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Ethereum

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Ethereum
Eth-diamond-rainbow.png
Ethereum logo
Original author(s)Vitalik Buterin
Gavin Wood
Developer(s)Ethereum Foundation, Hyperledger, Nethermind, OpenEthereum, EthereumJS, ConsenSys, Prysmatic Labs, Sigma Prime, Status, ChainSafe, Ledgerwatch, Torquem
Initial release30 July 2015; 7 years ago (2015-07-30)
Stable releaseParis-Bellatrix[1] / 15 September 2022; 4 months ago (2022-09-15)
Development statusActive
Software usedEVM 1 Bytecode
Written inGo, Rust, C#, C++, Java, Python, Nim, TypeScript
Operating systemCross-platform
Platformx86-64, ARM
Available inMultilingual, but primarily English
TypeDistributed computing
LicenseOpen-source licenses
Active hosts~8,000 nodes (10 September 2022)[2]
Websiteethereum.org

Ethereum is a decentralized, open-source blockchain with smart contract functionality. Ether (Abbreviation: ETH;[a] sign: Ξ) is the native cryptocurrency of the platform. Among cryptocurrencies, ether is second only to bitcoin in market capitalization.[3][4]

Ethereum was conceived in 2013 by programmer Vitalik Buterin.[5] Additional founders of Ethereum included Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di Iorio and Joseph Lubin.[6] In 2014, development work began and was crowdfunded, and the network went live on 30 July 2015.[7] Ethereum allows anyone to deploy permanent and immutable decentralized applications onto it, with which users can interact.[8] Decentralized finance (DeFi) applications provide a broad array of financial services without the need for typical financial intermediaries like brokerages, exchanges, or banks, such as allowing cryptocurrency users to borrow against their holdings or lend them out for interest.[9][10] Ethereum also allows users to create and exchange NFTs, which are unique tokens representing ownership of an associated asset or privilege, as recognized by any number of institutions. Additionally, many other cryptocurrencies utilize the ERC-20 token standard on top of the Ethereum blockchain and have utilized the platform for initial coin offerings.

On 15 September 2022, Ethereum transitioned its consensus mechanism from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) in an upgrade process known as "the Merge". This has cut Ethereum's energy usage by 99%.[11]

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Blockchain

Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed ledger with growing lists of records (blocks) that are securely linked together via cryptographic hashes. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was created. Since each block contains information about the previous block, they effectively form a chain, with each additional block linking to the ones before it. Consequently, blockchain transactions are irreversible in that, once they are recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.

Currency symbol

Currency symbol

A currency symbol or currency sign is a graphic symbol used to denote a currency unit. Usually it is defined by the monetary authority, like the national central bank for the currency concerned.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency

A cryptocurrency, crypto-currency, or crypto is a digital currency designed to work as a medium of exchange through a computer network that is not reliant on any central authority, such as a government or bank, to uphold or maintain it. It is a decentralized system for verifying that the parties to a transaction have the money they claim to have, eliminating the need for traditional intermediaries, such as banks, when funds are being transferred between two entities.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a protocol which implements a highly available, public, and decentralized ledger. In order to update the ledger, a user must prove they control an entry in the ledger. The protocol specifies that the entry indicates an amount of a token, bitcoin with a minuscule b. The user can update the ledger, assigning some of their bitcoin to another entry in the ledger. Because the token has characteristics of money, it can be thought of as a digital currency.

Charles Hoskinson

Charles Hoskinson

Charles Hoskinson is an American entrepreneur who is a co-founder of the blockchain engineering company Input Output Global, Inc., and the Cardano blockchain platform, and was a co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain platform.

Anthony Di Iorio

Anthony Di Iorio

Anthony Di Iorio is a Canadian entrepreneur primarily known as a co-founder of Ethereum and an early investor in Bitcoin. Di Iorio is the founder and CEO of the blockchain company Decentral, and the associated Jaxx wallet. He also served as the first chief digital officer of the Toronto Stock Exchange. In February 2018, Forbes estimated his net worth at $750 million–$1 billion.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people, typically via the internet. Crowdfunding is a form of crowdsourcing and alternative finance. In 2015, over US$34 billion was raised worldwide by crowdfunding.

Decentralized application

Decentralized application

A decentralised application is an application that can operate autonomously, typically through the use of smart contracts, that run on a decentralized computing, blockchain or other distributed ledger system. Like traditional applications, DApps provide some function or utility to its users. However, unlike traditional applications, DApps operate without human intervention and are not owned by any one entity, rather DApps distribute tokens that represent ownership. These tokens are distributed according to a programmed algorithm to the users of the system, diluting ownership and control of the DApp. Without any one entity controlling the system, the application is therefore decentralised.

Decentralized finance

Decentralized finance

Decentralized finance offers financial instruments without relying on intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks by using smart contracts on a blockchain. DeFi platforms allow people to lend or borrow funds from others, speculate on price movements on assets using derivatives, trade cryptocurrencies, insure against risks, and earn interest in savings-like accounts. DeFi uses a layered architecture and highly composable building blocks. Some applications promote high interest rates but are subject to high risk. Coding errors and hacks have been common in DeFi.

