Ethereum, a blockchain hosting the highest number of Dapps, is widely regarded as the second most popular cryptocurrency, with Bitcoin being the only one to surpass it. According to CNBC, the increasing adoption of Ethereum by the corporate sector indicates its potential to eventually outgrow its early-stage rival. This makes it crucial to familiarize yourself with Ethereum’s role in the Blockchain space, why it stands out among various cryptocurrency platforms, and more!
What is Ethereum in Blockchain?
Ethereum is a decentralized, open-source blockchain platform that enables the creation and execution of smart contracts and decentralized applications (Dapps). It was proposed by Vitalik Buterin in late 2013 and went live in 2015. Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency is called Ether (ETH).
The platform is designed to provide a more versatile and programmable blockchain compared to Bitcoin. While Bitcoin primarily serves as digital money, Ethereum’s focus is on facilitating a wide range of decentralized applications, allowing developers to build and deploy their own smart contracts on the Ethereum network.
Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with predefined rules that automatically execute once the specified conditions are met. These contracts run on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), a decentralized runtime environment, making them tamper-resistant and censorship-proof.
Ethereum has become a foundation for many projects and initiatives within the blockchain and cryptocurrency space due to its capabilities, flexibility, and large developer community. It has played a significant role in fostering the growth of the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem and the emergence of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Overall, Ethereum’s unique features and widespread adoption have solidified its position as one of the most influential and important blockchain platforms in the cryptocurrency industry.
LEARN MORE: What is Blockchain? Why Blockchain is the Future
How Ethereum Works
Ethereum works as a decentralized and programmable blockchain platform that facilitates the execution of smart contracts and Dapps. Here’s an overview of how Ethereum operates:
Ethereum operates on a decentralized network of nodes, each running the Ethereum software. Nodes work together to maintain the blockchain’s integrity, validate transactions, and reach consensus on the state of the network.
Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with predefined rules written in code. They reside on the Ethereum blockchain and automatically execute when specific conditions are met. These contracts enable the exchange of digital assets, services, or any form of value without the need for intermediaries.
Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)
The EVM is a runtime environment that executes smart contracts. It ensures that contracts run consistently and securely across all nodes in the network. The EVM is isolated from the host computer’s operating system to prevent potential security vulnerabilities.
Gas and Ether
Ethereum uses the concept of “Gas” to measure the computational power required to execute operations within a smart contract. Each operation consumes a certain amount of Gas, and users must pay for this Gas in Ether (ETH), the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum platform. The Gas mechanism ensures that the network remains efficient and prevents abuse of computational resources.
Users initiate transactions on the Ethereum network to interact with smart contracts or transfer Ether. Transactions include the sender’s address, recipient’s address, transaction data (for smart contracts), and a transaction fee paid in Ether (Gas cost). Miners include these transactions in blocks and add them to the blockchain.
Mining and Consensus
Ethereum currently uses a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism, similar to Bitcoin, to validate and add new blocks to the blockchain. Miners compete to solve complex mathematical puzzles, and the first one to find a valid solution gets to add the next block. This process is resource-intensive and requires significant computational power.
Upcoming Transition to Proof-of-Stake (PoS)
Ethereum is in the process of transitioning from PoW to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism with Ethereum 2.0. PoS relies on validators who are chosen to create blocks based on the number of Ether they “stake” or lock up as collateral. This transition aims to improve scalability, security, and energy efficiency.
Overall, Ethereum’s innovative design and capabilities have enabled it to become the foundation for a vast ecosystem of decentralized applications and financial instruments, driving significant advancements in the blockchain space.
Why use Ethereum
There are several compelling reasons to use Ethereum, making it one of the most popular and widely adopted blockchain platforms. Here are some key reasons why people choose to use Ethereum:
- Smart Contracts: Ethereum’s ability to execute smart contracts is one of its most significant advantages. Smart contracts enable self-executing agreements with predefined conditions, making them useful in a wide range of applications, such as automated financial services, decentralized exchanges, supply chain management, voting systems, and more.
- Decentralized Applications (Dapps): Ethereum provides a robust infrastructure for building and deploying Dapps. This has led to the emergence of a diverse ecosystem of decentralized applications across various industries, including finance, gaming, art, social media, and more.
- Programmable Blockchain: Ethereum’s Turing-complete programming language allows developers to build complex applications directly on the blockchain. This programmability offers a higher degree of flexibility and opens up endless possibilities for innovation and creativity.
- Token Standardization: Ethereum’s ERC-20 token standard has become the industry standard for creating and issuing fungible tokens. This has facilitated the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies and enabled the creation of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and various token-based fundraising mechanisms.
