who to follow in crypto?

In the irrational crypto world, anyone can claim to be an expert, but it’s not always easy to spot the true influencers from the wannabes.

We crawled dozens of “best cryptocurrency experts” lists and hundreds of self-proclaimed crypto gurus’ Twitter profiles to distill the data into Block Explorer’s own list of the blockchain experts to follow. 

Some are well-known figures shaping the future of the industry. Others are low-key insiders that truly have an immense value to share. So here it goes, the 23 crypto experts you have to follow on Twitter: 

#1 Vitalik Buterin (@vitalikbuterin)

Who? Genius Canadian programmer of Russian origin, creator of Ethereum and co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine. 

Why follow? He’s at the heart of Ethereum’s cutting-edge development, knows the industry’s nitty-gritty and he’s funny, in a dry, sarcastic kind of way. 

What does he say?

#2 Charlie Lee (@SatoshiLite)

Who? The creator of Litecoin. Former director of engineering at Coinbase. Managing director of the Litecoin Foundation.

Why follow? Shares great and easy-to-comprehend bits of information explaining the beauty of blockchain technology to non-tech-savvy blockchain enthusiasts. Also, he is very social and spends time with the most important people in the industry, so you get to know all the experts.

What does he say? 

#3 Jed McCaleb (@JedMcCaleb)

Who? The creator of Mt. Gox (though he left before it was hacked and went bankrupt) and one of the founders of Ripple. Currently developer at Stellar and co-founder of Stellar Development Foundation. Fascinated by octopuses.

Why follow? One of the brightest developers in the field. Tweets are rare but feature the important updates from Stellar on the way to crypto’s mass adoption. 

What does he say?

 

#4 Roger Ver (@rogerkver)

Who? Among the world’s first investors in Bitcoin startups including Bitcoin.com, Blockchain.com, Zcash, BitPay, Kraken, Purse.io. Bitcoin Cash advocate. 

Why follow? Interested in some popcorn-worthy debates, involving the sharpest minds in the industry? Then enjoy the regular performances in the comment section for some of Ver’s tweets, in a vivid manner explaining why Bitcoin Cash is far way better than Bitcoin. 

What does he say?

#5 Tuur Demeester (@tuurdemeester)

Who? Investor, fintech analyst, the founder of bitcoin fund called Adamant Capital.

Why follow? Shares some great perspectives on trading crypto (and securities) with lots of relevant data and research from authoritative sources.

What does he say?

#6 Andreas M.Antonopoulos (@aantonop)

Who? Entrepreneur, coder, atheist, pacifist, pilot. Author of: Mastering Bitcoin, The Internet of Money, Mastering Ethereum.

Why follow? For all the people out there who are still struggling to understand what bitcoin is and how blockchain works, Andreas is the go-to guy for perfectly clear explanations. His latest book ships at the end of the year. 

What does he say? 

#7 Nick Szabo (@nickszabo4)

Who? Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and smart contracts pioneer (and possible Bitcoin creator?!)

Why follow? Shares some profound thoughts on the blockchain and its potential place and role in the current political, social, and financial systems. On top of that, from time to time, adds some technical insights for those who want to understand the concepts of the blockchain and smart contracts deeper.

What does he say? 

#8 Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen)

Who? Bitcoin developer, the founder of Bitcoin Foundation. 

Why follow? His tweets are appealing both for crypto traders and developers. Gavin is also witty. 

What does he say? 

#9 Barry Silbert (@barrysilbert)

Who? Founder at Digital Currency Group, “parent” of Grayscale Investments’ Bitcoin and Ethereum trusts and CoinDesk. Also, he’s an investor in more than 100 different cryptocurrencies.

Why follow? Barry’s vast involvement in the field gives him a notable edge on knowing which news to follow and which new cryptocurrencies are worth taking a more in-depth look.

What does he say?

#10 Nicolas Cary (@niccary)

Who? Founder of Blockchain wallet, the chairman and co-founder of Youth Business USA.

Why follow? One of the first people in the industry who actually built a working product (with 29+ million wallets created at the moment of writing this article) and who continues its development. 

What does he say?

#11 Emin Gün Sirer (@el33th4xor) 

Who? Hacker and the professor of computer science at Cornell University.

