What is Ethereum, the smart contract development platform?

World computer

Bitcoin is the first use case of blockchain technology and has without any doubt disrupted the banking and financial service sector. However, Bitcoin is just one of the possible applications of a blockchain. The first cryptocurrencies acted as peer-to-peer digital currencies and were therefore limited to financial operations.

At this time, building decentralised blockchain applications required high skill sets in cryptography, computer science, data transmission, economics and game theory.

Ethereum changed that.

Ethereum is an open-source and decentralised software platform, built on a blockchain, which enables development of decentralised applications (DApps) on top of its infrastructure.

Thanks to Ethereum, developing DApps and issuing tokenised assets has become more accessible and less troublesome than building your own native blockchain.
The vision is to replace conventional applications - like the ones you can find on the AppStore or Google Play – with decentralised ones, that won’t be governed and controlled by any corporations or centralised entities.

In theory, no one will be able to control your information and behaviour as the system is considered “trustless” or “permissionless”.

How?

Ethereum is famous for introducing programming tools on top of its blockchain to make developer’s life easier.

  • Smart contracts
    Programs that can run transparently, in a trustless environment without any middleman. In other words, with smart contracts, you can program stakeholder relationships and automate interactions between them.
  • Tokensale and Initial Coin Offering infrastructure
    Simplified framework to issue tokens, design the economics (supply, mining) and plan the crowdfunding exercise (timeline, amount sought).
  • Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO)
    Automation of stakeholder relationships within an organisation, powered by smart contracts. For instance, it can grant a voting right, distribute profits or manage assets.
  • Decentralised browsers
    The internet will be decentralised and requires a new type of browser to navigate through the Web 3.0.
  • Programming language
    Solidity is Ethereum’s programming language that can deploy DApps and smart contracts on the network. Ethereum gathers a community of developers that shares libraries, frameworks and examples of smart contract.

Team behind it.

How did a decentralised world computer developed on a blockchain manage to go so big? Well, because it is a bit centralised.

The Ethereum Network is being developed and maintained by the Ethereum Foundation a non-profit (legally) based in Switzerland.

In 2013, Vitalik Buterin, 19, first proposed Ethereum as a decentralised mining-cum-software development platform. Although he is not the Executive Director of the foundation, he quickly became the young face of the blockchain and smart contract development revolution.