Exchange (organized market)

Exchange (organized market)

An exchange, bourse, trading exchange or trading venue is an organized market where (especially) tradable securities, commodities, foreign exchange, futures, and options contracts are bought and sold.

Bank

Bank

A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits from the public and creates a demand deposit while simultaneously making loans. Lending activities can be directly performed by the bank or indirectly through capital markets.

Consensus (computer science)

Consensus (computer science)

A fundamental problem in distributed computing and multi-agent systems is to achieve overall system reliability in the presence of a number of faulty processes. This often requires coordinating processes to reach consensus, or agree on some data value that is needed during computation. Example applications of consensus include agreeing on what transactions to commit to a database in which order, state machine replication, and atomic broadcasts. Real-world applications often requiring consensus include cloud computing, clock synchronization, PageRank, opinion formation, smart power grids, state estimation, control of UAVs, load balancing, blockchain, and others.

History

Founding (2013–2014)

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin in 2015
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin in 2015

Ethereum was initially described in late 2013 in a white paper by Vitalik Buterin,[5][12] a programmer and co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine, that described a way to build decentralized applications.[13][14] Buterin argued to the Bitcoin Core developers that Bitcoin and blockchain technology could benefit from other applications besides money and that it needed a more robust language for application development[15]: 88  that could lead to attaching real-world assets, such as stocks and property, to the blockchain.[16] In 2013, Buterin briefly worked with eToro CEO Yoni Assia on the Colored Coins project and drafted its white paper outlining additional use cases for blockchain technology.[17] However, after failing to gain agreement on how the project should proceed, he proposed the development of a new platform with a more robust scripting language—a Turing-complete programming language[18]—that would eventually become Ethereum.[15]

Ethereum was announced at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami, in January 2014.[19] During the conference, Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, and Anthony Di Iorio (who financed the project) rented a house in Miami with Buterin at which they could develop a fuller sense of what Ethereum might become.[19] Di Iorio invited friend Joseph Lubin, who invited reporter Morgen Peck, to bear witness.[19] Peck subsequently wrote about the experience in Wired.[20] Six months later the founders met again in Zug, Switzerland, where Buterin told the founders that the project would proceed as a non-profit. Hoskinson left the project at that time and soon after founded IOHK, a blockchain company responsible for Cardano.[19]

Ethereum has an unusually long list of founders.[21] Anthony Di Iorio wrote: "Ethereum was founded by Vitalik Buterin, Myself, Charles Hoskinson, Mihai Alisie & Amir Chetrit (the initial 5) in December 2013. Joseph Lubin, Gavin Wood, & Jeffrey Wilcke were added in early 2014 as founders." Buterin chose the name Ethereum after browsing a list of elements from science fiction on Wikipedia. He stated, "I immediately realized that I liked it better than all of the other alternatives that I had seen; I suppose it was the fact that [it] sounded nice and it had the word 'ether', referring to the hypothetical invisible medium that permeates the universe and allows light to travel."[19] Buterin wanted his platform to be the underlying and imperceptible medium for the applications running on top of it.[22]

Development (2014)

Formal development of the software underlying Ethereum began in early 2014 through a Swiss company, Ethereum Switzerland GmbH (EthSuisse).[23] The idea of putting executable smart contracts in the blockchain needed to be specified before it could be implemented in software. This work was done by Gavin Wood, then the chief technology officer, in the Ethereum Yellow Paper that specified the Ethereum Virtual Machine.[24][25] Subsequently, a Swiss non-profit foundation, the Ethereum Foundation (Stiftung Ethereum), was founded. Development was funded by an online public crowd sale from July to August 2014, in which participants bought the Ethereum value token (ether) with another digital currency, bitcoin. While there was early praise for the technical innovations of Ethereum, questions were also raised about its security and scalability.[13]

Launch and the DAO event (2014–2016)

Several codenamed prototypes of Ethereum were developed over 18 months in 2014 and 2015 by the Ethereum Foundation as part of their proof-of-concept series.[5] "Olympic" was the last prototype and public beta pre-release. The Olympic network gave users a bug bounty of 25,000 ether for stress-testing the Ethereum blockchain. On 30 July 2015, "Frontier" marked the official launch of the Ethereum platform, and Ethereum created its "genesis block".[5][26] The genesis block contained 8,893 transactions allocating various amounts of ether to different addresses, and a block reward of 5 ETH.

Since the initial launch, Ethereum has undergone a number of planned protocol upgrades, which are important changes affecting the underlying functionality and/or incentive structures of the platform.[31][32] Protocol upgrades are accomplished by means of a hard fork.

In 2016, a decentralized autonomous organization called The DAO—a set of smart contracts developed on the platform—raised a record US$150 million in a crowd sale to fund the project.[33] The DAO was exploited in June 2016 when US$50 million of DAO tokens were stolen by an unknown hacker.[34][35] The event sparked a debate in the crypto-community about whether Ethereum should perform a contentious "hard fork" to reappropriate the affected funds.[36] The fork resulted in the network splitting into two blockchains: Ethereum with the theft reversed, and Ethereum Classic which continued on the original chain.[37] The hard fork created a rivalry between the two networks. After the hard fork, Ethereum subsequently forked twice in the fourth quarter of 2016 to deal with other attacks.