Why follow? Shares some non-trivial and easy-to-digest ideas that can be appreciated by academics and non-technical audiences alike. If you’re striving to learn more about blockchain and dig into some real questions that the industry still has to solve, he’s worth a follow.

What does he say?  

#12 Adam Black (@adam3us)

Who? Cryptographer, inventor of Hashcash, the proof of work algorithm used in bitcoin mining, co-founder of Blockstream.

Why follow? Perfect if you want to follow the latest developments in blockchain (from the tech perspective).

What does he say? 

#13 Brock Pierce (@brockpierce)

Who? Chairman of Bitcoin Foundation, involved in a long list of projects including (Re)start, ONE, Blockchain Capital, EOS, DNA, Tether, Mastercoin. 

Why follow? As his own Twitter profile states, Brock is “working to positively impact the lives of billions of people.” A controversial figure, but definitely worth a follow.

What does he say? 

#14 Ari Paul (@AriDavidPaul)

Who? Co-founder of BlockTower Capital. 

Why follow? An expert with in-depth knowledge of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, putting the tech in the perspective of markers, mass-adoption, and regulations. At the moment of writing, Ari decided to take a break from Twitter, but we really hope he’ll be back soon with more insights.  

What does he say?

#15 Jimmy Song (@jimmysong)

Who? Bitcoin educator, developer, and entrepreneur.

Why follow? One of a few people who truly understands the insides of a blockchain and at the same time clearly (and sometimes with a hint of a perfect sense of humor) articulate it to a broader audience.

What does he say?  

#16 Peter Todd (@peterktodd)

Who? Applied cryptography (also called blockchain by some cool kids) consultant.

Why follow? He is sarcastic and geeky, his tweets are right to the point, and he is passionate about tackling some of crypto’s underlying problems like scaling and privacy. 

What does he say?

 

#17 Eric Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees)

Who? Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShapeShift.

Why follow? One of the oldest players in the industry. Shares the most important news and developments in the field of the blockchain that step-by-step lead to crypto assets becoming mainstream. 

What does he say?

#18 Laura Shin (@laurashin)

Who? Forbes editor and host of two crypto podcasts, Unchained and Unconfirmed.

Why follow? She has interviewed and grilled most of the names on this list, asking them tough questions and removing the hype from blockchain. Just listen to her podcast with Binance founder CZ.

What does she say?

 

#19 Tone Vays (@ToneVays) 

 Who? Derivatives trader, analyst, and blockchain content creator, including the podcast called CryptoScam.

Why follow? For many years Tone worked on Wall Street and even became vice president at JP Morgan Chase after the 2008 financial crisis. The expertise he acquired in the institutional world and his passion for cryptocurrencies are definitely making him a viable candidate for any “best crypto experts to follow” list.  

What does he say? 

#20 Naval Ravikant (@naval)

Who? Co-founder of AngelList. And, as one of the founders on a project Naval advised put it, “he’s the f*cking man.”

Why follow? A person who knows all the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship. Naval’s tweets are a combination of philosophy, practicality, and inspiration. He also intervolves Bitcoin in this ravel of awesomeness.  

What does he say?

#21 Nathaniel Popper (@nathanielpopper)

Who? The New York Times journalist, reporting about technology and finance, the author of Digital Gold, the most exciting history of Bitcoin.

Why follow? Nathaniel writes the most interesting, in-depth, and entertaining stories about the industry. No kidding. 

What does he say?

#22 Jameson Lopp (@lopp)

Who? Professional cypherpunk, creator of Statoshi, infrastructure engineer at Casa.

Why follow? Along with techy mambo-jumbo that many of the people involved in crypto will appreciate, Jameson spreads profound knowledge, aimed at a broader audience. Anything from funny comics, curious thoughts and eye-opening metaphors will do in the second case.

What does he say?

#23 Changpeng Zhao (@cz_binance)

Who? Founder of Binance, the largest bitcoin exchange in the world by volume.

Why follow? Insight into what’s going on at the world’s biggest crypto exchange (and the occasional funny tweets towards Elon Musk!)

What does he say?

Do you think we left someone behind? Go ahead and share your favorite crypto expert in the comment section below.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.

what is ethereum?

Okay, before we get into this guide, you need to do one thing:

Stop thinking of Ethereum as a cryptocurrency.

