Ethereum has been built on a platform of transparent transactions from the beginning. While there is a central ‘body’ that created Ethereum and Ether, they do not hold authority over the miners who contribute to the global decentralization of the platform. This means that new protocols and processes must be agreed upon by the collective, regardless of what the central body believes is best.
After the release of Bitcoin, blockchain quickly grabbed the imaginations of developers around the globe. In 2013 this led a Canadian developer, Vitalik Buterin, to propose a new platform which would allow for decentralized application to usher in a new era of online transactions.
In 2015, following an initial fundraiser, Ethereum was launched and 72 million coins were minted. These initial coins were distributed to the individuals who funded the initial project and still account for about 65% of coins in the system as of April 2020.
Ethereum set out to develop a decentralized platform that would encourage the developer community to build upon, what was at the time, new technology with Smart Contracts and Dapps, which offer greater blockchain possibilities.
One of the key features of Ethereum is that it allows for both permissioned and permissionless transactions.
Protocol changes, also known as hard forks, can be “planned” or “unplanned”. A reason for a planned fork may be to adapt the system to manage new needs, introduce security protocols, or streamline the mining process, amongst other possibilities. Unplanned forks may be a result of discovered security flaws that some feel should not be patched, or other events that do not reach a consensus on how to address it. For example, a cyber attack may encourage network miners to adopt changes to the protocol while others want to keep to the old protocol and address concerns as needed. The largest example of this is the break between Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.
This split followed a 2016 system manipulation that saw the theft of $50 million worth of Ether. Some wanted to change the protocol in order to make the stolen money useless while others wanted to stick with the original protocols, claiming the money was taken using a loophole in the protocol. This fork is referred to as the DAO Event after the Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO) that the cryptocurrency was stolen from.
Ethereum Classic (ETC) is based on the original protocol and has been managed by a collective who try to remain true to the original version of Ethereum. Ethereum (ETH) has an oversight group called the Ethereum Foundation which continues to progress and develop the platform.
Changes in Ethereum’s protocol keep it running more efficiently and securely. Since the DAO event there have been seven hard forks:
Forks can be planned system upgrades or unplanned breakaways.
As proper validation and smart contracts become more vital to today’s businesses, Ethereum has positioned itself to be able to address this growing need in an increasingly tech-dependent world.