What is Ethereum?
By Vitalik Buterin
In a nutshell, Ethereum is a new innovation in computing built from technologies and concepts originally pioneered in Bitcoin. Bitcoin is widely understood as a system for generating a shared world ledger that securely records bitcoin balances. Ethereum uses many of the same systems (such as blockchains and peer-to-peer networking) in order to generate a shared world computing platform that can flexibly but securely run any application users want to code (shared ledgers like Bitcoin included). To better understand what that means, let’s first go back to the beginning.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s development of Bitcoin in 2009 has often been hailed as a radical development in money and currency, being the first example of a digital asset that simultaneously has no backing or “intrinsic value” and no centralized issuer or controller. However, another, arguably more important, part of the Bitcoin experiment is the underlying blockchain technology as a tool of distributed consensus, and attention has already greatly shifted to this piece of the puzzle. Commonly cited alternative applications of blockchain technology include using on-blockchain digital assets to represent custom currencies and financial instruments (“colored coins”), the ownership of an underlying physical device (“smart property”), non-fungible assets such as domain names (“Namecoin”), as well as more complex applications involving having digital assets being directly controlled by a piece of code implementing arbitrary rules (“smart contracts”) or even blockchain-based “decentralized autonomous organizations” (DAOs).
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