Continued development and milestones (2017–present)

In March 2017, various blockchain startups, research groups, and Fortune 500 companies announced the creation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) with 30 founding members.[38] By May 2017, the nonprofit organization had 116 enterprise members, including ConsenSys, CME Group, Cornell University's research group, Toyota Research Institute, Samsung SDS, Microsoft, Intel, J. P. Morgan, Cooley LLP, Merck KGaA, DTCC, Deloitte, Accenture, Banco Santander, BNY Mellon, ING, and National Bank of Canada.[39][40] By July 2017, there were over 150 members in the alliance, including MasterCard, Cisco Systems, Sberbank, and Scotiabank.[41]

By January 2018, ether was the second-largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization, behind bitcoin.[42] As of 2021, it maintained that relative position.[3][4]

After the Constantinople upgrade on 28 February 2019, there were two network upgrades made within a month late in the year: Istanbul on 8 December 2019 and Muir Glacier on 2 January 2020.

In 2019, Ethereum Foundation employee Virgil Griffith was arrested by the US government for presenting at a blockchain conference in North Korea.[43] He would later plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in 2021.[44]

In March 2021, Visa Inc. announced that it began settling stablecoin transactions using Ethereum.[45] In April 2021, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, and MasterCard announced that they were investing US$65 million into ConsenSys, a software development firm that builds Ethereum-related infrastructure.[46]

There were two network upgrades in 2021. The first was "Berlin", implemented on 14 April 2021.[27] The second was "London", which took effect on 5 August.[28] The London upgrade included Ethereum Improvement Proposal ("EIP") 1559, a mechanism for reducing transaction fee volatility. The mechanism causes a portion of the ether paid in transaction fees for each block to be destroyed rather than given to the miner, reducing the inflation rate of ether and potentially resulting in periods of deflation.[47]

On 27 August 2021, the blockchain experienced a brief fork that was the result of clients running different incompatible software versions.[48]

Ethereum 2.0

Ethereum enthusiasts gather for a Merge party in San Francisco in 2022
Ethereum enthusiasts gather for a Merge party in San Francisco in 2022

Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) was a set of three or more upgrades, also known as "phases", meant to transition the network's consensus mechanism to proof-of-stake, and to scale the network's transaction throughput with execution sharding and an improved EVM architecture.[49] The first of these three upgrades, also known as "phase 0", launched the proof-of-stake Beacon Chain on the 1st of December, 2020.

Following the realisation that the Beacon Chain would be delivered much earlier than the later phases of the Eth2 roadmap, proposals were made for an "early Merge", expediting the delivery of proof-of-stake to Ethereum. Most importantly, the early Merge would not require any migration from Ethereum’s applications or its users, and would continue using the heavily battle-tested mainnet Ethereum clients in conjunction with the new proof-of-stake consensus clients.

In early 2022, the “Ethereum 2.0” terminology was deprecated in an effort to highlight the existence of only one Ethereum network and one ether cryptocurrency. As a result of the effort, the Eth1 blockchain was renamed to the “execution layer”, and its associated Eth1 clients were reclassified as execution clients. Similarly, the Eth2 blockchain was renamed to the "consensus layer", and its associated Eth2 clients were reclassified as consensus clients.

The switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake has cut Ethereum's energy usage by 99%. However, the impact this has on global energy consumption and climate change may be limited since the computers previously used for mining ether may be used to mine other cryptocurrencies that are energy-intensive.[11]

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Vitalik Buterin

Vitalik Buterin

Vitaly "Vitalik" Buterin is a Russian-Canadian computer programmer and founder of Ethereum. Buterin became involved with cryptocurrency early in its inception, co-founding Bitcoin Magazine in 2011. In 2014, Buterin deployed Ethereum on blockchain with Dimitry Buterin, Gavin Wood, Charles Hoskinson, Anthony Di Iorio and Joseph Lubin.

Bitcoin Magazine

Bitcoin Magazine

Bitcoin Magazine is one of the original news and print magazine publishers covering Bitcoin and digital currencies. Bitcoin Magazine began publishing in 2012. It was co-founded by Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Matthew N. Wright, Vladimir Marchenko, and Vicente S. It is currently owned and operated by BTC Inc in Nashville, Tennessee.

EToro

EToro

eToro is an Israeli social trading and multi-asset investment company that focuses on providing financial and copy trading services. Its headquarters are located in Central Israel, and the company has registered offices in Cyprus, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

Colored Coins

Colored Coins

Colored Coins is an open-source protocol built on the Bitcoin 2.0 that allows users to represent and manipulate immutable digital resources on top of Bitcoin transactions. They are a class of methods for representing and maintaining real-world assets on the Bitcoin blockchain, which may be used to establish asset ownership. Colored coins are bitcoins with a mark on them that specifies what they may be used for. Colored coins are also considered the initial step toward NFTs built on top of the Bitcoin network.

