Ethereum is an open source, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality.
Created in 2014, Ethereum now stands as the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap at the time of writing.
As a decentralized cryptocurrency network and software platform, Ethereum represents the most prominent altcoin.
Ethereum also enables the creation Distributed Applications, or dapps.
Ethereum boasts its own programming language, called Turing Complete, which is used to build the dapps. Dapps run on a peer-to-peer (P2P0 network of virtual machines.
These can be just about anything and are optimized to run on Smart Contracts. Smart Contracts are pieces of code that execute a predetermined set of actions once a certain set of criteria are met.
The Ethereum network’s native currency is called Ether, or ETH. ETH tokens can be used to pay for things inside of dapps or to receive payouts from smart contracts.
They can also be traded off of the Ethereum network inside of cryptocurrency exchanges or OTC trading platforms.
For most of its lifetime, Ethereum has remained as the second-largest and most popular cryptocurrency in terms of its market cap.
It was briefly outpaced by Bitcoin Cash near the end of 2017.
Ethereum’s origin dates back to late 2013 when crypto researcher and programmer Vitalik Buterin proposed its utility.
Its development was subsequently funded by an online crowdsale that took place in the middle of 2014 before going live in July 2015.
At its inception, Ethereum went live with 72 million coins minted, accounting for approximately 65 percent of its total circulating supply as of May 2020.
Like other cryptos, Ethereum has had a checkered past, resulting in splits.
Back in 2016, an exploited vulnerability in The DAO project's smart contract software caused the theft of $50 million worth of ether.
As a result, Ethereum was split into two separate blockchains – a newer and separate version became known as Ethereum (ETH), while the original chain continued to be known as Ethereum Classic (ETC).