Last Thursday, the Ethereum project was launched! Ethereum is a net of computers that make a new kind of app work. The name is a metaphor referring to Ether, the hypothetical invisible medium that permeates the universe and allows light to travel. It’s an extremely ambitious project, and it is vaporware no more!
What does this mean?
An example of the way regular apps work today is say you send a message over Whatsapp, the message is sent from your phone to the Whatsapp server then to the person you sent it to. They paid to build their own servers which puts your message in the hands of a large company using a centralized Network of Computers.
Using the Ethereum way the message goes to a net of independent computers spread all over the world using a decentralized network. These computers are owned by people all over the world like you and me with each computer does a little bit of the work. To connect to the network you need a special program called Mist. However no one can access your message but you and the recipient.
Every computer that is participating receives a reward for the work it does. This is payment for the electricity, hardware and shared processing power. To be eligible for these rewards every computer needs to be in sync with the network and stay always-on to work. Now you aren’t rewarded in a real world currency like dollars for example but rather a digital asset called Ether. Ether is the fuel that makes dApps run. A good way to view it is comparing it to how gas makes your car run.
So how do you use this “Ether”? Users get an account at an online exchange which is similar to the trading platform you used to buy stocks. Ether owners monetize their work and sell Ether for real dollars. dApp Developers need Ether to run their apps on the Ethereum network and want to buy some ETH for real dollars. Now Ether is like bitcoin but with a different purpose; to let dApps work. It’s not meant to be spent like bitcoin in place of real money.
We don’t need everyone in the world adopting Ether and using it everyday. The focus of Ethereum should be about educating the masses on why they should prefer an app with decentralized elements which will in turn create demand and bring developers into Ethereum. While Bitcoin needs millions of people to work, Ethereum just needs a few thousand developers. It’s a similar situation with computers and smartphones. The majority of the users are consumers not creators. Consumers don’t know how apps work behind the scenes but they know why they use them.
This launch is a true achievement and should not be overlooked, but this is just the beginning for Ethereum. A lot of developers are questioning the technical merits and major development milestones still need to be overcome. However for those of us excited by the idea of decentralized blockchain technology, Ethereum is the closest to doing it successfully. If successful, it will be one of the biggest technological feats since the occurrence of the internet.