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Ether (ETH) (Ξ) is a cryptocurrency whose blockchain is generated by the Ethereum network. Unlike Bitcoin, which aims to disrupt the banking system with its own digital currency, the Ethereum platform’s goal is to use blockchain to replace internet third parties, particularly those that store data, transfer mortgages, and keep track of complex financial instruments.
Ethereum is made up of nodes run by volunteers across the world, the nodes form what has been described as a ‘world computer’, a decentralized mining network which is not governed by any third parties like, for example, servers and clouds are.
The volunteers, or miners, use their own computational power (gas) to run the network. This involves passing blocks of code between each other and solving the mathematical problems that keep the code secure in exchange for Ether. The currency is listed on exchanges, and can only be used on the Ethereum blockchain. It is used to pay for gas and transaction fees.
Ethereum is open-source, public, and highly programmable. Anyone can use or modify its software to build upon the computing platform and operating system. The platform gives developers the opportunity to build their own digital assets on the Ethereum infrastructure without having to create their own blockchain. This has given rise to hundreds of Ethereum blockchain based tokens (such as Binance Coin, Golem, and Basic Attention Coin). In 2017, at the height of crypto-mania Ethereum was leading blockchain platform for Initial Coin Offering (ICO) projects, with over 50% market share.
The Ethereum concept was initially described in a white paper by Vitalik Buterin, a Russian-Canadian programmer in late 2013. He believed that Bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development. When he was unable to gain agreement, he devised a new platform with a more general scripting language. Development was funded by an online crowdsale that took place between July and August 2014, with the Ethereum system going live on 30 July 2015.