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Ethereum is an open, block-based distributed computing platform with intelligent "Scripting" contract functionality, which facilitates online contractual arrangements. It provides a "Turing-Complete" decentralized virtual machine, known as "Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)", which can run scripts using a global network of public nodes. Ethereum also provides an encryption token called "Ether", which can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate the participants' nodes for the calculations performed (mining process). "Gas" is the name given to an internal transaction pricing mechanism. It is used to mitigate spam and allocate resources on the network.
Ethereum was proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, a researcher and cryptogrammer. The development was funded by a crowdsale online during July and August 2014. The system went into production on 30 July 2015 with 11.9 million "pre-mined" coins for crowdsale. What the time represented 13% of the total circulating.
In 2016, the Ethereum suffered a bifurcation ("fork") creating two blockchains, as a result, eventually precipitating the collapse of the DAO project. Most were left with the new model Ethereum, which retained its name. A smaller portion remained with the original model, which was named Ethereum Classic.
Particularly presents a great differential, the so-called "Smart Contracts". Which are basically contracts that somehow guarantee that when a certain condition is fulfilled, an associated clause is then executed in the form of a program or script.
As an investment, Ethereum has the potential to grow, for it brings together two fantastic worlds of crypto-currencies: monetary value and smart contracts.