Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. It supports a modified version of Nakamoto consensus via transaction-based state transitions.
Ether is a cryptocurrency whose blockchain is generated by the Ethereum platform. Ether can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant mining nodes for computations performed. Ethereum provides a decentralized virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. The virtual machine’s instruction set, in contrast to others like Bitcoin Script, is thought to be Turing-complete. “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 that took place between July and August 2014.
The system went live on 30 July 2015, with 72 million coins “premined”. This accounts for about 70 percent of the total circulating supply in 2018.
In 2016, as a result of the exploitation of a flaw in The DAO project’s smart contract software, and subsequent theft of $50 million worth of Ether, Ethereum was split into two separate blockchains – the new separate version became Ethereum (ETH) with the theft reversed, and the original continued as Ethereum Classic (ETC).
The value of the Ethereum currency grew over 13,000 percent in 2017, to over $1400. By September 2018, it had fallen back to $200.