Gavin Wood

Gavin Wood

Gavin James Wood is an English computer scientist, a founder of Ethereum and creator of Polkadot and Kusama.

Charles Hoskinson

Charles Hoskinson

Charles Hoskinson is an American entrepreneur who is a co-founder of the blockchain engineering company Input Output Global, Inc., and the Cardano blockchain platform, and was a co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain platform.

Anthony Di Iorio

Anthony Di Iorio

Anthony Di Iorio is a Canadian entrepreneur primarily known as a co-founder of Ethereum and an early investor in Bitcoin. Di Iorio is the founder and CEO of the blockchain company Decentral, and the associated Jaxx wallet. He also served as the first chief digital officer of the Toronto Stock Exchange. In February 2018, Forbes estimated his net worth at $750 million–$1 billion.

Joseph Lubin (entrepreneur)

Joseph Lubin (entrepreneur)

Joseph Lubin is a Canadian-American entrepreneur. He has founded and co-founded several companies including the Swiss-based EthSuisse, contributing heavily to Ethereum, the decentralized cryptocurrency platform. Lubin is founder of ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based software-production studio.

Cardano (blockchain platform)

Cardano (blockchain platform)

Cardano is a public blockchain platform. It is open-source and decentralized, with consensus achieved using proof of stake. It can facilitate peer-to-peer transactions with its internal cryptocurrency, ADA.

Luminiferous aether

Luminiferous aether

Luminiferous aether or ether was the postulated medium for the propagation of light. It was invoked to explain the ability of the apparently wave-based light to propagate through empty space, something that waves should not be able to do. The assumption of a spatial plenum of luminiferous aether, rather than a spatial vacuum, provided the theoretical medium that was required by wave theories of light.

Smart contract

Smart contract

A smart contract is a computer program or a transaction protocol that is intended to automatically execute, control or document events and actions according to the terms of a contract or an agreement. The objectives of smart contracts are the reduction of need for trusted intermediators, arbitration costs, and fraud losses, as well as the reduction of malicious and accidental exceptions. Smart contracts are commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, and the smart contracts introduced by Ethereum are generally considered a fundamental building block for decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFT applications.

Chief technology officer

Chief technology officer

A chief technology officer (CTO), also known as a chief technical officer or chief technologist, is an executive-level position in a company or other entity whose occupation is focused on the scientific and technological issues within an organization.

Design

Ethereum is a permissionless,[b] non-hierarchical network of computers (nodes) that maintains a database containing the ETH balances and other storage values of all Ethereum accounts, known as the "state", and processes state-altering transactions. Approximately every 12 seconds, a batch of new transactions, known as a "block", is processed by the network. Each block contains a cryptographic hash identifying the series of blocks that must precede it if the block is to be considered valid. This series of blocks, from the genesis (first) block to the most recent one, is known as the blockchain.

Each node connects with a relatively small subset of the network—its "peers". It offers validated blocks and unvalidated transactions (i.e. transactions not yet in the blockchain) to its peers for download, and it downloads any of these from its peers that it doesn't already have. Its list of unvalidated transactions is known as a "mempool".

A node may choose to create a copy of the state for itself. It does this by starting with the genesis state and executing every transaction in the blockchain, in the proper order of blocks and in the order they are listed within each block.

Any Ethereum account may deposit ("stake") 32 ETH to become a validator. Each validator is pseudorandomly assigned to one of the 32 block slots of each epoch, either as the block proposer or as an attester. A validator must keep an up-to-date mempool and state, in order to be able to create valid blocks and to attest to the validity of blocks. If a validator makes self-contradicting proposals or attestations, or if they are inactive, they lose a portion of their stake.

When the time comes for a validator to propose a block, it uses its mempool to create a new block, then it sends the block to a subnet consisting of all of the attesters for that block slot. The subnet aggregates their attestations, adds that aggregate to the block, and then offers the block for download to its peers. When a node downloads a block, it checks that the block has the requisite number of attestations (two-thirds or more of the attester set), and if so, it keeps the block and offers it for download to its peers.

Ether

Ether (ETH) is the cryptocurrency generated in accordance with the Ethereum protocol as a reward to validators in a proof-of-stake system for adding blocks to the blockchain. Ether is represented in the state as an unsigned integer associated with each account, this being the account's ETH balance denominated in wei (1018 wei = 1 ether).[50] At the end of each epoch, new ETH is generated by the addition of protocol-specified amounts to the balances of all validators for that epoch, with the block proposers receiving the largest portion. Additionally, ether is the only currency accepted by the protocol as payment for the transaction fee. The transaction fee is composed of two parts: the base fee and the tip. The base fee is burned (removed from circulation) and the tip goes to the block proposer. The validator reward together with the tips provide the incentive to validators to keep the blockchain growing (i.e. to keep processing new transactions). Therefore, ETH is fundamental to the operation of the network. Ether may be "sent" from one account to another via a transaction, which simply entails subtracting the amount to be sent from the sender's balance and adding the same amount to the recipient's balance.[51]

Ether is often erroneously referred to as "Ethereum".[52]

Ether is listed on exchanges under the abbreviation ETH. The Greek uppercase Xi character (Ξ) is sometimes used for its currency symbol.

