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What is Ethereum?

What is Ethereum?

Ethereum, a blockchain-based software platform, has emerged as a powerful force in the world of cryptocurrencies and decentralized applications (dApps). With its native cryptocurrency, ether (ETH), Ethereum offers a robust infrastructure for developers and enterprises to create innovative solutions that can transform industries. In this article, we will explore what Ethereum is, how it works, and the key features that make it a popular choice for blockchain-based applications.

What is Ethereum?

At its core, Ethereum is a decentralized global software platform that harnesses the power of blockchain technology. It was conceptualized by Vitalik Buterin, who published a white paper introducing Ethereum in 2014. In collaboration with Joe Lubin, the founder of ConsenSys, the Ethereum platform was launched in 2015, opening up new possibilities beyond secure virtual payments.

Ethereum's Native Cryptocurrency: Ether (ETH)

One of the defining features of Ethereum is its native cryptocurrency, ether (ETH). While ether serves as a medium of exchange and can be used for transactions, it also plays a vital role in supporting the Ethereum blockchain. Participants in the network use ether to pay for work done to support the blockchain infrastructure. Additionally, ether can be used as a form of payment for goods and services, provided the recipient accepts it.

Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (dApps)

Ethereum natively supports smart contracts, which are self-executing contracts with predefined rules and conditions. Smart contracts play a pivotal role in enabling the development of decentralized applications (dApps) on the Ethereum platform. These applications leverage the transparency, immutability, and security of the blockchain to create innovative solutions across various domains, including decentralized finance (DeFi), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the metaverse.

Blockchain Technology and Consensus Mechanism

Ethereum, like other cryptocurrencies, relies on blockchain technology. The Ethereum blockchain serves as a distributed ledger that records all transactions and activities on the network. It achieves consensus through a consensus mechanism called proof-of-stake (PoS), which replaced the previous proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm in September 2022.

Proof-of-stake enables network participants, known as validators, to create new blocks and validate transactions without the need for energy-intensive mining. Validators are required to stake a certain amount of ether, with solo validators staking 32 ETH to activate their validation ability. Validators work together in committees to attest the validity of blocks and are rewarded for their honest work. Dishonest validators face penalties, including having their staked ETH burned and being removed from the network.

Wallets and Security

Ethereum owners use wallets to store their ether securely. A wallet is a digital interface that allows users to access their ether on the blockchain. Ether itself is not stored in the wallet; instead, the wallet holds private keys that enable users to initiate transactions. These private keys are essential for securely accessing and managing one's ether. It is crucial for users to prioritize the security of their private keys by employing various storage methods to safeguard their assets.

The Historic Split: Ethereum and Ethereum Classic

In Ethereum's history, a notable event occurred in 2016 when the network experienced a hard fork or split. A group of network participants exploited a vulnerability in a project called The DAO, resulting in the theft of over $50 million worth of ether. To rectify the situation, the majority of the Ethereum community opted to invalidate the existing blockchain and create a new one with a revised history. However, a fraction of the community chose to maintain the original blockchain, leading to the creation of Ethereum Classic (ETC) as a separate cryptocurrency.

Summary

Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform. Ethereum provides a cryptocurrency known as ether.

Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs what are known as “smart contracts.” Smart contracts are applications that run on custom built blockchain, which functions on its own accord through rules programmed into the protocol, and which also makes decisions and keeps records based on consensus throughout a peer-to-peer network. A blockchain oversees its own activities without requiring any trust in a central authority or the other parties involved.

Ethereum’s smart contracts run exactly as they are programmed without any possibility of fraud, censorship, downtime, or third-party interference. This feature enables developers to “create markets, store registries of debts or promises, move funds in accordance with any type of instruction (like a futures contract), and more without the use of an intermediary and without the counterparty risk.  

Ethereum provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. Ethereum also provides a cryptocurrency token called ether, which can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant nodes for computations performed.

Ethereum was developed by the Ethereum Foundation in the summer of 2014.

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