Ethereum 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 prevent spam and allocate resources on the network.

Ethereum in 2016 was forked disproportionately into two blockchains, as a result of the collapse of The DAO project. The minority fork was renamed to Ethereum Classic, while the majority fork has retained the name Ethereum (the subject of this article).

Ethereum was proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, a cryptocurrency researcher and programmer. Development was funded by an online crowdsale during July‚ÄďAugust 2014. The system went live on 30 July 2015.

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The value token of the Ethereum blockchain is called ether. It is listed under the diminutive ETH and traded on cryptocurrency exchanges. It is also used to pay for transaction fees and computational services on the Ethereum network.

Tokens can be volatile per circumstances, such as ether's plunge from $21.50 to $8 when The DAO was hacked on June 17, 2016.

Ethereum Virtual Machine

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)is the runtime environment for smart contracts in Ethereum. The formal definition of the EVM is specified in the Ethereum Yellow Paper by Gavin Wood. It is sandboxed and also completely isolated from the network, filesystem or other processes of the host computer system. Every Ethereum node in the network runs an EVM implementation and executes the same instructions. Ethereum Virtual Machines have been implemented in C++, Go, Haskell, Java, Python, Ruby, Rust, and WebAssembly (currently under development).

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Smart contracts

Main article: Smart contract Wikipedia

Smart contracts are deterministic exchange mechanisms controlled by digital means that can carry out the direct transaction of value between untrusted agents. They can be used to facilitate, verify, and enforce the negotiation or performance of economically-laden procedural instructions and potentially circumvent censorship, collusion, and counter-party risk. In Ethereum, smart contracts are treated as autonomous scripts or stateful decentralized applications that are stored in the Ethereum blockchain for later execution by the EVM. Instructions embedded in Ethereum contracts are paid for in ether (or more technically "gas") and can be implemented in a variety of Turing complete scripting languages.

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Contracts on the public blockchain

As the contracts can be public, it opens up the possibility to prove functionality, e.g. self-contained provably fair casinos.

One issue related to using smart contracts on a public blockchain is that bugs, including security holes, are visible to all but cannot be fixed quickly. One example of this is the 17 June 2016 attack on The DAO, which could not be quickly stopped or reversed.

There is ongoing research on how to use formal verification to express and prove non-trivial properties. A Microsoft Research report noted that writing solid smart contracts can be extremely difficult in practice, using The DAO hack to illustrate this problem. The report discussed tools that Microsoft had developed for verifying contracts, and noted that a large-scale analysis of published contracts is likely to uncover widespread vulnerabilities. The report also stated that it is possible to verify the equivalence of a Solidity program and the EVM code.

Programming languages

Main article: Solidity Wikipedia

Smart contracts are high-level programming abstractions that are compiled down to EVM bytecode and deployed to the Ethereum blockchain for execution. They can be written in Solidity (a language library with similarities to C and JavaScript), Serpent (similar to Python), LLL (a low-level Lisp-like language), and Mutan (Go-based, but deprecated). There is also a research-oriented language under development called Viper (a strongly-typed Python-derived decidable language).


In Ethereum all smart contracts are stored publicly on every node of the blockchain, which has trade-offs. The downside is that performance issues arise in that every node is calculating all the smart contracts in real time, resulting in slower speeds. Ethereum engineers have been working on sharding the calculations, but no solution had been detailed by early 2016. As of January 2016, the Ethereum protocol could process 25 transactions per second. In September 2016, Buterin presented proposals to increase scalability.

Use cases

The Ethereum platform has multiple proposed uses. Bloomberg describes it as "shared software that can be used by all but is tamperproof." Ethereum is used as a platform for decentralized applications, decentralized autonomous organizations and smart contracts, with "dozens of functioning applications built" on it by March 2016 according to the New York Times. The intended scope of applications include projects related to finance, the internet-of-things, farm-to-table produce, electricity sourcing and pricing, and sports betting. Decentralized autonomous organizations may enable a wide range of possible business models that were previously impossible or too costly to run.

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