Ethereum is a decentralized and open-source blockchain network that introduced smart contracts -computer programs that run as programmed without an intermediary. The Ethereum network is powered by its native token ether (ETH), which is also used for paying the network fees and as a reward to compensate miners responsible for confirming transactions and securing the network.
ETH is currently the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and hosts the largest share of blockchain-based decentralized applications (dApps). Vitalik Buterin initially published the concept of Ethereum in his 2013 whitepaper. While Ethereum currently employs the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism to mine new tokens, validate transactions, and secure its network, it is gradually transitioning towards the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism in a bid to lower its carbon footprint.
Ethereum provides the necessary infrastructure (a decentralized virtual machine) that can execute peer-to-peer smart contracts. Ethereum can be used to codify, decentralize, secure, and trade almost anything: voting rights; decentralized financial products; crowdfunding campaigns; legal contracts; intellectual property rights; digital assets such as music and video files; blockchain games, and much more.
ETH reached its all-time high of $4,865.94 on November 10, 2021. During the same period, ETH’s total market capitalization touched the $500 billion mark.