Ethereum is a global, open-source blockchain platform for decentralized applications (DApps), powered by smart contracts and embedded with a native digital currency, ether (ETH).
On Ethereum, code can be written to control the transmission of digital value based on programmable conditions. Ether serves three main purposes:
- (i) to store value in ETH,
- (ii) to settle transactions by allowing users to send or receive payments in ETH and
- (iii) to facilitate network operations (i.e., power DApps) via transaction fees paid in ETH, which are based on the computational costs of executing the code. Ethereum was conceptualized through a whitepaper published in November 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, and with additional contributions from his seven co-founders and other developers, the network was launched in June 2015. Initial development was led by the since dissolved Ethereum Switzerland GmbH (EthSuisse), and is currently overseen by the Ethereum Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Switzerland
Prior to inception, Ethereum was designed to expand upon Bitcoin’s primary function as a peer-to-peer (P2P) digital currency, by incorporating a platform capable of deploying smart contracts and more complex structures, such as DApps and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). Its progress is driven by the collaborative efforts of its global developer community, recognized as the largest amongst all digital currency networks.5 Currently, Ethereum is in its fourth stage of development, called Serenity or Ethereum 2.0, which will be rolled out in several phases, with completion expected sometime after 2022.6