Honestly! Although Ethereum does use a form of digital currency, it’s much bigger than money.

Ethereum doesn’t aim to be a global cash system like bitcoin. Ethereum is more like… the internet.

It’s often referred to as the “world computer,” but in simple terms, Ethereum is a platform for anyone to build something with blockchain technology.

Ethereum is a playground. It’s like lego. Or Minecraft.

In this guide, we’ll answer the burning questions: What is ethereum? How does it work? Who created it, and where can you buy ethereum? We’ll try to answer them all in plain language. However, you may want to read our explainer on Bitcoin first to get your head around the basics of blockchain.

CONTENTS

PART 1: What is Ethereum? (A Simple Guide for Beginners)
PART 2: What Is Ether, the Currency?
PART 3: Who Founded Ethereum? a Brief History
PART 5: How to Buy and Store Ethereum
PART 6: What’s Next and Who Are Ethereum’s Competitors?

PART 1: What Is Ethereum? (A Simple Guide for Beginners)

Ethereum infographic - ethereum explained

Infographic courtesy of @angelomilan

Ethereum Basics

Ethereum is a gateway for building just about anything on the blockchain – apps, games, contracts, even new cryptocurrencies.

But why would someone create an app on Ethereum rather than, say, the Apple app store or a normal website?

To understand why, let’s take a look at the Apple App Store and its problems.

Firstly, Apple is acting a gatekeeper. Every app must be vetted and approved by Apple. In fact, Apple rejects tons of apps or forces them to change how they operate.

Secondly, all the apps are hosted on Apple’s servers and accessible only to those with an Apple ID

This is the definition of centralization. One company controls many thousands of apps.

Then there are the apps themselves. A banking app, for example, saves your personal details, account numbers, and balance on its servers. Another example of centralization.

Ethereum infographic centralization explained

What’s Wrong with Centralization?

First, there’s the philosophical argument. Should one company, like Apple, really be the gatekeeper to the world’s apps?

Second, there’s the practical argument. If all the apps are stored in the same place (Apple’s servers), it’s much easier to hack. There’s one point of failure.

The same goes for the apps themselves. If all your private information and data is stored on the app’s servers, it’s more vulnerable to thieves.

Even websites are centralized. They’re built on cloud servers owned by hosting companies. One gatekeeper. One point of failure.

But what if websites weren’t hosted on one central server? What if apps didn’t have to be approved by Apple and stored on their cloud?

Enter Ethereum…

How Does Ethereum Work?

Ethereum is like the app store, except it isn’t owned or controlled by any one person or company.

Everything built on Ethereum is supported and verified by thousands of computers, all at once, all over the world. It uses blockchain technology to make sure there is no central authority.

Ethereum infographic how ethereum works

It takes what Bitcoin did for money and applies it to any industry on the planet.

Prefer to Read This Guide as an eBook?

If you’d like a hard-copy of this guide (or just want to come back to it later), download the free pdf version here, no email signup required.

What is Ethereum

How Is Ethereum Different to Bitcoin?

Let’s back up and talk about Bitcoin for a moment. Bitcoin uses the blockchain to record financial transactions with complete transparency and security.

In other words, bitcoin is all about money.

But blockchain doesn’t only have to track money. Blockchain can record just about anything: electoral votes, goods, stocks, oil, contracts, data, home ownership, cartoon cats! (yes, really.)

Ethereum takes Bitcoin’s underlying technology and expands it for everything. More importantly, it allows creative developers to build things on it.

vitalik buterin ethereum circle“Bitcoin is great as a form of digital money, but its scripting language is too weak for any kind of serious advanced applications to be built on top.” – Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum founder.

 

Having said that, Ethereum and Bitcoin do share the same core values that make it so strong:

No censorship – Anyone can build anything they want, without a large company or government limiting their vision. Like Bitcoin, there’s no middleman.

Secured with cryptography – Like everything on the blockchain, building on Ethereum is secure. Transactions are encrypted and there is no single point of failure, so it’s very difficult to hack.

Immutable – Transactions on the blockchain cannot be reversed or altered.

Transparent – All transactions are preserved in the blockchain forever.

Still confused? Watch Ethereum’s founder Vitalik Buterin explain the whole concept:

Okay, so we know that Ethereum is a gateway to building on the blockchain. But what exactly can you do with it?

