It’s only been a year since the cryptocurrency market exploded, surging to an unimaginable apex with Bitcoin mania at its core, but the current state of affairs is somewhat different. Soaring prices have settled while media, critics, and once-enthusiastic holders disparage the market and exacerbate inherent problems – i.e. low volume and tight liquidity; but well-funded organizations are still making strides in bringing about real change and improvements to using crypto technologies. Amid market flux, the Ethereum Foundation continues its mission in supporting research surrounding the Ethereum platform – a decentralized, open software platform that uses blockchain technology to allow developers to create and deploy decentralized applications, or dApps. Built to use blockchain – the technology that powered Bitcoin’s digital currency – Ethereum intended to democratize organizations, business and currencies, putting the decision-making, creative and economic control into the hands of individuals rather than the world’s central servers, banks, corporations and powers. Ethereum built onto blockchain technology what Bitcoin started. In this new type of application software, Ethereum dApps alter the way we process information, develop technology, store data and exchange value. Decentralized applications are allowing users to perform transactions in relatively cheaper and faster ways without the need of third parties, all the while democratically building on previous technology and growing functionality. Through the Ethereum platform, developers are building a more globally-accessible, more free and more trustworthy internet, launching dApps that will run exactly as programmed without the possibilities of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.
Discovering the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin in 2011 at age 17, Ethereum Foundation co-founder and co-creator Vitalik Buterin was ecstatic about blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies and their potential. He cofounded Bitcoin Magazine in September 2011 – the first serious magazine dedicated to cryptocurrency; and held a position on the editorial board of Ledger – a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that published research articles on crypto and blockchain technology. After two years watching existing blockchain technology and application creations, Buterin proposed the foundation for Ethereum in a white paper in November 2013 that detailed his goal of building truly decentralized applications. Development of the platform was funded by an online crowdsale the following year raising $18 million, and the system went live in July 2015 with 72 million coins “premined” – the fundamental operational currency dubbed as “Ether” that fuels the network. This base still accounts for about 70 percent of the total circulating supply as of 2018.
While all blockchains can process code, most are strictly limited. In contrast, the Ethereum platform allows developers to create any operation they want, opening the scope of possibilities to applications that are beyond imagination as there is no limit. Another standout feature unique to Ethereum are the capabilities of its “smart contracts” – bonds that are both intuitive and self-executing. Smart contracts handle every aspect of an agreement: from enforcement to management, performance and payment.
In the face of a brand new, ever-changing and largely undefined industry, the Ethereum Foundation understands that crypto technology presents endless possibilities, but to swing excitement back into the market for general users, efforts must be directed on solid projects with useful, real-world deliverables that matter for everyday people in everyday life. Vitalik Buterin is of this mindset that positive change in the crypto market can only stem from solutions-based projects with real-use cases. Ethereum was built to lean toward a “general public” use, with everyday applications benefitting mass society and devoid of the old rule that blockchain applications require complex backgrounds in coding, cryptography, mathematics or vast resources. Previously unimagined applications are being built with Ethereum’s tools every single day, ranging from electronic voting and digital property assets to regulatory compliance and trading, all now actively developed and deployed faster than ever before.
While Bitcoin led the way for blockchain platforms like Ethereum, the latter is changing the way we will interact with the world around us through its range of decentralized applications. Bitcoin is at its core only a currency and a store of value. In the “Internet of Value” (the space in which blockchain and crypto technology exists), Bitcoin is likened to email, as it was the first big app of its predecessor, the “Internet of Information.” In tomorrow’s world – that of the “Internet of Value” – platforms like Ethereum are bigger dogs, more like the world wide web in this common analogy. Ethereum is setting itself apart as the general-purpose platform for application development as it continues to grow – not just in value, but in the number of game-changing dApps that have been and will continue to be built through its technology.