What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is an open-source blockchain that supports ether in addition to a network of decentralized apps, otherwise known as dApps. Smart contracts are one way this platform operates–they enable secure transactions between parties without third party interference by enforceable agreements such as rules for ownership or access rights. In this respect, Ethereum is unlike most cryptocurrencies, as it is not solely a network for transacting monetary value, rather, it is a network for powering Ethereum-based contracts.
These open-ended contracts can be used to securely execute a wide variety of services including: voting systems, domain name registries, financial exchanges, crowdfunding platforms, company governance, self-enforcing contracts and agreements, intellectual property, smart property, and distributed autonomous organizations. The platform was initially described by Vitalik Buterin in late 2013, formally described by Gavin Wood in early 2014 in the so-called Yellow Paper and will be released in early 2015. It is among a group of “next generation” (or “Bitcoin 2.0”) platforms.