A public blockchain network that supports the deployment of smart contracts to create decentralized applications
Ethereum is one of the most widely used blockchain networks thanks to its pioneering support of smart contracts, which combine to create decentralized applications. The network’s native asset is called Ether but is often referred to by the ticker symbol ETH.
Russian Canadian programmer and early Bitcoin enthusiast Vitalik Buterin proposed Ethereum in 2013. Buterin was impressed by Bitcoin but believed the network was capable of much more. The system he described in the Ethereum white paper introduced a more flexible programming language — called Solidity — which enabled the network to process more complex computations than Bitcoin.
Ethereum went live in 2015 after raising funds via a public crowd sale. Along with Buterin, several other influential names are credited with the project’s co-founding. They include Gavin Wood, who later went on to found Polkadot, and Charles Hoskinson of Cardano.
Thanks to Ethereum’s greater flexibility and support of smart contracts, the network has witnessed relatively high adoption rates in a few emerging sectors. For example, in 2017, Ethereum was at the center of the initial coin offering bubble. Some of the teams raising funds via ICOs became vital fixtures of the rapidly growing decentralized finance sub-industry over subsequent years. Ethereum is also the dominant platform for nonfungible tokens, with 2021 seeing an explosion of interest in the niche.
Although a massively influential platform, Ethereum’s first iteration is far from perfect. The network’s decentralized aspirations significantly hinder its ability to accommodate more users, often resulting in prohibitively expensive transaction fees. Consequently, the project is currently undergoing a complete overhaul — known as Ethereum 2.0 — which primarily addresses its scalability and introduces a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism.