About Ethereum & Where To Trade It
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What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is similar to bitcoin in that it is a cryptoasset running on top of a blockchain. But that really is where the similarity ends, even though Ether and bitcoin are bandied about in the same sentence by many. Ethereum was first described in a white paper back in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, and came into existence in 2014.
In short, ethereum wants to be a ‘World Computer’, and this is the best way to think of ethereum…a worldwide computer. Comparing Ethereum to a traditional computer on your desk, ethereum is made up of:
- a hard-drive (or server, called Swarm) is decentralised across the globe, running on thousands of computers that take part in the ethereum project
- a messaging system (Whisper) that is again decentralised
- a screen (Mist) that brings all of this decentralised data together for the user, when they want it.
Three other important points to note about ethereum are:
- anyone can build decentralised apps (dApps) on the ethereum platform
- you can pass additional information inside a transaction (known as Smart Contracts), which you cannot do with bitcoin. This means you can make transactions conditional on certain events having happened (eg the delivery of a parcel) before the transaction is approved.
Why the big fuss?
With the current client-server model, companies hold data on a central server that they own and control. This site, for example, relies on a central server to hold all these words, pages, images and links, and serve them up when you call them. This centralised method is expensive, risky and open to abuse. When you buy a product or share your personal details with a company, for example, your personal data is stored on the company’s central server. In a messaging app, your messages are stored centrally. All those apps you use each day rely on the company’s discretion and professionalism to hold your personal information safely and securely. But hacks happen, data is lost, companies go bust and your data is at risk.
Ethereum uses blockchain technology to enable companies and individuals to create decentralised Apps (dApps) on its platform. And in a popular programming language.
Most of the ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) you’re reading about are coming from companies using the ethereum platform. Ethereum is the foundation enabling all this innovation in the blockchain space right now.
What can I buy with Ethereum?
As we’ve seen, ethereum aims to function both as a kind of decentralised internet and a decentralised app store, supporting a new type of application (a “dapp”) in the process.
While no one owns ethereum, the system that supports this functionality isn’t free. Rather, the network needs ‘ether’, a unique piece of code that can be used to pay for the computational resources needed to run an application or program.
Like bitcoin, ether is a digital bearer asset (similar to a security, like a bond, issued in physical form). Just like cash, it doesn’t require a third party to process or approve a transaction.
But instead of operating as a digital currency or payment, ether seeks to provide “fuel” for the decentralised apps on the network.
Where can I buy, sell or trade Ethereum?
We recommend you buy, sell or trade ether at a trusted broker. Our favourite is at the top of this page. You can read our reviews of the top brokers here.
Caution: Trading involves the possibility of financial loss. Only trade with money that you are prepared to lose, you must recognise that for factors outside your control you may lose all of the money in your trading account.
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