Even today when Ethereum is described for first time listeners it can sound too good to be true. Although there are always some challenges along the way, many of its initial goals were already achieved and the future looks bright for many more to be.
Ethereum, the "world's programmable blockchain", originated from a whitepaper published in November 2013, written by a 19 year old Vitalik Buterin who has been involved in Bitcoin since 2011. Ether, also represented by its ticker ETH, is the cryptocurrency that fuels the whole Ethereum blockchain system, is used to pay transaction fees, to reward those who contribute to the structure (miners today, and soon stakers). It is the tradeable digital asset that shows how the market values the utility of this non-profit network.
In 2012, Vitalik spent the year travelling around the world attending events for his publication, Bitcoin Magazine, which he co-founded with Mihai Alisie. This experience helped him to learn about the possibilities of Blockchain technology. At the same time, while working with Mastercoin (the first ICO ever - now called Omni Layer, best known as the original underlying protocol for the Tether token USDT), Buterin has been involved in several notable projects including Bitcoin Magazine, Egora, Colored Coins, Dark Wallet and KryptoKit. He "saw that all the various blockchain projects were focused on developing altcoins with varying features, but that this was a limitation of the blockchain’s potential. So he eventually came up with Ethereum, which offers a way for people to connect through trustless distributed applications on its own blockchain." (Source: Coindesk).
"Instead of having a protocol with a lot of features, what you have is a protocol with a built-in programming language and then you can write whatever features you want on top. It's a sort of completely abstract decentralized consensus system."
Vitalik Buterin for Singularity.FM in 04 june 2014.
After publishing Ethereum's whitepaper, Vitalik invited a group of 7 interested people to co-found the project who approached him willing to contribute to this endeavor. Most of them were developers excited to create this amazing innovation and the others were business visionaries that could already see the value of this idea.
Although they would not stay together for too long. The entity to oversee Ethereum was officially launched in 2014, the same year that Vitalik was awarded with the Thiel Fellowship and received $100,000 over the next two years to use toward current and future projects. After moving to a house in the woods in Zug, the Non-Profit vs For-Profit conflict would increase with a $18 million ICO and end up splitting the team, amongst other matters to later affect the remaining members. Vitalik ended up the only founder still at the helm of Ethereum carrying on his original vision: The Universal Computer, a Non-Profit Foundation.
● Of Ethereum's eight co-founders, only Vitalik Buterin is still actively working on the blockchain platform.
● Charles Hoskinson (Cardano - ADA) and Gavin Wood (Polkadot - DOT) have started rival blockchains; Anthony Di Iorio (Jaxx Wallet), Amir Chetrit and Jeffrey Wilcke have left to focus on other industries.
● Mihai Alisie (Akasha) and Joseph Lubin (ConsenSys) have started companies to help build Ethereum's application and community layers.
The company’s primary base is in Zug, Switzerland, but it has additional bases in Toronto and London, with more to come. The organization spans the globe, however, with communities and meetups in Canada, the US, Asia and even Africa. “We are a geographically distributed organization,” Buterin explained at that time. Ethereum Blockchain was officially launched in 2015, with a great focus to always incentivise developers to create decentralized applications and explore further all capabilities of Smart Contracts*.
*A Smart Contract: is computer code that can be built into the blockchain to facilitate, verify, or complete any programmatic request. Smart contracts operate under a set of conditions that users agree to. When those conditions are met, the terms of the agreement are automatically carried out.
For example, a potential tenant would like to lease an apartment using a smart contract. The landlord agrees to give the tenant the door code to the apartment as soon as the tenant pays the security deposit. Both the tenant and the landlord would send their respective portions of the deal to the smart contract, which would hold onto and automatically exchange the door code for the security deposit on the date the lease begins. If the landlord doesn’t supply the door code by the lease date, the smart contract refunds the security deposit. This would eliminate the fees and processes typically associated with the use of a notary, third-party mediator, or attorneys.
Solidity, initially proposed by Gavin Wood in August 2014, is the primary programming language (contract-oriented) used on the Ethereum platform. Most people who are slightly into crypto have definitely heard about it. However it is not the only one, Serpent, LLL, Viper, and Mutan are other relatively popular languages when interacting with the programming interface called “Ethereum Virtual Machine” (EVM).