Accounts

There are two types of accounts on Ethereum: user accounts (also known as externally-owned accounts) and contracts. Both types have an ETH balance, may send ETH to any account, may call any public function of a contract or create a new contract, and are identified on the blockchain and in the state by an account address.[53]

User accounts are the only type of account that may create transactions. For a transaction to be valid, it must be signed using the sending account's private key, the 64-character hexadecimal string from which the account's address is derived. The algorithm used to produce the signature is ECDSA. Importantly, this algorithm allows one to derive the signer's address from the signature without knowing the private key.

Contracts are the only type of account that has associated code (a set of functions and variable declarations) and contract storage (the values of the variables at any given time). A contract function may take arguments and may have return values. In addition to control flow statements, the body of a function may include instructions to send ETH, read from and write to the contract's storage, create temporary storage (memory) that vanishes at the end of the function, perform arithmetic and hashing operations, call the contract's own functions or public functions of other contracts, create new contracts, and query information about the current transaction or the blockchain.[54]

Addresses

Ethereum addresses are composed of the prefix "0x" (a common identifier for hexadecimal) concatenated with the rightmost 20 bytes of the Keccak-256 hash of the ECDSA public key (the curve used is the so-called secp256k1). In hexadecimal, two digits represent a byte, and so addresses contain 40 hexadecimal digits, e.g. 0xb794f5ea0ba39494ce839613fffba74279579268. Contract addresses are in the same format, however, they are determined by sender and creation transaction nonce.[25]

Virtual machine

The number of daily confirmed Ethereum transactions as of April 2021
The number of daily confirmed Ethereum transactions as of April 2021

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is the runtime environment for transaction execution in Ethereum. It includes a stack, memory, and the persistent storage for all Ethereum accounts (including contract code). The EVM is stack-based, in that most instructions pop operands from the stack and push the result to the stack. The EVM is designed to be deterministic on a wide variety of hardware and operating systems, so that given a pre-transaction state and a transaction, each node produces the same post-transaction state, thereby enabling network consensus. The formal definition of the EVM is specified in the Ethereum Yellow Paper.[25][55] EVMs have been implemented in C++, C#, Go, Haskell, Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Rust, Elixir, Erlang, and soon WebAssembly.

Gas

Gas is a unit of account within the EVM used in the calculation of the transaction fee, which is the amount of ETH a transaction's sender must pay to the network to have the transaction included in the blockchain. Each type of operation which may be performed by the EVM is hardcoded with a certain gas cost, which is intended to be roughly proportional to the monetary value of the resources (e.g. computation and storage) a node must expend or dedicate to perform that operation.

When a sender is creating a transaction, the sender must specify a gas limit and gas price. The gas limit is the maximum amount of gas the sender is willing to use in the transaction, and the gas price is the amount of ETH the sender wishes to pay to the network per unit of gas used. A transaction may only be included in the blockchain at a block slot that has a base gas price less than or equal to the transaction's gas price. The portion of the gas price that is in excess of the base gas price is known as the tip and goes to the block proposer; the higher the tip, the more incentive a block proposer has to include the transaction in their block, and thus the quicker the transaction will be included in the blockchain. The sender buys the full amount of gas (i.e. their ETH balance is debited the amount: gas limit × gas price) up-front, at the start of the execution of the transaction, and is refunded at the end for any unused gas. If at any point the transaction does not have enough gas to perform the next operation, the transaction is reverted but the sender is still only refunded for the unused gas. In user interfaces, gas prices are typically denominated in gigawei (gwei), a subunit of ETH equal to 10−9 ETH.[56]

This fee mechanism is designed to mitigate transaction spam, prevent infinite loops during contract execution, and provide for a market-based allocation of network resources.

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Computer network

Computer network

A computer network is a set of computers sharing resources located on or provided by network nodes. The computers use common communication protocols over digital interconnections to communicate with each other. These interconnections are made up of telecommunication network technologies, based on physically wired, optical, and wireless radio-frequency methods that may be arranged in a variety of network topologies.

Database

Database

In computing, a database is an organized collection of data stored and accessed electronically. Small databases can be stored on a file system, while large databases are hosted on computer clusters or cloud storage. The design of databases spans formal techniques and practical considerations, including data modeling, efficient data representation and storage, query languages, security and privacy of sensitive data, and distributed computing issues, including supporting concurrent access and fault tolerance.

Cryptographic hash function

Cryptographic hash function

A cryptographic hash function (CHF) is a hash algorithm that has special properties desirable for a cryptographic application:the probability of a particular -bit output result for a random input string ("message") is , so the hash value can be used as a representative of the message; finding an input string that matches a given hash value is unfeasible, unless the value is selected from a known pre-calculated dictionary. The resistance to such search is quantified as security strength, a cryptographic hash with bits of hash value is expected to have a preimage resistance strength of bits. A second preimage resistance strength, with the same expectations, refers to a similar problem of finding a second message that matches the given hash value when one message is already known; finding any pair of different messages that yield the same hash value is also unfeasible, a cryptographic hash is expected to have a collision resistance strength of bits.

