Ethereum is an open-source, public service that employs blockchain technology to enable smart contracts and cryptocurrency trading without the involvement of a middleman, but where did it come from? The cryptocurrency world is a young sector that essentially started with the inception of Bitcoin (BTC) in 2009. Bitcoin came into play as an experiment offering two components — an internet-based asset and the underlying blockchain technology on which that asset runs. From there, people used the online currency and blockchain concepts to come up with other projects and assets.
Ethereum is a blockchain that hosts a notable amount of functionality for developers building solutions on Ethereum as a base. The Ethereum blockchain has a native coin that is known as Ether (ETH), which is used to pay for activity on the Ethereum blockchain. The coin also trades on crypto exchanges and fluctuates in value. Other assets built on the Ethereum blockchain such as ERC-20 tokens, for example, require ETH as payment for fees associated with any transactions of those assets. The Ethereum blockchain was written in the Solidity programming language. A non-profit entity, the Ethereum Foundation, serves as one of the overseers of the Ethereum project.
Unlike Bitcoin with its mysterious creation and creator(s), Ethereum’s history is more straightforward. Vitalik Buterin and several others co-created Ethereum, but the details surrounding the massive blockchain’s backstory warrant further explanation.
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Early days of Ethereum
Although the Ethereum blockchain has a number of founders, Vitalik Buterin was the one who initially published a white paper explaining the concept of Ethereum in November 2013. Following Buterin’s initial work, other brains jumped on board in various capacities to help bring the project to fruition. Vitalik Buterin, Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Amir Chetrit, Anthony Di Iorio, Jeffrey Wilcke, Joseph Lubin and Mihai Alisie are all considered co-founders of Ethereum.
Ethereum gained awareness in early 2014 when Buterin brought the concept of the blockchain project into the public eye at a Bitcoin conference in Miami Florida. The project raised capital via an initial coin offering (ICO) later the same year, selling millions of dollars worth of ETH coins in exchange for funds to use for the development of the project. Between July 22 and Sept. 2, 2014, the asset sale sold over $18 million worth of ETH, paid for in Bitcoin.
Although ETH coins were purchasable in 2014, the Ethereum blockchain did not actually go live until July 30, 2015, meaning ETH buyers had to wait for the blockchain to launch before they could move or use their ETH.
Why create the Ethereum blockchain in the first place? One reason would be that the Ethereum blockchain allows for more versatility in terms of building on the blockchain and the surrounding ecosystem.
Development in Ethereum
Although the July 2015 birth of the Ethereum blockchain brought the project to life, its development would be a lengthy process spanning years. Called Frontier, the first iteration of the Ethereum blockchain simply got the chain off the ground and running, hosting smart contracts and proof-of-work mining. The initial launch gave folks the opportunity to set up their mining apparatuses and start building on the network.
Since Ethereum’s initial launch, the blockchain has taken on many other updates as part of the blockchain’s progression, such as updates called Byzantium, Constantinople and the Beacon Chain. Each update has altered certain aspects of the blockchain. Beacon Chain, for example, launched the transition of the Ethereum blockchain to Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) — a shift from a proof-of-work (PoW) to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. Byzantium and Constantinople each brought a number of changes to the Ethereum blockchain, including a mining payout reduction down to three ETH from five (after Byzantium and preparation for the PoS transition during Constantinople).
A significant change to the Ethereum blockchain is the shift over to PoS initiated to scale the blockchain. Numerous projects have built applications on the Ethereum blockchain over the years. Still, the network struggled when traffic notably increased, such as the days of CryptoKitties — digital collectible cats underpinned by the Ethereum blockchain — in 2017.
In 2020 and 2021, decentralized finance (DeFi) projects built on Ethereum received significant attention, bringing Ethereum’s scalability issues to the forefront as high network fees plagued participants. Ethereum’s transition to Eth2 and PoS aims to bring scalability to the well-known blockchain, although the shift occurs in stages.
To learn more about Ethereum 2.0, check out here.
Ethereum is a significant player in the crypto space, as evidenced by its market capitalization and the vast array of solutions that entities have built on the Ethereum blockchain. However, the network has faced difficulty in scaling. Its transition over to Eth2 aims to solve its challenges. Only time will tell regarding the results, though, and the transition is expected to take some time to play out.