Ethereum, the decentralized blockchain-based distributed computing platform that enables smart contracts, recently turned one on the public market. While there wasn’t a cake, balloons, or a party- it certainly deserves a written ovation for its accomplishments over the past year.
Before Ethereum’s official release on July 30th, 2015, it spent a little over a year prior in its stealth mode of quiet development. In late 2013, Vitalik Buterin had sent his Bitcoin Magazine co-creator, Mihai Alisie, the white paper for Ethereum, describing it as a “next-generation cryptocurrency and decentralized application platform.” Buterin had sent the whitepaper in an email mentioning that it was only sent to a very select few.
According to Mihai:
“Ethereum felt different from anything else he’d sent me before. The same rush I felt when I first understood the implications of Bitcoin was returning, this time with thousands of new multidimensional rabbit holes to explore.”
Alisie goes on to say that between December 2013 and January 2014, the focus was on how to bootstrap the vision set forth by Buterin and the Whitepaper. They ended up agreeing that a crowd sale was a challenging, exciting, yet crucial idea. This launched into their hunt for an appropriate jurisdiction, or rather, headquarters for the Ethereum project. After landing in Zurich, and finding a welcoming crypto-community in Switzerland, they decided to set up shop.
Mid July marked the birth of the Swiss Ethereum Foundation and on July 24th, 2014, they started the Genesis crowd sale. This catapulted the Ethereum team into even wider recognition due to its success with the sale, and coverage in the Wall Street Journal. Vitalik Buterin was awarded the Thiel Fellowship, and Ethereum was gaining ground in the decentralized community. By the following year, on July 30th, 2015, Ethereum launched the inaugural live release of the Ethereum network with ‘Frontier.’ This version featured only command-line interfaces, but by November that year, the Ethereum Foundation was building an even deeper reputation.
November 2015 saw the first ever convention completely dedicated to Ethereum called DEVCON. There were already plenty of blockchain conventions, events, and meetups, but an event of that magnitude solely dedicated to Ethereum was a milestone for all those involved in the field.
With the turn of the New Year, January 2016, the first major test of how Ethereum could operate in the public sector was executed. A private version of the Ethereum network was conducted by the blockchain consortium startup R3CEV, with the trial uniting 11 major banks in a high-profile proof-of-concept.
In March 2016, when Ethereum reached its 1,150,000 block, it was released as ‘Homestead’, the first production release of the software. At this point, Ethereum’s currency for its network, Ether, was rising in value on the market. This currency, a necessary tool in fueling functions on the Ethereum blockchain, started bringing non-developers into the fold. Crypto-trading enthusiasts were excited by the prospect of a new currency that held more purpose than a simple monetary structure. With exchanges constantly adding Ether into their currency options, it started to become easier for users who were not as well adept at cryptocurrency trading to obtain their own stash of Ether.
The Homestead launch also denotes Ethereum’s first hard fork which was a fundamental change in its protocol that made older versions incompatible. A lot of the reasoning behind the decision to execute this hard fork was to show its comparable community, Bitcoin, that it was more adaptable to development needs. After this implementation, many developers and companies started working on projects and Dapps that are built off the new Ethereum platform. Some of these projects have gained so much traction that they have created their own crowd sales and followers. Due to Ethereum’s technology, projects like Augur, Oraclize, and Akasha (just to name a few) have seen such success that they’re evolving at a rapid rate.
Touted as a world computer and decentralized internet service platform, Ethereum has gone through a vast number of technical upgrades. This includes the introduction of new codes in Solidity, the language used to compile for the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine), the part of the protocol that handles the internal state of the network. They also introduced the new wallet Mist, which allows users to write and deploy smart contracts, in addition to its use as an Ether wallet.
June 2016 saw one of the largest game changers in Ethereum so far. Due to an exploit on the DAO project, the Ethereum Foundation was forced with the decision of executing another hard fork. This difficult decision came at a cost and has created a wedge between members of the Ethereum community, splitting them into two groups. But the overall consensus of the hard fork outcome is that Ethereum clearly has the power to adapt better than other blockchain-based platforms, and does so in a more expedited manner.
As Ethereum edges past its first year of its roller coaster ride, it certainly has shown the crypto-world its power to adapt, its useful institutions, and the true power of the decentralized community.