What you should know about Ethereum: A beginner’s guide

All you need to know about Ethereum (ETH) network as a beginner. The write up here can help you understand the cryptocurrency better and also make wiser trading decisions.
What you should know about Ethereum: A beginner's guide

What is Ethereum (ETH) if Bitcoin (BTC) is the claimed future of money?

That is the reasonable question for someone new to the cryptocurrency field to ask, given that Ethereum and its native Ether (ETH) token are likely to be seen alongside Bitcoin on exchanges and in the news. However, putting Ethereum in direct rivalry with Bitcoin isn’t entirely accurate. It has a variety of objectives, features, and even technology.

Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain network powered by the Ether token that allows users to do things like execute transactions, collect interest on their holdings through staking, utilize and store nonfungible tokens (NFTs), trade cryptocurrencies, play games, and use social media amongst others.

It’s now a proof-of-work (PoW) blockchain, but with Ethereum 2.0, it’ll switch to proof-of-stake (PoS) for scalability and a more ecologically friendly method.

Ethereum is widely regarded as the internet’s next step. If Web 2.0 represents centralized platforms like Apple’s App Store, Web 3.0 represents a decentralized, user-powered network like Ethereum. Decentralized applications (DApps), decentralized finance (DeFi), and decentralized exchanges (DEXs), for example, are supported by this “next-generation web.”

These are all secure, automated versions of traditional money and internet usage that are frequently used. DeFi already has billions of dollars invested in projects, and that number is anticipated to rise.

Ethereum’s History

Ethereum was not always the world’s second-largest blockchain project. Vitalik Buterin co-founded the project in order to address Bitcoin’s flaws. In 2013, Buterin published the Ethereum white paper, which described smart contracts, which are automated, immutable “if-then” expressions that allow developers to create decentralized apps.

While there was previously DApp development in the blockchain arena, the platforms were not compatible. Ethereum, according to Buterin, was created to bring them together. To him, the only way to retain adoption was to unify the way DApps function and interact.

As a result, Ethereum 1.0 was created. Consider it like Apple’s App Store: a single location for tens of thousands of different apps, all according to the same set of rules, but those rules are hardcoded into the network and enforced autonomously, with DApp creators able to enforce their own restrictions.

There is no central party, like there is with Apple when it comes to amending and enforcing regulations. Instead, the power is in the hands of a group of people who act together.

Of course, putting together a network like this isn’t cheap. So Buterin and his co-founders Gavin Wood, Jeffrey Wilcke, Charles Hoskinson, Mihai Alisie, Anthony Di Iorio, and Amir Chetrit launched a token presale to raise $18,439,086 in Ether, which they used to fund Ethereum’s current and future growth.

The Ethereum Foundation was established in Switzerland by the organization with the purpose of maintaining and developing the network. Buterin revealed shortly after that the foundation will be managed as a nonprofit, prompting some co-founders to resign.

Developers began to flock to Ethereum with their own decentralized ideas over time. The DAO, a democratic group that voted on network modifications and suggestions, was created by these users in 2016.

The company was supported by a smart contract, which eliminated the need for a CEO to wield influence over Ethereum. Changes could only be made if a majority of people voted for them.

However, everything went wrong when an unknown hacker used a security flaw to steal $40 million from The DAO’s holdings. The DAO voted to “hard fork” Ethereum, separating from the old network and upgrading to a new protocol, effectively performing a massive software upgrade, in order to reverse the theft. The previous network is known as Ethereum Classic, whereas the new fork is known as Ethereum.

What is Ethereum’s mechanism?

The Ethereum network, like Bitcoin, is distributed among thousands of computers throughout the world, thanks to people acting as “nodes” rather than a centralized server. As a result, the network is decentralized and highly resistant to attacks, and it is virtually impossible to bring down. It doesn’t matter if one computer fails because the network is supported by thousands of others.

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Ethereum is a single, decentralized system that is powered by the Ethereum Virtual Machine, a computer (EVM). Every node has a copy of that computer, therefore any interactions must be confirmed so that everyone’s copy may be updated.

Otherwise known as “transactions,” network interactions are recorded in blocks on the Ethereum blockchain. Miners validate these blocks before committing them to the network, which acts as a digital ledger or transaction history. A proof-of-work consensus technique is used to verify transactions.

Each block is identified by a 64-digit code that is unique to it. Miners devote their computing resources to finding the code and confirming its uniqueness. Miners are rewarded in ETH for their efforts, and their computer power serves as “proof” of that labor.