Ethereum Dapps (Decentralized Applications)

Most developers use Ethereum to build Dapps (decentralized applications). Dapps are just like an app on your phone, or a website, but hosted on the blockchain.

A Dapp is essentially any blockchain project that does something useful.

Bitcoin could be considered a Dapp. It’s a Dapp for transferring money without a bank.

Many thousands of others exist. For example, you might have heard of Cryptokitties. It’s a Dapp for buying and trading collectible cartoon cats. It’s like Pokemon cards but on the blockchain. It might sound ridiculous, but it’s actually quite revolutionary. Every collectible crypto kitty is 100% unique and cannot be duplicated because it’s on the blockchain. The rarity lead one buyer to pay over $100,000 for one crypto kitty.

cartoon cryptokitties collectibles on ethereum

More practical Dapps include Ethlance, a completely transparent freelance jobs portal. There are no fees and every contract between freelancer and client is executed on the blockchain. No more chasing payments for freelancers.

Read more: 10 Most Popular Dapps on Ethereum Right Now

Ethereum: A Launchpad for New Cryptocurrencies

Many of the Dapps built on Ethereum have also launched their own cryptocurrencies.

In fact, some of the biggest cryptocurrencies on the planet started on Ethereum.

EOS, TRON, Vechain, and ICON all started life as projects on the Ethereum network. They have since branched off and created their own blockchain (or mainnet).

A further handful of top 20 coins are still ‘hosted’ on Ethereum, including OmiseGo0x and Binance Coin.

Not only can you use Ethereum to build a new project, you can use it to create new cryptocurrencies.

Ethereum Smart Contracts

Ethereum was also created to execute smart contracts.

The easiest way to understand smart contracts is the much-used vending machine analogy.

A vending machine is a simple contract. It will automatically release a can of coke when the correct amount of money is inserted.

Smart contracts are the same. The contract will automatically execute only when certain conditions are met.

In a more practical example, let’s say you’re buying a house. Normally, a lawyer is responsible for executing the contract. They check whether the money has been transferred and whether the seller has met all the criteria.

On the Ethereum network, there is no human making that final call.

The conditions of sale are written into the smart contract in advance. When those conditions are met (such as money transfer and land survey completion), the smart contract will automatically execute.

The transfer is recorded in the blockchain forever. It is irreversible and completely transparent.

Read more: What are Smart Contracts? (A Simple, Easy-to-Understand Guide)

What’s the Point of Smart Contracts?

Smart contracts eliminate the likelihood of fraud.

In the case above, no lawyer can manipulate the contract or hide conditions, because the smart contract simply won’t execute.

It’s secure. Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum blockchain exists on thousands of computers all at once. There is no single point of failure.

Smart contracts also remove the need for trust in one particular party (like an estate agent or lawyer). The contract is verified by many hundreds of people on the blockchain.

Lastly, the fees are lower. With fewer middle-men, there are fewer costs to pay.

The Countless Use Cases for Ethereum

The potential for Ethereum is phenomenal. It can be used to decentralize everything.

Imagine an electoral voting system on the Ethereum blockchain. Every vote is recorded transparently. No third-party can manipulate the results. No more human error in counting. No more electoral hacks.

Imagine an insurance system built on Ethereum. If your house is flooded, and the damage meets all the agreed criteria, an Ethereum smart contract automatically executes to pay out the settlement.

Ethereum could improve almost every industry on the planet, from healthcare to finance to academia to logistics.

——————————————————————————————–



——————————————————————————————–

Part 2: What Is Ether? the Cryptocurrency That Powers the Blockchain

When people talk about ethereum as a cryptocurrency, they’re actually talking about ether (ETH).

Ether has enjoyed incredible growth (10,000% in 2017 alone). But if ether isn’t a global cash system like bitcoin, what is it?

a chart depicting ethereum's price movement through 2017 - 2018

Ether is often referred to as the “fuel” or “gas” that keeps the Ethereum network running.

It’s a form of currency for developers who build apps and smart contracts on the system.

Let’s say you’re building an app on Ethereum. You pay a transaction fee to build on the Ethereum network, in the same way you’d pay a “hosting fee” for building a traditional website.

If you want to make changes to that app at any point, you pay a further transaction fee. These fees are proportionate to the amount of computer power needed.

