In four words or less: Programmable money and smart contracts.
Like Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH) runs on a global decentralised network called a blockchain. While Bitcoin uses its network to send and receive bitcoin the digital currency, Ethereum is designed to help companies deploy decentralised applications (Dapps) on the blockchain. Ethereum wants to reshape how the Internet works. Ethereum’s vision is to create a “World Computer” – a global network of private computers that run Internet applications without the need for third parties (like the big tech companies). The idea is to create a fairer system that anyone can use. With Ethereum, all payments are made using its own digital coin, called Ether (ETH).
What problem does Ethereum solve: Big tech companies have too much control over our data. That’s not cool. Legal contracts are inefficient and expensive. Automatic smart contracts remove the need for expensive middlemen (like lawyers).
Properties of Ethereum:
Ethereum’s programming language, Solidity, is “Turing complete,” which allows for very sophisticated applications
You can build conditional contracts that execute autonomously. These are called “smart contracts” and can execute agreed upon terms
Smart Contracts can be legally enforceable and could benefit countless industries by removing time and human error from contract processes
Combining smart contracts with Blockchain tech means that anyone can create their own monetised Internet applications. When the technology matures, this is likely to be a big deal
Ethereum runs on a proof-of-work blockchain. The Ethereum Foundation intends to migrate to a proof-of-stake model in the future
Adoption and penetration:
Ethereum is the second largest and best known crypto-coin after Bitcoin. It has a large global community of developers. Decentralised apps enable a model of collective ownership using tokens. Tokens are sold by dapp owners to investors during Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs. These tokens have specific utility relative to the company's function. This means many other tokens rely on the Ethereum network which gives Ethereum value.
Management and governance:
Ethereum was created by a team led by Vitalik Buterin, a Russian born, Canadian raised computer programmer. In 2013, when he was 19 years old, Buterin published the white paper that would lay the foundations for the Ethereum network. The Ethereum community see Vitalik as an eccentric genius, which he probably is. Ethereum is developed by a global team of developers for The Ethereum Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit orginisation.
Risks and limitations:
As is the case with many blockchain projects, Ethereum’s most pressing issue is scaling. When the Cryptokitties dapp was launched on Ethereum in late 2017, the entire network slowed down and transactions became delayed. What happens when hundreds and then thousands of dapps go live? Fortunately the Ethereum team are working on several scaling solutions.
Are bitcoin and ether securities? Finally, one of the biggest questions and debates in crypto has been answered by the SEC, officially.
In an announcement at Yahoo Finance’s All Market Summit: Crypto in San Francisco on Thursday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Director of Corporate Finance William Hinman said that the commission would not be classifying ether or bitcoin as securities.
Ethereum is currently seeing around 100,000 new addresses per day, with the total number of new addresses doubling since December to now rise above 35 million.
Comparable stats for bitcoin are no longer shown by its main block explorer, but according to the last known data in March, bitcoin had 24 million addresses while ethereum had 31 million.
The comparison might not be very exact as in ethereum smart contracts are an address, but such smart contracts amount to only thousands, while the gap, at least in March, was some seven million.
The above number does not necessarily correspond to actual ethereans, which may be more or less than 35 million.
On the less end, because one can have many address. While on the other hand, many might be using exchanges and might never withdraw from it to another blockchain address. Going instead from fiat to the exchange to eth to fiat again without the individual ever touching the blockchain.
The latter is probable because Coinbase alone has some 20 million users, while Japan’s FSA has revealed exchanges there have 3.5 million users.
Coinbase is used in most of America and much of Europe too, while in Asia only South Korea would significantly add to those numbers. So it may well be that 35 million is actually not very far off.
Another more concrete statistic may be the number of active addresses. Ethereum has managed to continuously surpass bitcoin on that front for the first time ever, with ethereum currently having 550,000 active addresses, while bitcoin stands at 472,000.
Half a million on-chain active users does indicate that cryptos are still very small despite the significant amount of attention received particularly during December.
That does not however account for off-chain transactions whether on exchanges or other layers, but an interesting comparison to internet growth may well be supported by the data:
Estimated in March 2018
That suggests blockchain tech and adoption is around the same period as internet’s adoption in the early 90s, before Google, Facebook and the rest.
A fairly apt comparison considering that a number of ethereum smart contract based dapps can now be somewhat compared to the early usefulness of internet websites.
Just as dial-up back then was slow and Bill Gates allegedly said 64kb is enough for everyone, so too public blockchains are currently slow and can’t process much data.
Constant incremental improvements, however, tend to have significant cumulative effects, but for now this space, while growing, is still very small, and within that small space ethereum seems to have the most active user base.