Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality. Along with Bitcoin, Ethereum is considered to be one of the pioneer platforms in distributed ledger and blockchain technology. Ether is a cryptocurrency whose blockchain is generated by the Ethereum platform. Ether can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant mining nodes for computations performed.
Ethereum provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes. “Gas”, an internal transaction pricing mechanism, is used to mitigate spam and allocate resources on the network.
Ethereum was initially described in a white paper by Vitalik Buterin, a programmer involved with Bitcoin Magazine, in late 2013 with a goal of building decentralized applications. Buterin had argued that Bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development. Failing to gain agreement, he proposed development of a new platform with a more general scripting language. At the time of public announcement in January 2014, the core Ethereum team was Vitalik Buterin, Mihai Alisie, Anthony Di Iorio, and Charles Hoskinson. Formal development of the Ethereum software project began in early 2014 through a Swiss company, Ethereum Switzerland GmbH (EthSuisse).
Subsequently, a Swiss non-profit foundation, the Ethereum Foundation (Stiftung Ethereum), was created as well.