That ether fee pays “miners” that maintain the Ethereum blockchain and verify the transactions.

vitalik buterin ethereum circle“Bitcoin and Ethereum are doing different things. Bitcoin is a digital currency, and the protocol is written to sustain this cryptocurrency. Clearly, Ethereum platform has ETH, it is also a digital currency, but it exists to sustain the protocol.” – Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum founder.

 

In other words, the Bitcoin blockchain exists solely to power the cryptocurrency. With Ethereum, it’s the other way round. Ethereum’s cryptocurrency (ether, or ETH) exists solely to power the vastly more powerful blockchain.

What Affects the Price of Ethereum?

In theory, the price of ether should be linked to the growth of the Ethereum blockchain. The more developers build on Ethereum, the higher the demand for ether to pay for transaction fees.

Right now, however, the price is primarily driven by speculation. Like bitcoin, ether is bought, sold and traded on exchanges around the world. Most people hold ether because they hope it will increase in value, not to actively build on the network.

Ether is also heavily tied to the price of bitcoin. Despite wildly different use cases, ethereum and bitcoin have a correlation as the cryptocurrency market moves, by-and-large, as one.

Unlike Bitcoin, Ether Supply Isn’t Capped

While bitcoin has a hard cap (only 21 million bitcoins will ever exist), ether does not.

Founder Vitalik Buterin has suggested a 120 million cap on ether supply, but it’s worth pointing out that his suggestion was posted on April Fool’s Day. However, he later confirmed that a hard-cap was worth considering.

As for current supply, 60 million ether was distributed during the first crowdfunding round in 2014. A further 12 million was gifted to a team of developers working to improve the system, known as the Ethereum Foundation.

Until recently, ether miners generated 18 million ether annually (about five ETH for every block, roughly 12 seconds). Under a new agreement, the community decided to cut the reward down to two ETH per block.

Ethereum Mining

Mining ether operates in much the same way as bitcoin.

ethereum mining

Miners are responsible for maintaining and verifying transactions across the blockchain. In return, they are rewarded with ether.

Transactions are verified and logged in the blockchain by solving complex puzzles (through computer processing). The first miner to solve a particular puzzle mines the block and is rewarded with ether.

Ethereum mining is significantly faster than Bitcoin. While bitcoin blocks are produced every ten minutes, Ethereum blocks are mined every 12 seconds.

Another key difference is who mines Ethereum.

The Ethereum community has always stressed the importance of mining by individuals, not giant corporations and mining pools. In that sense, Ethereum aims to be more democratic and less centralized. (We should point out that large mining pools do still dominate the majority of Ethereum mining).

 

PART 3: Who Founded Ethereum? (A Brief History)

Vitalik Buterin founded Ethereum in 2013 when he was just 20 years old.

Buterin was a huge fan of bitcoin. In fact, he also founded Bitcoin Magazine – one of the leading authorities in the crypto space.

In 2013, he published a white paper outlining his vision for Ethereum. Buterin sent the white paper to some close friends for critical feedback. Instead of criticism, however, he got a handful of co-founders!

More than 30 people wanted to work on the project with him. Ethereum was born.

Vitalik Buterin officially launched Ethereum in 2014 and unveiled the project at a Bitcoin conference. Shortly after, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to sell the ether token.

ethereum timeline

Infographic: Brave New Coin

A Moment That Changed Ethereum Forever

Ethereum has suffered some huge setbacks on its road to becoming the world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency.

The Ethereum “hard fork” was perhaps the most notable.

Here’s what happened. In 2016, hackers stole $55 million worth of ether. (Like Bitcoin hacks, we should point out that the hack did not breach the Ethereum blockchain itself, but software built upon it).

The Ethereum community faced a game-changing decision.

They could reverse the hack (by “resetting” the blockchain) and return the stolen money.

Or they could do nothing, accept the breach and move on.

Both options were problematic.

If they did nothing at this early stage of Ethereum’s development, it would damage the project’s credibility (who’s going to trust their money to a system with such a high-profile hack?)

But if they reversed the hack, it would fundamentally go against the values of Ethereum. The blockchain is supposed to immutable and irreversible.

Ultimately, the community voted to “reset” the blockchain, reversing the hack and returning the stolen money.

