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What is Ethereum?
From how to buy it and how it works to smart contracts and ETH2, a complete beginner’s guide to the second-biggest cryptocurrency
Ethereum is the second-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap after Bitcoin. It is also a decentralized computing platform that can run a wide variety of applications — including the entire universe of DeFi.
Ethereum, which launched in 2015, is the second-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap after Bitcoin. But unlike Bitcoin, it wasn’t created to be digital money. Instead, Ethereum’s founders set out to build a new kind of global, decentralized computing platform that takes the security and openness of blockchains and extends those attributes to a vast range of applications.
Everything from financial tools and games to complex databases are already running on the Ethereum blockchain. And its future potential is only limited by developers’ imaginations. As the nonprofit Ethereum Foundation puts it: “Ethereum can be used to codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything.”
You can check the latest prices on Coinbase’s Ethereum asset page.
Ethereum has become a popular investment vehicle and store of wealth (and can be used, like Bitcoin, to send or receive value without an intermediary).
The Ethereum blockchain allows developers to build and run a huge variety of applications: everything from games and advanced databases to complex decentralized financial instruments — meaning that they don’t require a bank or any other institution in the middle.
Ethereum-based apps are built using “smart contracts.” Smart contracts, like regular paper contracts, establish the terms of an arrangement between parties. But unlike an old-fashioned contract, smart contracts automatically execute when the terms are met without the need for either participating party to know who is on the other side of the deal — and without the need for any kind of intermediary.
Ethereum, like Bitcoin, is an open source project that is not owned or operated by a single individual. Anyone with an internet connection can run an Ethereum node or interact with the network.
Much like Bitcoin’s decentralized blockchain allows any two strangers, anywhere in the world, to send or receive money without a bank in the middle, smart contracts running on Ethereum’s decentralized blockchain allow developers to build complex applications that should run exactly as programmed without downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference.
Popular Ethereum-based innovations include stablecoins (like DAI, which has its value pegged to the dollar by smart contract), decentralized finance apps (collectively known as DeFi), and other decentralized apps (or Dapps).
What’s the difference between Ethereum, Ether, and ETH?
Ethereum is the name of the network. “Ether” is the native cryptocurrency token used by the Ethereum network. That said, in day-to-day usage most people call the token “ETH” (or just “Ethereum”). As a way of sending, receiving, or storing value ETH works much like Bitcoin. But it also has a special role on Ethereum network. Because users pay fees in ETH to execute smart contracts, you can think of it as the fuel that keeps the whole thing running (which is why those fees are called “gas”).
If Bitcoin is “digital gold,” ETH can be seen as “digital oil.”
What is Bitcoin?
The world’s first widely-adopted cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin, people can securely and directly send each other digital money on the internet.
Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonymous person or team who outlined the technology in a 2008 white paper. It’s an appealingly simple concept: bitcoin is digital money that allows for secure peer-to-peer transactions on the internet.
Unlike services like Venmo and PayPal, which rely on the traditional financial system for permission to transfer money and on existing debit/credit accounts, bitcoin is decentralized: any two people, anywhere in the world, can send bitcoin to each other without the involvement of a bank, government, or other institution.
Every transaction involving Bitcoin is tracked on the blockchain, which is similar to a bank’s ledger, or log of customers’ funds going in and out of the bank. In simple terms, it’s a record of every transaction ever made using bitcoin.
Unlike a bank’s ledger, the Bitcoin blockchain is distributed across the entire network. No company, country, or third party is in control of it; and anyone can become part of that network.
There will only ever be 21 million bitcoin. This is digital money that cannot be inflated or manipulated in any way.
It isn’t necessary to buy an entire bitcoin: you can buy just a fraction of one if that’s all you want or need.
What is BTC?
BTC is the abbreviation for bitcoin.
Is Bitcoin cryptocurrency?
Yes, bitcoin is the first widely adopted cryptocurrency, which is just another way of saying digital money.
Is there a simple bitcoin definition?
Bitcoin is digital money that allows secure and seamless peer-to-peer transactions on the internet.
What’s the price of bitcoin?
The current price of Bitcoin can be found on Coinbase’s website.
Is Bitcoin an investment opportunity?
Like any other asset, you can make money by buying BTC low and selling high, or lose money in the inverse scenario.
At what price did Bitcoin start?
One BTC was valued at a fraction of a U.S. penny in early 2010. During the first quarter of 2011, it exceeded a dollar. In late 2017, its value skyrocketed, topping out at close to $20,000.