Ethereum 101: from Idea to Release
Ethereum went live on June 30, 2015, arguably having become the major news in crypto since the advent of Bitcoin. But when its idea was born and who are its founding fathers?
Ethereum went live on June 30, 2015, arguably having become the largest news in crypto since the advent of Bitcoin. But when its idea was born and who are its founding fathers?
The birth of the idea
When was the idea of Ethereum born?
Some say it happened in 2009, with the appearance of Bitcoin as the first ever practical solution of decentralization. There is no doubt that seeing Blockchain succeed in the form of a payment protocol has had a great influence on Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum.
However, a more particular date would be 2012. That year, Buterin left the University of Waterloo to travel the world and take part in different cryptocurrency projects for six months. It was during this trip that the Russian-born Canadian Vitalik Buterin conceived the idea of Ethereum, a cryptoeconomically-secured platform for development of any kinds of decentralized applications.
Vitalik’s main fields of academic interest are information theory, cryptography, sociology, politics and economics. Ethereum was born at the intersection of those disciplines as an instrument for building more secure, trustworthy and wasteless systems than ever before.
Soon after, Vitalik began drafting the Ethereum Whitepaper. The document provided a justification for the development of a new technology, outlined its fundamental principles and possible applications. It was the crucial step in the development of a new protocol to sort out the idea’s primordial soup. The Whitepaper was published in late 2013, and about a month later, on January 23, 2014, Vitalik announced the start of Ethereum project on the Bitcointalk forum.
In his post, Buterin revealed that he was cooperating with Dr. Gavin Wood and Jeffrey Wilcke as principal core developers. Wood, a self-styled free-trust technologist, took the major part in Ethereum’s development after Buterin himself. He published his “Yellow Paper”, the formal specification of Ethereum Virtual Machine, in April 2014. He then helped code its first functional implementation into seven programming languages. This marked the creation of the first prototype of Ethereum platform.
Ethereum Foundation and the issue of tokens
Bitcoin, like Ethereum, is based on the Blockchain tech, but this alone would mean nothing unless backed up by the most powerful computing network in history. Major investors and individuals poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bitcoin ecosystem, spending the money on mining equipment, trading, associated business solutions and technologies.
Launching a similar network requires the same, if not larger effort. In order to kickstart a community of developers, miners, and investors, the Ethereum foundation decided to conduct a presale of more than 60 million digital tokens, the Ethers. The Ethereum Foundation, a legal entity based in Zug, Switzerland, was created in June 2014, to manage the legal and marketing efforts associated with the crowdfunding campaign. The campaign was covered by major publications, both from the cryptocurrency media and others. The campaign turned out to be a major success, earning the Foundation more than $18 million in just 42 days. It has become the 5th largest crowdfunding campaign on record.
Now Buterin, Wood and Wilcke could yet again focus on development. They did this after setting up another legal entity, ETH DEV, whose purpose was exclusively to direct and oversee the process of Ethereum development. To keep the momentum, and the community’s engagement at an ever-high level, they went on to release several improved Proof-of-Concept versions of the software. Frequent posts on the official blog kept the interests up.
At about the same time, major communities dedicated to Ethereum, such as its subreddit, started to rapidly grow. Soon, the ecosystem became large enough to warrant a meetup.
DEVCON-0, the first event dedicated solely to Ethereum, was conducted by ETH DEV in Berlin, in November 2014. There, Ethereum developers from all over the world met to discuss the matters of the network’s security and scalability, which resulted in several crucial updates to the software. Ethereum’s security and resilience was, and still is, paramount to the developers. They went to great lengths to ensure this despite it leading to some people considering the project vaporware.
One of the measures to ensure security, besides the usual inspection of program code, was randomized fuzz testing, which is conducted ‘in a blackbox,’ i.e. without human-code interaction.
Instead, the software is fed random inputs and the testers then scrutinize the outputs for any signs of malfunction.
In April 2015, the Foundation announced the DEVgrants program. It was meant to fund the best projects in the Ethereum network. The program was reactivated in January 2016 after a brief pause, and is still available for aspiring developers.
Final, pre-launch preparations have begun with the release of Olympic, the 9th and final version of Ethereum’s Proof-of-Concept code. The developers have used this opportunity to do an ultimate security check of the network. They have hired several external companies to conduct an audit of the code. But, more importantly, the developers have announced the Ethereum Bounty Program: substantial Bitcoin rewards for anyone who is able to find any weaknesses in Ethereum’s software. The program is still active today, so any bugs that are still out there are being relentlessly sought out by the community.
This full-on assault on Ethereum’s code has allowed the developers to finally make sure that it is ready for launch.
Ethereum went live on June 30, 2015, more than a year and a half after the initial publication of Vitalik Buterin’s Whitepaper. The work of dozens, if not hundreds of scientists, engineers, and developers has culminated in the Frontier release. Meant as a beta version, it was still much more stable than most expected, and the entire community began building on this.
Developers have flocked to the network, working on new projects. They continue to launch new ones almost every day, in addition to those, which have already gone live since Ethereum’s initial release.
Despite the hardest part of developing the technology being taken care of, Ethereum Foundation’s work is far from over.
In November 2015 it held DEVCON-1, the second expo for Ethereum developers. It took place in London, and was attended by more than 400 developers and entrepreneurs from the community.
Among those present were representatives of such huge companies as UBS, IBM and Microsoft, which marked a new beginning for Ethereum, when it went on a global scale and became a major trend in the fintech industry, truly on par with Bitcoin.