However, many Ethereum purists were furious. They believed the blockchain must never be reset. The decision spawned a new cryptocurrency: Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum vs Ethereum Classic

Resetting the Ethereum blockchain created a hard fork.

You can think of a hard fork like a train track splitting in two. The currencies share one single track until a certain point when they split and go off in different directions.

The so-called purists took one track with the $55 million hack still coded into the blockchain. This is now the Ethereum Classic blockchain.

The other track is Ethereum as we know it today: the “reset” blockchain, without the $50 million hack.

PART 3: How to Buy and Store Ethereum

How to Buy Ethereum

Ethereum is usually bought and sold on an exchange, much like bitcoin.

The most popular exchange in the US is Coinbase, but there are many others around the world.

coinbase buy ethereum

You’ll be asked to register an account on the exchange, which often means uploading a picture of your photo ID and proof of address. This is to satisfy KCY (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-money-laundering) rules (p.s. want to buy ethereum without ID? Keep reading below).

You can then buy ethereum using USD or your local currency of choice, depending on the exchange.

Can I Buy Ethereum Anonymously?

Yes. There are some exchanges that do not require photo ID or proof of address. However, you may have to buy ether using another cryptocurrency to do this.

For example, you can purchase bitcoin anonymously using the Bitmex exchange.

You can then use bitcoin to purchase ether anonymously on another exchange such as shapeshift.io.

How to Buy Ethereum with Cash

If you really want to go off-grid, you can buy ether with cash. Localethereum.com connects you anonymously with local ethereum sellers. Sellers are verified and rated by buyers, so there is an element of confidence here.

You can arrange a face-to-face meeting to exchange crypto or make a private transfer arrangement. Even your messages on localethereum are encrypted, so it’s private from the start.

How to Store Ethereum

Once you’ve bought ethereum from an exchange, you need to move it to a safe wallet.

You can leave your ethereum in your account on Coinbase or whichever exchange you’re using. However, this storage method is more vulnerable to hacks. (Hackers are more likely to target a large exchange than one smaller wallet).

Choosing an Ethereum Wallet

The right ethereum wallet depends on how you plan to use the ether currency.

If you are investing in ethereum for the long-term, consider a cold storage option. This keeps your ethereum offline so it cannot be accessed by hackers.

Read more: What is Cold Storage for Cryptocurrencies?

However, if you’re using ether to make regular transactions or trades, you might want a “hot wallet” connected to the internet.

Ethereum recommended wallet – A simple choice is Ethereum’s recommended wallet, called Mist. It allows you to store ethereum and any other cryptocurrency built on the Ethereum network. You can also use this wallet to write and execute smart contracts and build Dapps (more on this later). The wallet is downloadable at ethereum.org.

Hardware wallet – While the Ethereum wallet is handy for regular usage, consider a hardware wallet for cold storage. This is a like an external hard drive for cryptocurrencies. While it’s the safest option, there is a downside: if you lose the hardware wallet, your ethereum is gone forever. Popular options include Trezor and Ledger (pictured below).

ledger nano cold storage ethereum wallet plugged into a laptop

Paper wallet – A paper wallet is another form of cold storage. It’s a simple piece of paper with your ethereum public and private key written down. Paper wallets are incredibly safe because no-one can hack a piece of paper. But if the paper is lost or damaged, so is your ether.

Browser walletMetaMask is a browser extension for Google Chrome. It allows you to access Ethereum Dapps and store ether. Be aware, however, that your private key is stored by the browser and can be hacked.

Other ethereum wallets – Another popular option for storing ethereum is MyEtherWallet. It’s a unique web wallet that stores your private key safely on your computer. You can also use it to create smart contracts. Exodus is a desktop wallet with functionality for seven different cryptocurrencies.

PART 4: Can I Build on the Ethereum Network and Access Dapps?

Yes!

The whole point of Ethereum is to encourage developers to build on its ecosystem.

Anyone can build Dapps, write a smart contract or create a new cryptocurrency.

It all revolves around the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM): the nerve center (or brain) of Ethereum.

The EVM means developers can build on Ethereum with relative ease (without starting from scratch with complex code). To be clear, this is still advanced territory for the average user. While the EVM aims to simplify the process of building Dapps and smart contracts, it still requires advanced technical knowledge.