Since 2014, the goal of transitioning from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake is present in the project, as well as the drive to decentralize everything possible: data storage, organizational hierarchy, decision making, polls, finance, identities, workflow, currencies, stores of value, advertising, games, art and much much more. Token standards were created, under a very similar relevance of Ether to Ethereum, each smart contract can have its own token to carry information and value. The most popular token standard is ERC-20 (Ethereum Request for Comment, and 20 is the proposal identifier). But the Ethereum Blockchain has many others: ERC-223, ERC-777, ERC-1155, ERC-1337, ERC-1594, ERC-1644, ERC-1643, ERC-1066, ERC-1400/1410/1404 and ERC-721, you might have already heard of these last two, respectively, standards for Security Tokens (STO*) and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT's*)
- Security Tokens - STO
Security vs Utility - Ethereum itself has been the subject of some controversy with respect to its status as a security or commodity instrument. Many assets built on top of Ethereum have been branded securities in various jurisdictions as well, based on how they were issued and distributed. Most global securities regulators define securities versus non-securities instruments according to criteria similar in nature to the well known US case precedent that set law in that country, the Howey Test.
Under the Howey Test, a transaction is an investment contract if:
- It is an investment of assets
- There is an expectation of profits from the investment
- The investment of assets is in a common enterprise
- Any profit comes from the efforts of a promoter or third party
- Non-Fungible Tokens - NFTs
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are digital assets that are provably unique, that contain identifying information recorded in smart contracts, therefore, creating digital scarcity. They can't be duplicated or divided. They have many use cases, including for digital collectibles, music, artwork, and in-game tokens.
In 2016 a decentralized autonomous organization called The DAO, a set of smart contracts developed on the platform in charge of the Venture Capital governance, raised a record US$150 million in a crowd/token sale to fund the project. It was the most famous of all DAO’s, which is an investment fund, except that its investment decisions are made by a collective vote, rather than entrusted to a dedicated investment manager. The DAO was exploited in June when US$50 million in Ether were taken by an unknown hacker (now that’s a heist!). Subsequently, Ethereum was split into two separate blockchains (a so-called “forking event”) — the new separate version became Ethereum (ETH) with the theft reversed, and the original continued as Ethereum Classic (ETC). Although The DAO is a failed project, its innovation is unprecedented, laying the foundation for the rise of various types of DAOs in the future.
Source: Hackernoon and IOSG medium
During 2017, the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance is a member-led industry organization whose objective is to drive the use of Enterprise Ethereum and Mainnet Ethereum blockchain technology as an open-standard to empower ALL enterprises. Among its members we can find representatives of all main industries s large banks, consulting firms, supply chain giants, big tech and more, some of the names you will find there are: JPMorgan, Santander, Ernst & Young, FedEX, Microsoft, SAP.
The network statistics are constantly changing due to various reasons, on March 15th, 2021:
Issued supply: 115,066,150 ETH;
ETH Price: ~$1,810;
Market capitalization: $206,524,178,509;
Nodes: over 6,000 all over the world;
Smart Contracts: average of 200 verified per day in 2021
"Invisible but Omnipresent" or "the backbone to everything" are commonly used mottos you can hear Vitalik saying during interviews. He picked the name Ethereum after browsing Wikipedia articles about elements and science fiction. When he found the name, in his own words: “immediately realised that I liked it better than all of the other alternatives that I had seen; I suppose it was the fact that sounded nice and it had the word ‘ether’, referring to the hypothetical invisible medium that permeates the universe and allows light to travel.”
From the many ideas of decentralized applications (Dapps)already in existence and constantly expanding all over the globe, most of them unacknowledged by the majority of the people, the strongest at the moment is Decentralized Finance or “DeFi'' in short. It "is an umbrella term encompassing the vision of a financial system that functions without any intermediaries, such as banks, insurances or clearinghouses, and is operated just by the power of smart contracts. DeFi applications strive to fulfill the services of traditional finance (also coined as Centralized Finance, or just CeFi) – but in a completely permissionless, global and transparent manner."
These innovative concepts and protocols are impacting the traditional finance sphere that, although adopts lots of technologies, hasn't changed much in its essence over a hundred years or so. Everyday new ways are arising to offer loans - collateralized or not, savings accounts, payment solutions - also micropayments, trading - including High-Frequency, international remittances, even the next level of the Internet-of-Things since tokens can carry value and also additional data for machines to exchange between themselves without human interference.
In addition to all of that, liquidity mining and yield farming are the hottest topics gaining a lot of attention from the middle of 2020 on, these brand new finance tools are only possible thanks to the existent systematic trust on Blockchain, smart contracts and no involvement of any middlemen. This year, 2021, brings us Ethereum 2.0 as a second layer to Ethereum Blockchain, that will significantly improve the network capabilities, through a higher number of transactions, at lower cost gas fees. Finally starting the transitioning process from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake, paving the way to numerous more innovations to come. We will talk all about it in a new post soon.