- Interoperability and Integration: Ethereum’s popularity and developer support make it highly compatible with various other projects, platforms, and tools. Many blockchain projects and decentralized protocols choose to integrate with Ethereum to leverage its network effects and liquidity.
- Established Ecosystem: Ethereum has a well-established and active developer community, which has resulted in a rich ecosystem of tools, libraries, and resources. This support network makes it easier for developers to create and deploy applications on the platform.
- Decentralization and Security: Ethereum operates as a decentralized network with nodes distributed worldwide. This decentralization enhances security, making it more resilient against attacks and single points of failure.
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): Ethereum’s support for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has sparked a massive trend in digital art, collectibles, and virtual real estate. NFTs have opened up new avenues for creators and artists to monetize their work in unique ways.
- Potential for Growth: Ethereum’s continuous development and upcoming transition to Ethereum 2.0, which aims to improve scalability and energy efficiency, indicate its commitment to further growth and improvement.
Overall, Ethereum’s versatility, security, and widespread adoption have solidified its position as a leading blockchain platform, making it a top choice for developers, businesses, and individuals looking to participate in the decentralized economy and build the next generation of applications.
What is Ethereum in Blockchain: Ethereum vs Ethereum 2.0
Vitalik Buterin, a programmer, founded Ethereum in 2013. Ethereum co-founders include Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di Iorio, and Joseph Lubin. Development began in 2014, and the network went live on July 30, 2015.
Users can interact with Ethereum by deploying permanent and immutable decentralized applications. Decentralized finance (DeFi) applications offer a wide range of financial services without the use of traditional financial intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks, such as allowing cryptocurrency users to borrow against or lend out their holdings for interest.
Ethereum also allows users to create and exchange NFTs, which are one-of-a-kind tokens that represent ownership of an associated asset or privilege recognized by a variety of institutions. Furthermore, many other cryptocurrencies use the ERC-20 token standard on top of the Ethereum blockchain and have used it for initial coin offerings.
Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) was a series of three or more upgrades, known as “phases,” that were designed to transition the network’s consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake and scale the network’s transaction throughput through execution sharding and an improved EVM architecture. The first of these three upgrades, dubbed “phase 0,” launched the proof-of-stake Beacon Chain on December 1, 2020.
Following the realization that the Beacon Chain would be delivered much sooner than the later phases of the Eth2 roadmap, proposals for an “early merge” were made in order to expedite the delivery of proof-of-stake to Ethereum. Most importantly, the early merge would not necessitate any migration of Ethereum’s applications or users, instead continuing to use the battle-tested mainnet Ethereum clients alongside the new proof-of-stake consensus clients.
The term “Ethereum 2.0” was deprecated in early 2022 in order to emphasize the existence of only one Ethereum network and one ether cryptocurrency. As a result of the effort, the Eth1 blockchain was renamed the “execution layer,” and its associated Eth1 clients were reclassified as execution clients. Similarly, the Eth2 blockchain was renamed the “consensus layer,” and its associated Eth2 clients were reclassified as consensus clients.
The switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake has reduced Ethereum’s energy consumption by 99.95%. However, the impact on global energy consumption and climate change may be limited because the computers previously used for mining ether may be used to mine other, more energy-intensive cryptocurrencies.
What is Ethereum in Blockchain: The Future of Ethereum
The transition of Ethereum to the proof-of-stake protocol, which allows users to validate transactions and mint new ETH based on their ether holdings, is part of a significant upgrade to the Ethereum platform. This upgrade, previously known as Eth2, is now simply known as Ethereum.
However, Ethereum now has two layers. The first layer is the execution layer, which is where transactions and validations take place. The second layer is the consensus layer, which is where attestations and the consensus chain are kept.
The upgrade increased Ethereum’s network capacity to support its growth, which will eventually help to address chronic network congestion issues that have driven up gas prices.
To address scalability, Ethereum is advancing “sharding,” which distributes the Ethereum database across the Ethereum network. This concept is similar to cloud computing in that a large number of computers handle the workload to reduce computational time. These smaller database sections will be known as “shards,” and those who have staked ETH will work on them.
Sharding is expected to be implemented sometime in 2023. The Shard chains will allow more validators to work at the same time, thus reducing the amount of time needed to reach consensus through a process called “sharding consensus.”
Caleb is a technical writer at AlteBlock with over 2 years of experience in covering DeFi-related content such as crypto news, exchange reviews, and guides. He is also a Civil engineering graduate who can be found on-site when not writing an article.