Blockchain

Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed ledger with growing lists of records (blocks) that are securely linked together via cryptographic hashes. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was created. Since each block contains information about the previous block, they effectively form a chain, with each additional block linking to the ones before it. Consequently, blockchain transactions are irreversible in that, once they are recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.

Pseudorandomness

Pseudorandomness

A pseudorandom sequence of numbers is one that appears to be statistically random, despite having been produced by a completely deterministic and repeatable process.

Proof of stake

Proof of stake

Proof-of-stake (PoS) protocols are a class of consensus mechanisms for blockchains that work by selecting validators in proportion to their quantity of holdings in the associated cryptocurrency. This is done to avoid the computational cost of proof-of-work schemes. The first functioning use of PoS for cryptocurrency was Peercoin in 2012.

Integer (computer science)

Integer (computer science)

In computer science, an integer is a datum of integral data type, a data type that represents some range of mathematical integers. Integral data types may be of different sizes and may or may not be allowed to contain negative values. Integers are commonly represented in a computer as a group of binary digits (bits). The size of the grouping varies so the set of integer sizes available varies between different types of computers. Computer hardware nearly always provides a way to represent a processor register or memory address as an integer.

Hexadecimal

Hexadecimal

In mathematics and computing, the hexadecimal numeral system is a positional numeral system that represents numbers using a radix (base) of 16. Unlike the decimal system representing numbers using 10 symbols, hexadecimal uses 16 distinct symbols, most often the symbols "0"–"9" to represent values 0 to 9, and "A"–"F" to represent values from 10 to 15.

Algorithm

Algorithm

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a finite sequence of rigorous instructions, typically used to solve a class of specific problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are used as specifications for performing calculations and data processing. More advanced algorithms can use conditionals to divert the code execution through various routes and deduce valid inferences, achieving automation eventually. Using human characteristics as descriptors of machines in metaphorical ways was already practiced by Alan Turing with terms such as "memory", "search" and "stimulus".

Declaration (computer programming)

Declaration (computer programming)

In computer programming, a declaration is a language construct specifying identifier properties: it declares a word's (identifier's) meaning. Declarations are most commonly used for functions, variables, constants, and classes, but can also be used for other entities such as enumerations and type definitions. Beyond the name and the kind of entity, declarations typically specify the data type, or the type signature ; types may also include dimensions, such as for arrays. A declaration is used to announce the existence of the entity to the compiler; this is important in those strongly typed languages that require functions, variables, and constants, and their types to be specified with a declaration before use, and is used in forward declaration. The term "declaration" is frequently contrasted with the term "definition", but meaning and usage varies significantly between languages; see below.

Parameter (computer programming)

Parameter (computer programming)

In computer programming, a parameter or a formal argument is a special kind of variable used in a subroutine to refer to one of the pieces of data provided as input to the subroutine. These pieces of data are the values of the arguments with which the subroutine is going to be called/invoked. An ordered list of parameters is usually included in the definition of a subroutine, so that, each time the subroutine is called, its arguments for that call are evaluated, and the resulting values can be assigned to the corresponding parameters.

Control flow

Control flow

In computer science, control flow is the order in which individual statements, instructions or function calls of an imperative program are executed or evaluated. The emphasis on explicit control flow distinguishes an imperative programming language from a declarative programming language.

Applications

The EVM's instruction set is Turing-complete.[25] Popular uses of Ethereum have included the creation of fungible (ERC-20) and non-fungible (ERC-721) tokens with a variety of properties, crowdfunding (e.g. initial coin offerings), decentralized finance, decentralized exchanges, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), games, prediction markets, and gambling.

Contract source code

Ethereum's smart contracts are written in high-level programming languages and then compiled down to EVM bytecode and deployed to the Ethereum blockchain. They can be written in Solidity (a language library with similarities to C and JavaScript), Serpent (similar to Python, but deprecated), Yul (an intermediate language that can compile to various different backends—EVM 1.0, EVM 1.5, and eWASM are planned), LLL (a low-level Lisp-like language), and Mutan (Go-based, but deprecated). There was also a research-oriented language under development called Vyper (a strongly-typed Python-derived decidable language). Source code and compiler information are usually published along with the launch of the contract so that users can see the code and verify that it compiles to the bytecode that is on-chain.

