There are legitimate concerns about security on Ethereum. With such a complex system, and so many different programs running on it, the attack surface is large. And given the challenges the community faces in migrating to Ethereum 2.0, including a new proof-of-stake consensus mechanism and a sharding solution for scaling transactions, it’s still not assured it will ever be ready for prime time.
Gold has had at least three millennia to establish itself as a store of value people turn to when social systems are in stress. Bitcoin has only existed for 11 years. While plenty of investors are willing to speculate on the possibility bitcoin might supplant or compete with gold, the idea is far from ingrained across society. When will it be more widely accepted? Perhaps when the international crisis of global leadership unleashed by COVID-19 undermines the capacity of institutions like the Federal Reserve to sustain economic and social confidence. Whatever new institutions and systems we create going forward will need to address how the internet has upended society’s centralized systems of governance. When that happens, we’ll need a decentralized, digital reserve asset as the base value layer. As I said, it will take time. Meanwhile, the developers will keep building.
The original Ethereum value driver was the ICO (initial coin offering), another casino on Meth. The regulators did what they do well and snuffed it out but crypto at its base is a way of creating value outside of the maw of fiat monopolies and you can’t keep that at bay indefinitely. So snuffing out ICOs didn’t snuff out Ethereum, it just left it ticking over until the distributed computer got another hit app. Here it is.
While both the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are powered by the principle of distributed ledgers and cryptography, the two differ technically in many ways. For example, transactions on the Ethereum network may contain executable code, while data affixed to Bitcoin network transactions are generally only for keeping notes. Other differences include block time (an ether transaction is confirmed in seconds compared to minutes for bitcoin) and the algorithms that they run on (Ethereum uses ethash while Bitcoin uses SHA-256).
That network now sustains its financial system, a decentralized microcosm of the massive traditional one. It takes tokenized versions of the underlying currencies that users most value (whether bitcoin or fiat) and provides disintermediated mechanisms for lending or borrowing them or for creating decentralized derivative or insurance contracts. What’s emerging, albeit in a form too volatile for traditional institutions, is a multifaceted, market for managing and trading in risk.
Like other blockchains, Ethereum has a native cryptocurrency called Ether (ETH). ETH is digital money. If you’ve heard of Bitcoin, ETH has many of the same features. It is purely digital, and can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world instantly. The supply of ETH isn’t controlled by any government or company – it is decentralized, and it is scarce. People all over the world use ETH to make payments, as a store of value, or as collateral. The latest news about Ethereum mostly concerns the move to Serenity the last post-development phase of Ethereum as well as changing Ether mining’s concept from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake in order to reduce the power cost of the process.
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