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Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. Ethereum also provides a cryptocurrency token called “ether”, which can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant nodes for computations performed. “Gas”, an internal transaction pricing mechanism, is used to mitigate spam and allocate resources on the network.
Ethereum was proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, a cryptocurrency researcher and programmer. Development was funded by an online crowdsale between July and August of 2014. The system went live on 30 July 2015, with 11.9 million coins “premined” for the crowdsale. This accounts for approximately 13 percent of the total circulating supply.
In 2016, as a result of the collapse of The DAO project, Ethereum was forked into two separate blockchains – the new forked version became Ethereum (ETH), and the original continued as Ethereum Classic (ETC).
Satoshi Nakamoto’s development of Bitcoin in 2009 has often been hailed as a radical development in money and currency, being the first example of a digital asset that simultaneously has no backing or “intrinsic value” and no centralized issuer or controller. However, another, arguably more important, part of the Bitcoin experiment is the underlying blockchain technology as a tool of distributed consensus, and attention has already greatly shifted to this piece of the puzzle. Commonly cited alternative applications of blockchain technology include using on-blockchain digital assets to represent custom currencies and financial instruments (“colored coins”), the ownership of an underlying physical device (“smart property”), non-fungible assets such as domain names (“Namecoin”), as well as more complex applications involving having digital assets being directly controlled by a piece of code implementing arbitrary rules (“smart contracts”) or even blockchain-based “decentralized autonomous organizations” (DAOs).