Ethereum is an open and decentralized turing-complete blockchain platform that lets anyone build and use decentralized applications (a.k.a DAPP) and smart contracts using a crypto asset called Ether.
Smart contracts are applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference. The project was crowdfunded during August 2014 by fans all around the world. It is developed by the Ethereum Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit, with contributions from great minds across the globe.
Ethereum was initially described in a white paper by Russian canadian Vitalik Buterin, a programmer and writer involved with Bitcoin, in late 2013 with a goal of building decentralized applications. As opposed to other bitcoin inspired projects, Ethereum created its own blockchain to provide greater development flexibility by inclusion of a Turing complete programming language. Ethereum's live blockchain was launched on 30 July 2015.
By that time, Gavin Wood was introduced to Vitalik and coded the first functional implementation of Ethereum, invented the Solidity contract language and wrote the Yellow Paper, the first formal specification of any blockchain protocol and one of the key ways Ethereum distinguishes itself from other blockchain-based systems. Most recently he published ‘Ðaps: What Web 3.0 Looks Like’. He introduced to the Internet as a “zero-trust interaction system” made possible by a decentralised and encrypted information publication system, a pseudonymous low-level messaging system and a consensus engine
Milestones of the Ethereum development roadmap
The original development roadmap laid out before Ethereum went live specified the following milestones:
- Prerelease Step 0: Olympic testnet - launched May 2015
- Release Step One: Frontier - launched 30 July 2015
- Release Step Two: Homestead - launches 14 March 2016 (Pi Day)
- Release Step Three: Metropolis - release of the Mist browser, expected summer/fall 2016
- Release Step Four: Serenity - (Ethereum 1.5): release of the proof of stake (Casper) version of the Blockchain, also including Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) 101 and 105. Expected early 2017
- WebAssembly release (‘Ethereum 1.75’): faster virtual machine. Expected 2017
- Ethereum 2.0 (yet unnamed): initial scalability release. Expected late 2017.
- Ethereum 3.0 (yet unnamed): ‘unlimited’ scalability release. Expected late 2018.
While still valid, the substance behind it has changed somewhat. The Olympic testnet phase (before the Frontier release) saw alot of major improvements, followed by Frontier which was launched immediately after. Homestead marks the exit from a beta product to a stable release. Homestead is introduced automatically at block number 1,150,000 which should occur roughly around March 14th, 2016, Pi Day.
Many have come to believe that an open, trustless blockchain platform like Ethereum is perfectly suited to serve as the shared “back end” to a decentralized, secure internet - Web 3.0. An internet where core services like DNS and digital identity are decentralized, and where individuals can engage in economic interactions with each other.
There are four components to the "post-Snowden" Web: static content publication, dynamic messages, trustless transactions and an integrated user-interface.
- First is a decentralised, encrypted information publication system. Basically, it takes a short intrinsic address of some information (a hash, if we're being technical) and return, after some time, the information itself.
The second portion is an identity-based pseudonymous low-level messaging system. This is used for communicating between people on the network. It allows peers to communicate, update and self-organise in real-time, publishing information whose precedence does not need to be intrinsically trusted or later referred. In the traditional Web, this is much of the information that travels over HTTP in Ajax style implementations.
The third portion is the consensus engine. Bitcoin introduced many of us to the idea of a consensus-based application. A consensus engine is a means of agreeing some rules of interaction, in the knowledge that future interactions will automatically and irrevocably result in the enforcement exactly as specified. Consensus engines will be used for all trustful publication and alteration of information.
- The fourth is the technology that brings this all together; the "browser" and user interface
Ethereum vs Bitcoin
First of all, it is a non sense to call Ethereum the Bitcoin rival. If both are crypto currencies built on blockchains, Ether will be used more as a mean of exchange as it is at the heart of the smart contract system. Bitcoin can thus be viewed more as a store of value.
Bitcoin is a digital currency which was originally created as an alternative monetary system. On the other hand, Ethereum is created as a blockchain 2.0 platform that can be used to create and execute smart contract applications over blockchain. Bitcoin platform’s crypto token is called bitcoin (which can get confusing) and Ether is the crypto token used on Ethereum platform.
Ethereum is essentially Bitcoin with a Turing-complete scripting language. A Turing complete code means that given enough computing power and enough time. Ethereum has its own Turing complete internal code, when Bitcoin has not this form of flexibility
Ethereum at a glance
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