All Ethereum transactions, like Bitcoin, are completely public. Completed blocks are broadcast to the rest of the network, validating the modification and adding the blocks to everyone’s copy of the ledger. Confirmed blocks are immutable and serve as a perfect record of all network transactions.

But, if miners are compensated for their efforts, where does the ETH originate? Each transaction is accompanied by a cost known as “gas,” which is paid by the user who initiates the transaction. This fee is paid to the miner who validates the transaction, which encourages more mining and ensures network security.

Gas acts as a limit, limiting the number of actions a user can perform each transaction. It’s also there to keep network spam at bay.

The supply of ETH is endless since it is more of a utility token than a value token. Ether enters circulation in the form of miner incentives on a regular basis, and it will do so with staking rewards once the network switches to PoS.

In principle, Ether will always be in demand, therefore inflation should never depreciate the asset to the point where it is no longer useful.

Unfortunately, depending on network traffic, Ethereum gas prices might be fairly high. This is due to the fact that a block can only carry a certain amount of gas, which changes depending on transaction kinds and amounts.

As a result, miners will prioritize transactions with the greatest gas prices, putting users in a race to validate the most transactions first. Fees are being pushed higher and higher as a result of the competition, which is clogging the network during peak hours.

Network congestion is a major issue, but it will be solved in Ethereum 2.0, which is a comprehensive revamp that will be described in a separate section.

To interact with Ethereum, you’ll need Bitcoin, which you’ll keep in a wallet. That wallet links to DApps and serves as an Ethereum ecosystem passport. Anyone can buy things, play games, lend money, and do all sorts of things from there, just like they can on the traditional internet.

The traditional web, on the other hand, is free to users because they are handing out personal information. The data is then sold to gain money by centralized corporations that control websites.

In this case, cryptocurrency replaces data, allowing users to explore and engage anonymously. This also implies that the adoption of DApps is not discriminatory. No lending or banking DApp, for example, can reject someone based on their race or financial situation.

What an intermediary considers a “suspicious transaction” cannot be blocked. Many consider Ethereum to be Web 3.0 — the future of web interaction — since users have complete control over what they do and how they do it.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum

While Bitcoin is the most widely used cryptocurrency, the Ethereum community wants to see the project grow. The former is designed to function as digital money, and it does it admirably. However, Bitcoin is not without its drawbacks. It’s a PoW network that’s having trouble scaling, which has led some to assume it’s more of a store of value than gold.

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The fact that Bitcoin has a hard cap of 21 million coins adds to that argument.

Ethereum, on the other hand, aims to replace the internet’s current infrastructure. Many processes that currently require middlemen, such as using an app store or engaging with fund managers, will be automated. ETH is more commonly used to communicate with the network than to send money, though it can do both.

Developers can build on Ethereum by establishing an ERC-20 token, which is a unique, Ether-compatible token for each DApp. While the procedure isn’t flawless, it does ensure that all Ethereum-based coins are technically compatible. The Bitcoin network is exclusive to Bitcoin.

What progress has been made on Ethereum?

The Ethereum network’s most significant success has been decentralized finance. DApps that can perform several functions inside the ecosystem began to appear around 2019 to 2020, and their popularity is growing by the day. The Ethereum network will be used more as a result of the increased use of DApps.

The Ethereum DeFi community is the largest, with successful DApps bringing greater attention to the platform over time.

Nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, are helping artists make millions of dollars by taking their work to the blockchain. Why buy digital art when we can just screenshot it, one could question.

That is why collectors seek ownership. NFTs also function as a secure method of storage and proof of ownership. It’s essentially a one-stop shop for collectors, so it’s easy to see why.

It’s the same reason why someone would choose the original “Mona Lisa” to a duplicate, even if the copy is nearly identical to the original. In online games, NFTs also represent usable things and accessories.

Players can use unique elements from artists to decorate their homes and personalities, giving yet another source of income for artists.

Uncensorable social media apps have been created, allowing users to tip one another for content. Users can invest in assets, play to grow them, and then sell for a profit, allowing them to get real money out of their game time.

There are prediction platforms that pay out for accurate predictions, as well as freelance platforms that don’t take a large percentage of each payment.

All of this is automated thanks to blockchain and smart contracts, and DeFi gives customers more power over their money than ever before.

