Although some will argue we still haven’t reached Bitcoin 1.0 (especially with the main bitcoin client still on version 0.9) some of the most innovative ideas are part of the so called Bitcoin 2.0. While 1.0 is about leveraging the decentralized public ledger system of the blockchain to create a digital money system, 2.0 takes the decentralized environment farther to enable the digitalization of virtually any asset or contract.
Early examples of Bitcoin 2.0 projects and decentralized exchanges are Mastercoin, Nxt, and Counterparty, as well as Colored Coins which are simply reclassified bitcoins. Although still in their infancy (Mastercoin is the oldest of the three and only turns one year old today) these decentralized exchanges have already been successful in attracting communities to create applications supporting and expanding features of the platform. In addition, each exchange has been used to issue digital equity in upcoming projects such as Storj, Swarm and MaidSafe.
The latest arrival promising to take Bitcoin 2.0 possibilities even further is Ethereum. More than just currencies, Etheruem wants to be the decentralized platform for conducting any digital transaction. On its simple level, you can view Ethereum as an open operating system where developers create applications in any of numerous programming languages to run on the system. Once developed, these apps can be used by anyone running the operating system. With Etheruem, this means that developer can create applications for the transfer of any item that can be digitalized, whether that is currencies, stocks, voting results, or legal contracts.
Similar to bitcoin and other decentralized exchanges, the Ethereum protocol operates using a public ledger blockchain for confirming each of the digital transfers. In addition, providers of resources (miners) to power Etheruem are incentivized by receiving the platform’s digital currency, Ether. When issuing transfers, parties are assessed a fee which is paid in ether.
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To promote Ethereum and kickstart the distribution of ether, Etheruem has started a crowdfunding sale of ether. Funds of the sale will go towards building the Ethereum platform which is expected to go live at the end of this year or beginning of 2015. Currently, ether is being sold at a rate of 2000 ether per bitcoin, with the sale taking place for the next 40 days, but the rate of ether per bitcoin dropping as the crowdfund takes place. As of July 24th, nearly 13 million ether have been sold, netting close to $4 million in bitcoins for Etheruem.
Technically, ether will have a worth in the future, as users of the Ethereum platform will need to acquire the digital currency in order to pay fees for contracts they create and transfer on the system. Determining their worth though is another story, but their demand and value is expected to rise exponentially to the usage of Ethereum.
At this point, buyers of the crowdfund sale can be compared to investors in a startup. Buying ether is an investment on the premise that the platform won’t only take off, but also the backing of its founders to develop it. Like other startup investments, a bit of trust and faith goes into funding Ethereum. However, in terms of building a case of their reputation, Etheruem’s founding staff, led by 20 year old Vitalik Buterin have been very transparent and specific about their goals and methods they expect to use to build Ethereum.
So is Ethereum the future of building all things digital? The beginning of that answer starts now.