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What is Ether?

In the realm of digital currencies, two terms that frequently surface are Ethereum and Ether. Often interchanged, their functions are starkly different yet intertwined. Ethereum is the blockchain platform that plays host to numerous applications, while Ether (ETH) is the platform's lifeblood, the cryptocurrency. Here, we'll delve into the unique world of Ether, the pivotal financial tool of Ethereum's platform.

Ethereum vs Ether: Identifying the Key Differences

Ethereum is an open-source, blockchain-based platform that facilitates the creation of decentralized applications (DApps), smart contracts, and new cryptocurrencies. Acting as a massive distributed computer system, Ethereum relies on thousands of nodes worldwide, forming what's known as the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Ethereum aims to empower individuals by offering a robust infrastructure that is less susceptible to hacks or shutdowns, as it's not governed by a single entity.

Ether, on the other hand, is the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum platform. As of October 2022, Ether is the world's second-largest digital currency by market capitalization, valued over $160 billion. It serves multiple purposes - it is used as fuel for transactions within the Ethereum network, as an investment asset, and as a medium of exchange on various crypto trading platforms.

Ethereum's Heartbeat: The Role of Ether

Simply put, Ether is the gasoline that fuels the Ethereum machine. Ethereum's ecosystem requires this fuel to power its operations, from executing smart contracts to running DApps. When individuals initiate transactions or interact with DApps on the Ethereum network, they consume Ether.

The term "Gas" represents the transaction fee within the Ethereum network, calculated based on the computational effort required to execute a transaction. To successfully process any transaction or smart contract, users must provide enough Ether to cover the Gas costs. Failure to do so will result in the transaction not going through.

Although Ethereum's creators often refer to Ether as fuel rather than a currency, its convertibility to other popular digital currencies makes it a digital currency itself. It’s worth noting that as of 2017, Ether's value surged to its highest since its inception in 2014, reaching approximately $450, attracting a swarm of short-sellers and investors.

Ether's Versatility: More Than Just A Cryptocurrency

While Ether is fundamental to Ethereum’s operations, its versatility goes beyond fueling transactions. Cryptocurrency traders and enthusiasts leverage Ether as a store of value or investment, akin to other popular cryptocurrencies. Ethereum's founding vision was not solely to create another cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, but to establish a platform that could host a variety of distributed applications, smart contracts, and even other digital currencies.

Interestingly, Ether isn’t the only token within the Ethereum ecosystem. The Ethereum blockchain supports a multitude of other tokens via the ERC20 token standard. Over the years, numerous ERC20-based cryptocurrencies have surfaced via Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Even cross-chain interactions are possible, facilitating seamless interoperability between the Ethereum blockchain and other networks, such as Bitcoin.

Understanding the distinction between Ethereum and Ether is crucial for making informed investment and transactional decisions. As Ethereum continues to evolve and bolster its infrastructure, Ether will likely play an increasingly critical role. By bridging the gap between technology and finance, Ether has cemented its position as an integral part of the blockchain revolution. Its ability to serve both as a digital currency and a "fuel" for transactions illustrates its versatile nature, making it an appealing prospect for investors and tech enthusiasts alike.

Summary

Ether is the currency that powers the Ethereum network, which is a platform of distributed blockchain computing on which transactions, smart contracts, and distributed applications operate.

Ethereum is a blockchain code environment through which distributed applications, smart contracts, and financial transactions using the Ethereum protocol are tested, validated, and added to distributed ledgers by the mining computers acting as nodes in the network. Ether is the currency, or token, in the Ethereum world which is used to pay the miners and transaction fees which are specific to its blockchain.

The “official” Ethereum sources like to characterize Ether as a “fuel” for the Ethereum “machine” rather than as a currency, but they are quick to describe how it can be converted to and from other popular currencies, which of course means it is a digital currency itself. The size of transaction fees that must be paid by users of the network to process their transactions and use of decentralized apps or smart contracts is calculated as the Gas required to process the transaction. If a user does not put enough Ether in to satisfy the Gas required, the transaction does not go through.

Cryptocurrency traders and enthusiasts can and do use Ether as a store of value or investment position in the same way they would use other cryptocurrencies. At the time of this writing in 2017, Ether has hit its highest valuation since its launch in 2014, at around $450 USD, generating a lot of buzz (and short-selling). Part of the reason that Ethereum.org and other developers choose to describe Ether and the platform in a non-currency way is that Ethereum as a technology was not meant to primarily be a cryptocurrency the way that Bitcoin was; Ethereum’s primary focus and strength is an open-source platform for distributed applications, smart contract technology, and even other cryptocurrencies.

While Ether is one token used in the Ethereum system, it is not the only one. In fact, many many cryptocurrencies using the Ethernet token system ERC20 have been launched as ICOs in the last few years, and there are even ways to interface the Ethereum blockchain with the Bitcoin blockchain.

 Disclaimers and Limitations

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