Today, 30 July 2021, is Ethereum’s sixth anniversary.
In fact, block number 0 of the Ethereum blockchain was mined on July 30, 2015, which is exactly six years ago.
At the time, this was in the aftermath of bitcoin’s first major bullrun, which ended in December 2013, and most notably the closure of Mt.Gox due to bankruptcy.
The price of bitcoin had plunged as low as $180 in January 2015, after exceeding $1,100 between November and December 2013.
2015 was probably by far the worst year to date for the entire crypto sector.
At the time, very few other cryptocurrencies existed. Besides Bitcoin, which was born in 2009, there was Litecoin (born in 2011), Ripple (2012), Dogecoin (2013), Stellar (2014) and a scant handful of other cryptocurrencies.
At the time, cryptocurrencies were mostly just means of payment, i.e. currencies used to carry out financial transactions.
Ethereum and smart contracts
Then Ethereum introduced an innovation: smart contracts.
Smart contracts had actually been talked about for a long time before, but it was only in Ethereum’s 2013 whitepaper that their crypto version was formalized.
In fact, Ethereum was born precisely as something new and innovative in the restricted crypto landscape of the time, i.e. fundamentally as a platform to manage smart contracts, rather than as a means of payment.
The same whitepaper published by Vitalik Buterin in 2013 starts with a paragraph entitled “A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform”.
In that paper, Buterin calls Bitcoin a “Transition System”, as were all alternative crypto projects existing at the time. Whereas his vision was that of a very different project, i.e. not of an alternative decentralized digital currency, but of a decentralized digital platform to manage smart contracts.
In the Ethereum whitepaper, Buterin cited Namecoin, Colored Coins and Metacoins as examples, and then defined Ethereum in this way:
“The intent of Ethereum is to create an alternative protocol for building decentralized applications, providing a different set of tradeoffs that we believe will be very useful for a large class of decentralized applications, with particular emphasis on situations where rapid development time, security for small and rarely used applications, and the ability of different applications to very efficiently interact, are important. Ethereum does this by building what is essentially the ultimate abstract foundational layer: a blockchain with a built-in Turing-complete programming language, allowing anyone to write smart contracts and decentralized applications where they can create their own arbitrary rules for ownership, transaction formats and state transition functions”.
Two years after the whitepaper was published, the first block of Ethereum’s new blockchain was mined.
Shortly afterwards, ETH tokens began to be traded on the market, at a price of around $2.8, which dropped to below $0.5 in the following months. Today ETH is worth more than $2,200.