Ethereum’s Benefits

Aside from decentralization and anonymity, Ethereum has a number of other advantages, including the absence of censorship. If someone tweets anything inappropriate, Twitter, for example, can opt to remove the tweet and punish the person. On an Ethereum-based social media site, however, this can only happen if the community agrees.

Users with differing points of view can converse as they see fit, and the public can decide what should and should not be spoken.

Requirements imposed by the community also prevent negative actors from gaining control. To make a change, someone with nefarious motives would need to control 51% of the network, which is practically difficult in most situations. It’s far more secure than a simple server that can be hacked.

Then there are smart contracts, which automate many of the traditional web’s actions taken by central authorities. Upwork, for example, requires a freelancer to use the platform to acquire clients and set up payment arrangements. Upwork’s business strategy pays its staff, server costs, and other expenses by taking a share of each contract.

A client can simply construct a smart contract on Web 3.0 that says, “If the task is turned in at X time, the payments will be released.” Once written, the rules are hard-coded into the contract and cannot be changed by either side.

Ether is also becoming more accessible than ever before. PayPal and its Venmo subsidiary, for example, allow users to buy cryptocurrency using fiat currency straight within the app.

Customers on each platform number in the millions, so they’re bound to get engaged sooner rather than later.

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Ethereum’s Disadvantages

While it appears to be the ideal platform, Ethereum has a few major flaws that need to be addressed.

The first consideration is scalability. Buterin envisioned Ethereum in the same manner that the internet does now, with millions of users participating at the same time. However, due to the PoW consensus mechanism, block validation durations and gas fees limit such engagement.

Decentralization is also a barrier; a centralized corporation, such as Visa, handles everything and has refined the transaction process.

Then there’s the issue of accessibility. Ethereum is expensive to create on and difficult to communicate with for individuals inexperienced with its technology at the time of writing. Some sites demand specialized wallets, which implies that ETH must be transferred from one wallet to another.

For people used to our present financial ecosystem, this is an unnecessary step that is not beginner-friendly in the least.

PayPal is introducing crypto functionality, but users won’t be able to do anything with it other than keep it there. To expand accessibility in a meaningful way, the platform must interface with DeFi and DApps.

The site does feature some well-written documentation on the subject, which is yet another important technique to attract new users. However, the process of actually using Ethereum needs to be streamlined. Learning about blockchain is not the same as actually using it.

What is Ethereum 2.0 and how does it work? (Eth2)

Ethereum is gradually updating to version 2.0, which will include a proof-of-stake consensus process. The original Ethereum network is planning on combining with the Beacon Chain – Ethereum 2.0’s first new feature — between 2020 and 2022.

The Beacon Chain doesn’t appear to change much at first glance, but it introduces the underlying modifications required for future enhancements like shard chains. Remember how we talked about scalability earlier? Shard chains and the sharding process play an important role in resolving scale challenges.

The act of dispersing transactions across many, smaller blockchain networks is known as sharding. Users with less powerful hardware can run these smaller networks because they only need to store data from a single shard rather than the complete network. Sharding, in essence, makes Ethereum validation more accessible while also helping to decongest the main network.

Many cryptocurrency aficionados are optimistic about Ethereum 2.0. NFTs are gaining popularity among celebrities, and public blockchain awareness is increasing. All of this activity, on the other hand, has resulted in higher transaction fees and longer validation periods, demonstrating the necessity for Ethereum 2.0.

This can be a concern because fees can sometimes cost more than half of the transaction amount. Fortunately, DApp developers are working hard to make it more accessible in preparation for widespread use.

Proof-of-stake consensus, a crucial component of Ethereum 2.0, is one part of the solution. Ethereum 2.0 represents the transition to a PoS consensus algorithm, which is less energy-intensive than mining.

Miners are replaced with validators in Proof-of-Stake, which are users who maintain the Ethereum blockchain, validate transactions, and so on. They’re essentially a different type of node.

A minimum of 32 ETH must be staked to become a full validator, at least during the early days of Ethereum 2.0. Validators earn ETH for their efforts by leaving a computer connected to the network.

The premise is that people who put their ETH on the line have the best interests of the network at heart and will go to any length to ensure its success. Furthermore, if a validator fails to participate or engages in malevolent behavior, they risk losing their ETH.

Proof-of-stake is said to be a speedier and more accessible method of blockchain consensus. It does not necessitate any particular hardware, unlike mining, so anyone with money and a device can participate. In theory, the network should develop as a result of this accessibility.

The greater the number of validators, the more blocks are validated. Additional validators further decentralize Ethereum, boosting security as the role grows.

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