce digital goods. Many games are currently being built using this technology, such as the overnight hit CryptoKitties , a game where you can collect and breed digital cats.

What are the benefits of a decentralized Ethereum Platform?

Because decentralized applications run on the blockchain, they benefit from all of its properties.

  • Immutability – A third party cannot make any changes to data.
  • Corruption & tamper proof – Apps are based on a network formed around the principle of consensus, making censorship impossible.
  • Secure – With no central point of failure and secured using cryptography, applications are well protected against hacking attacks and fraudulent activities.
  • Zero downtime – Apps never go down and can never be switched off.

What’s the downside of decentralized Ethereum applications?

Despite bringing a number of benefits, decentralized applications aren’t faultless. Because smart contract code is written by humans, smart contracts are only as good as the people who write them. Code bugs or oversights can lead to unintended adverse actions being taken. If a mistake in the code gets exploited, there is no efficient way in which an attack or exploitation can be stopped other than obtaining a network consensus and rewriting the underlying code. This goes against the essence of the blockchain which is meant to be immutable. Also, any action taken by a central party raises serious questions about the decentralized nature of an application.

I want to develop an app. How do I access Ethereum?

There are many ways you can plug into the Ethereum network, one of the easiest ways is to use its native Mist browser. Mist provides a user-friendly interface & digital wallet for users to trade & store Ether as well as write, manage, deploy and use smart contracts. Like web browsers give access and help people navigate the internet, Mist provides a portal into the world of decentralized blockchain applications.

There is also the MetaMask browser extension, which turns Google Chrome into an Ethereum browser. MetaMask allows anyone to easily run or develop decentralized applications from their browser. Although initially built as a Chrome plugin, MetaMask supports Firefox and the Brave Browser as well.

While it’s still early days, Mist, MetaMask and a variety of other browsers look set to make blockchain-based applications accessible to more people than ever before. Even people without a technical background can now potentially build blockchain apps. This is a revolutionary leap for blockchain technology that could bring decentralized applications into the mainstream.

What apps are currently being developed on Ethereum?

The Ethereum platform is being used to create applications across a broad range of services and industries. But developers are in unchartered territory, so it’s hard to know which apps will succeed and which ones will fail. Here are a few exciting projects.

Weifund provides an open platform for crowdfunding campaigns that leverages smart contracts . It enables contributions to be turned into contractually backed digital assets that can be used, traded or sold within the Ethereum ecosystem.

Uport provides users with a secure and convenient way to take complete control of their identity and personal information. Instead of relying on government institutions and surrendering their identities to third parties, users control who can access and use their data and personal information.

BlockApps is looking to provide the easiest way for enterprises to build, manage and deploy blockchain applications. From the proof of concept to full production systems and integration with legacy systems, Blockapps provides all the tools necessary to create private, semi-private and public industry-specific blockchain applications.

Provenance is using Ethereum to make opaque supply chains more transparen t. By tracing the origins and histories of products, the project aims to build an open & accessible framework of information so consumers can make informed decisions when they buy products.

Augur is an open-source prediction & forecasting market platform that allows anyone to forecast events and get rewarded for predicting them correctly. Predictions on future real-world events, like who will win the next US election, are carried out by trading virtual shares. If a person buys shares in a winning prediction, they receive monetary rewards.

“Ethereum is a spectacular public experiment that is showing the value of smart contracts on a public blockchain. It is the result of and the source of disruptive innovation of the likes that we haven’t seen since the early days of the Internet.” Caleb Chen London Trust Media

The DAO hack that threatened everything

Remember how Ethereum can be used to build Decentralized Autonomous Organizations? Well in 2020, something bad happened. A startup working on one particular DOA project, aptly named ‘The DAO’ got hacked.

The DAO was a project developed and programmed by a team behind another startup called Slock.it. Their aim was to build a humanless venture capital firm that would allow investors to make decisions through smart contracts. The DAO was funded through a token sale and ended up raising around $150 million dollars from thousands of different people.

Shortly after the funds were raised, The DAO was hacked by an unknown attacker who stole Ether worth around $50 million dollars at the time. While the attack was made possible by a technical flaw in The DAO software, not the Ethereum platform itself, the developers and founders of Ethereum were forced to deal with the mess.