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.[57] One example of this is the 2016 attack on The DAO, which could not be quickly stopped or reversed.[34]

ERC-20 tokens

The ERC-20 (Ethereum Request-for-Comments #20) Token Standard allows for fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. The standard, proposed by Fabian Vogelsteller in November 2015, implements an API for tokens within smart contracts. The standard provides functions that include the transfer of tokens from one account to another, getting the current token balance of an account, and getting the total supply of the token available on the network. Smart contracts that correctly implement ERC-20 processes are called ERC-20 Token Contracts, and they keep track of created tokens on Ethereum. Numerous cryptocurrencies have launched as ERC-20 tokens and have been distributed through initial coin offerings.[58] Fees to send ERC-20 tokens must be paid with ether.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

Ethereum also allows for the creation of unique and indivisible tokens, called non-fungible tokens (NFTs).[59] Since tokens of this type are unique, they have been used to represent such things as collectibles, digital art, sports memorabilia, virtual real estate, and items within games.[60] The first NFT project, Etheria, a 3D map of tradable and customizable hexagonal tiles, was deployed to the network in October 2015 and demonstrated live at DEVCON1 in November of that year.[61] In 2021, Christie's sold a digital image with an NFT by Beeple for US$69.3 million, making him the third-most-valuable living artist in terms of auction prices at the time, although observers have noted that both the buyer and seller had a vested interest in driving demand for the artist's work.[62][63] Land, buildings, and avatars in blockchain-based virtual worlds can also be bought and sold as NFTs, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars.[64]

Decentralized finance

The web interface to Compound Finance's decentralized application where users can lend and borrow cryptocurrencies for interest
The web interface to Compound Finance's decentralized application where users can lend and borrow cryptocurrencies for interest

Decentralized finance (DeFi) offers traditional financial instruments in a decentralized architecture, outside of companies' and governments' control, such as money market funds which let users earn interest.[65] DeFi applications are typically accessed through a Web3-enabled browser extension or application, such as MetaMask, which allows users to directly interact with the Ethereum blockchain through a website.[66] Many of these DApps can connect and work together to create complex financial services.[67]

Examples of DeFi platforms include MakerDAO and Compound.[68] Uniswap, a decentralized exchange for tokens on Ethereum grew from US$20 million in liquidity to US$2.9 billion in 2020.[69] As of October 2020, over US$11 billion was invested in various DeFi protocols.[70] Additionally, through a process called "wrapping", certain DeFi protocols allow synthetic versions of various assets (such as bitcoin, gold, and oil) to be tradeable on Ethereum and also compatible with all of Ethereum's major wallets and applications.[70]

Enterprise software

Ethereum-based software and networks, independent from the public Ethereum chain, are being tested by enterprise software companies.[71] Interested parties include Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase,[51] Deloitte, R3, and Innovate UK (cross-border payments prototype).[72] Barclays, UBS, Credit Suisse, Amazon, Visa, and other companies are also experimenting with Ethereum.[73][74]

Permissioned ledgers

Ethereum-based permissioned blockchain variants are used and being investigated for various projects:

  • In 2017, JPMorgan Chase proposed developing JPM Coin on a permissioned-variant of Ethereum blockchain dubbed "Quorum".[75] It is "designed to toe the line between private and public in the realm of shuffling derivatives and payments. The idea is to satisfy regulators who need seamless access to financial goings-on while protecting the privacy of parties that don't wish to reveal their identities nor the details of their transactions to the general public."[76]
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland announced that it built a Clearing and Settlement Mechanism (CSM) based on the Ethereum distributed ledger and smart contract platform.

Performance

The downside is that performance issues arise because every node calculates all the smart contracts in real-time. As of January 2016, the Ethereum protocol could process about 25 transactions per second; this didn't change after the proof-of-stake implementation. In comparison, the Visa payment platform processes 45,000 payments per second. This has led some to question the scalability of Ethereum.[77] On 19 December 2016, Ethereum exceeded one million transactions in a single day for the first time.[78] Visa has also signaled interest in processing NFT and Ethereum transactions.[79]

Ethereum engineers have been working on sharding the calculations, and the next step (Ethereum 2) was presented at Ethereum's Devcon 3 in November 2017.[80]

Ethereum's blockchain uses Merkle trees for security reasons, to improve scalability, and to optimize transaction hashing.[81] As with any Merkle tree implementation, this allows for storage savings, set membership proofs (called "Merkle proofs"), and light client synchronization. The network has faced congestion problems, such as in 2017 in relation to CryptoKitties.[82]

Discover more about Applications related topics

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people, typically via the internet. Crowdfunding is a form of crowdsourcing and alternative finance. In 2015, over US$34 billion was raised worldwide by crowdfunding.

Decentralized finance

Decentralized finance

Decentralized finance offers financial instruments without relying on intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks by using smart contracts on a blockchain. DeFi platforms allow people to lend or borrow funds from others, speculate on price movements on assets using derivatives, trade cryptocurrencies, insure against risks, and earn interest in savings-like accounts. DeFi uses a layered architecture and highly composable building blocks. Some applications promote high interest rates but are subject to high risk. Coding errors and hacks have been common in DeFi.

Decentralized autonomous organization

Decentralized autonomous organization

A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), sometimes called a decentralized autonomous corporation (DAC), is an organization constructed by rules encoded as a computer program that is often transparent, controlled by the organization's members and not influenced by a central government. In general terms, DAOs are member-owned communities without centralized leadership. A DAO's financial transaction records and program rules are maintained on a blockchain. The precise legal status of this type of business organization is unclear.

