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What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts. It was created in 2015 by Vitalik Buterin and has since become one of the most popular blockchains in the world, second only to Bitcoin in terms of market capitalization.

The Ethereum blockchain has its own cryptocurrency, Ether (ETH), which is used to pay for transactions and computational services on the Ethereum network. The token also serves as a store of value and a medium of exchange like other cryptocurrencies.

One of the main advantages of Ethereum is its flexibility and programmability. Developers can use the Ethereum platform to create a wide range of dApps and smart contracts, from simple decentralized games and decentralized finance (DeFi) applications to more complex systems for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and prediction markets. It is also the primary blockchain used for Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), blockchain-based digital art.

Ethereum’s smart contract functionality allows for the creation of self-executing contracts with predetermined rules and conditions, eliminating the need for intermediaries and providing a more secure and efficient way of conducting transactions. A key component of this is the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), a decentralized, Turing-complete virtual machine that enables the execution of smart contracts on the Ethereum network.

Ethereum initially used a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm to validate transactions and create new blocks in the blockchain. This PoW algorithm was called Ethash and was designed to be ASIC-resistant, meaning that it was intended to be more difficult for specialized mining hardware to gain an advantage over general-purpose computing hardware.

However, Ethereum transitioned to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm during The Merge (rst known as Ethereum 2.0), which was designed to be more energy-efficient and scalable than the original PoW algorithm. The transition to PoS involved a gradual phase-out of the PoW algorithm, with the ultimate goal of replacing it entirely with PoS. The Merge involved the integration of the existing Ethereum mainnet with a new Ethereum 2.0 Beacon Chain. 

The Ethereum blockchain has also undergone a number of hard forks. The most well-known hard fork in Ethereum occurred in 2016 when the network split into two following a disagreement over how to handle the aftermath of the DAO hack. The hard fork resulted in the creation of two separate chains: Ethereum (ETH) and Ethereum Classic (ETC).

Since then, there have been several other hard forks in Ethereum, including the Constantinople and Istanbul upgrades, which aimed to improve the network's scalability and security. In general, hard forks are used to introduce major upgrades to the Ethereum network for the future of Ethereum, or to resolve significant issues or disputes within the community.

Blockchain - A decentralized, digital ledger that records transactions on multiple nodes on a public database.

Hard Fork - A hard fork is a significant modification to the rules of a blockchain's protocol.

Ethereum Foundation - A non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Ethereum and related technologies.

The DAO - A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) is a community-led group that operates without a central authority, and yields its governance to every member, rather than a select few.

The Merge - The Merge refers to the original Ethereum Mainnet merging with a separate proof-of-stake blockchain called the Beacon Chain, now existing as one chain.

Virtual Machine - There are several interpretations of digital artifacts. In information science, a digital artifact is an undesired or unintended alteration of data introduced in a digital process by an involved technique. Alternatively, a digital artifact refers to any visual piece of media that enhances a representation.

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