An Ethereum fork in the road

After much debate, the Ethereum community voted and decided to retrieve the stolen funds by executing what’s known as a hard fork or a change in code. The hard fork moved the stolen funds to a new smart contract designed to let the original owners withdraw their tokens. But this is where things get complicated. The implications of this decision are controversial and the topic of intense debate.

Here’s why. Ethereum is based on blockchain technology where all transactions are meant to be irreversible and unchangeable. By executing a hard fork and rewriting the rules by which the blockchain executes, Ethereum set a dangerous precedent that goes against the very essence of blockchain. If the blockchain is changed every time a large enough amount of money is involved, or enough people get negatively impacted, the blockchain will lose its main value proposition – secure, anonymous, tamper proof & unchangeable.

While another less aggressive soft fork solution was put forth, the Ethereum community and its founders were placed in a perilous position. If they didn’t retrieve the stolen investor money, confidence in Ethereum could be lost. On the other hand, recovering investor money required actions that went against the core ideals of decentralization and set a dangerous precedent.

The aftermath – Ethereum splits

In the end, the majority of the Ethereum community voted to perform a hard fork, and retrieve The DAO investor’s money. But not everyone agreed with this course of action. This resulted in a split where two parallel blockchains now exist. For those members who strongly disagree with any changes to the blockchain even when hacking occurs there is Ethereum classic . For the majority who agreed to rewrite a small part of the blockchain and return the stolen money to their owners, there is Ethereum.

Both Ethereum blockchains have the same features and are identical in every way up to a certain block where the hard-fork was implemented. This means that everything that happened on Ethereum up until the hard-fork is still valid on the Ethereum Classic. From the block where the hard fork or change in code was executed onwards, the two Ethereum blockchains act individually.

Despite the fallout from The DAO hack, Ethereum is moving forward and looking to a bright future. By providing a user-friendly platform that enables people to harness the power of blockchain technology, Ethereum is speeding up the decentralization of the world economy. Decentralized applications have the potential to profoundly disrupt hundreds of industries including finance, real estate, academia, insurance, healthcare and the public sector amongst many others.

Most significant companies will run business processes on their private blockchains.

Private blockchains: Within two years , major companies will conduct several business processes on their own private, permissioned corporate blockchains. Employees, customers, vendors, and service providers at each company will be able to securely access that company’s private blockchain via strong cryptographically authenticated transactions.

Consortia blockchains: In two years , many companies will have started to build bottom-up consortia blockchains with a small number of counterparties in their ecosystem collaborating on a small number of use cases to share trusted source-of-truth infrastructure, supply or value chains.

Business use of public blockchains: Some companies will employ public Ethereum with their use cases that employ the same stack of blockchain components that they have purchased or built for their private Ethereum-based implementations.

What is Ethereum: Conclusion

The Ethereum platform is also helping to shift the way we use the Internet. Decentralized applications are pushing a fundamental change from an Internet of information where we can instantly view, exchange and communicate information to the Internet of value where people can exchange immediate value without any intermediaries.

As the industry continues to investigate blockchain platforms, it’s apparent that Ethereum is becoming a de facto leader. For example, a few days ago JPMorgan publicly open-sourced its Quorum platform, architected and developed around the Go Ethereum client by Jeff Wilcke and his team. Several other major banks are using Ethereum, and Microsoft is anchoring its Bletchley platform on it as the foundational blockchain element. Industry, both publicly and confidentially, continues to contribute to Ethereum and work with us and others to help our promising, toddler-age codebase reach maturity. Stay tuned for news on this front.

It takes a (global) village to raise a blockchain. The live network and the community of open source developers contribute significantly to this effort. They continuously refine and harden the Ethereum platform, helping it get faster at responding to industry demands for the value propositions it offers. These investments of time and resources speak to their faith in Ethereum governance and the value that businesses and developers see in its capabilities.

– Joseph Lubin, CEO of Consensys

While it’s still early days, and there will no doubt be more hurdles to overcome, Ethereum looks to be a truly transformational platform. With many of the most exciting applications yet to be developed, we can only begin to wonder about the unimagined possibilities that await.

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