Prediction market

Prediction market

Prediction markets are open markets where specific outcomes can be predicted using financial incentives. Essentially, they are exchange-traded markets created for the purpose of trading the outcome of events. The market prices can indicate what the crowd thinks the probability of the event is. A prediction market contract trades between 0 and 100%. The most common form of a prediction market is a binary option market, which will expire at the price of 0 or 100%. Prediction markets can be thought of as belonging to the more general concept of crowdsourcing which is specially designed to aggregate information on particular topics of interest. The main purposes of prediction markets are eliciting aggregating beliefs over an unknown future outcome. Traders with different beliefs trade on contracts whose payoffs are related to the unknown future outcome and the market prices of the contracts are considered as the aggregated belief.

High-level programming language

High-level programming language

In computer science, a high-level programming language is a programming language with strong abstraction from the details of the computer. In contrast to low-level programming languages, it may use natural language elements, be easier to use, or may automate significant areas of computing systems, making the process of developing a program simpler and more understandable than when using a lower-level language. The amount of abstraction provided defines how "high-level" a programming language is.

Compiler

Compiler

In computing, a compiler is a computer program that translates computer code written in one programming language into another language. The name "compiler" is primarily used for programs that translate source code from a high-level programming language to a low-level programming language to create an executable program.

Bytecode

Bytecode

Bytecode is a form of instruction set designed for efficient execution by a software interpreter. Unlike human-readable source code, bytecodes are compact numeric codes, constants, and references that encode the result of compiler parsing and performing semantic analysis of things like type, scope, and nesting depths of program objects.

C (programming language)

C (programming language)

C is a general-purpose computer programming language. It was created in the 1970s by Dennis Ritchie, and remains very widely used and influential. By design, C's features cleanly reflect the capabilities of the targeted CPUs. It has found lasting use in operating systems, device drivers, protocol stacks, though decreasingly for application software. C is commonly used on computer architectures that range from the largest supercomputers to the smallest microcontrollers and embedded systems.

JavaScript

JavaScript

JavaScript, often abbreviated as JS, is a programming language that is one of the core technologies of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and CSS. As of 2022, 98% of websites use JavaScript on the client side for webpage behavior, often incorporating third-party libraries. All major web browsers have a dedicated JavaScript engine to execute the code on users' devices.

Low-level programming language

Low-level programming language

A low-level programming language is a programming language that provides little or no abstraction from a computer's instruction set architecture—commands or functions in the language map that are structurally similar to processor's instructions. Generally, this refers to either machine code or assembly language. Because of the low abstraction between the language and machine language, low-level languages are sometimes described as being "close to the hardware". Programs written in low-level languages tend to be relatively non-portable, due to being optimized for a certain type of system architecture.

Lisp (programming language)

Lisp (programming language)

Lisp is a family of programming languages with a long history and a distinctive, fully parenthesized prefix notation. Originally specified in 1960, Lisp is the second-oldest high-level programming language still in common use, after Fortran. Lisp has changed since its early days, and many dialects have existed over its history. Today, the best-known general-purpose Lisp dialects are Common Lisp, Scheme, Racket and Clojure.

Go (programming language)

Go (programming language)

Go is a statically typed, compiled high-level programming language designed at Google by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson. It is syntactically similar to C, but with memory safety, garbage collection, structural typing, and CSP-style concurrency. It is often referred to as Golang because of its former domain name, golang.org, but its proper name is Go.

Regulation

In the United States, the proposed Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act would treat Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies as commodities, which could then be regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).[83][84]

Discover more about Regulation related topics

2020s commodities boom

2020s commodities boom

The 2020s commodities boom refers to the rise of many commodity prices in the early 2020s following the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 recession initially made commodity prices drop, but lockdowns, supply chain bottlenecks, and dovish monetary policy limited supply and created excess demand causing a commodity super cycle rise.

United States

United States

The United States of America, commonly known as the United States or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, nine Minor Outlying Islands, and 326 Indian reservations. The United States is also in free association with three Pacific Island sovereign states: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. It is the world's third-largest country by both land and total area. It shares land borders with Canada to its north and with Mexico to its south. The U.S. has maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, and other nations. With a population of over 333 million, it is the most populous country in the Americas and the third most populous in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C. and the most populous city and financial center is New York City.

Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act

Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act

The Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act (DCCPA) is a proposed United States federal law to regulate the trading of cryptocurrencies and related digital assets. It would place the regulation of crypto assets under the authority of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which already regulates the trading of financial derivatives in the United States.

Commodity

Commodity

In economics, a commodity is an economic good, usually a resource, that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is an independent agency of the US government created in 1974 that regulates the U.S. derivatives markets, which includes futures, swaps, and certain kinds of options.

Source: "Ethereum", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 31st), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethereum.

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Notes
  1. ^ Cryptocurrency do not have a formal ISO 4217 alpha-3 code. "ETH" is informal only
  2. ^ A permissionless network allows any party to participate in the network (e.g., conduct transactions) and contribute to its upkeep (e.g., consensus process) without any requirement to validate/approve its identity from a central authority.
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