(Interesting fact: the EVM is ‘Turing Complete’ which means it has the potential to solve any algorithm thrown at it by developers. As a comparison, the Bitcoin network is not Turing Complete as it only handles monetary transfer).

Here’s where to start when building or accessing Dapps and smart contracts:

State of the Dapps

state of the dapps screenshot

State of the Dapps is a list of all existing dapps on the Ethereum network. It’s the easiest way to see what’s out there right now. All the dapps are categorized into genres, most-used, and top-rated lists. If you’ve already built a dapp, you can submit it to the site, too.

Ethereum Mist Browser

The Mist browser is Ethereum’s official wallet. It’s also a gateway to the world of Dapps and smart contracts.

To get started, download and install the Mist wallet.

When you launch Mist, you are now connected to the Ethereum blockchain. Create an account, and you can use this browser to send and receive ether.

You can also hit the “Contracts” tab to create your first smart contract.

ethereum mist wallet with 'contracts' tab circled

Lastly, there’s a search button which allows you to use the many thousands of Dapps on the network.

MetaMask

MetaMask is a browser extension for Chrome that gives you access to Ethereum Dapps and smart contracts.

The bonus of using MetaMask is that you don’t have to download any software (or the blockchain itself).

It works in much the same way as Mist. You can send and receive ether, create smart contracts, and browse the world of Dapps.

Five of the Most Impressive Ethereum Dapps

Golem – Golem is a revolutionary project that allows you to “lend” your idle computer power to others. Imagine you’re a video maker who temporarily needs more processing power to finish a project. Or a corporation that needs extra data storage space quickly. With Golem, you simply borrow it from others around the world by connecting to the blockchain. Users are paid in the Golem cryptocurrency (GNT) to rent out their computer power.

uPort – uPort is a Dapp built to protect and manage your identity. Using the uPort software, you enter your personal details into a smart contract. Your identity is only shared when certain conditions (which you set) are met. In other words, it gives you complete control over your identity and whom you share data with.

Augur – Augur lets you predict, and bet on the outcome of, just about anything. From the presidential election to the weather to the success of Apple’s next iPhone. You make the prediction and you then ‘trade’ the outcome alongside thousands of others. Augur launched its own cryptocurrency, REP, which is used to reward those that confirm or “report” the outcomes.

Cryptokitties – We mentioned crypto kitties before, but it’s worth repeating. At its core, cryptokitties allows you to buy and trade cartoon cats. Trading rare cats might not be the most powerful use case for Ethereum, but it has become a gateway for mainstream blockchain use. It’s the first truly viral phenomenon in blockchain, hinting at the enormous potential of the technology. It introduces people to Ethereum in a fun, engaging way.

Idex – Idex is building a decentralized exchange for trading Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies. Because it’s based on the blockchain (and not on a traditional server like, say, Coinbase) it’s reportedly more secure from hackers. It uses smart contracts to execute trades.

There are more than 1,800 dapps currently out there with more added every day.

PART 5: What’s Next for Ethereum and Who Are Its Competitors?

After the explosive growth in value in 2017, ethereum spent most of 2018 cooling off.

However, that’s not to say the platform itself isn’t growing…

Fortune 500 Companies Are Using Ethereum (JP Morgan, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Mastercard)

If you think Ethereum is just for cryptocurrency insiders, think again.

Some of the biggest companies on the planet are experimenting with the technology. Microsoft, Intel, MasterCard, Cisco, and JP Morgan are all part of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, an organization built to advance Ethereum.

Ethereum Alliance list of companies

It’s still early days but blockchain technology has the power to change entire industries. Most smart businesses are dabbling in this new world, and they’re using Ethereum as a testing ground.

Competition from New Projects

Being the first doesn’t always guarantee success.

The platform now faces huge competition from so-called “Ethereum-killers.”

EOS is perhaps the most notable. The project, which was built on Ethereum before launching its own mainnet, is built for Dapps. It is arguably faster, cheaper and more efficient than Ethereum.

Other competitors include Zilliqa, which aims to scale faster than Ethereum, and NEO which facilitates smart contracts without Ethereum’s complexity.

Ethereum’s Scaling Problems

One of the big question marks over Ethereum’s future is its ability to scale. How can it get faster and more efficient?

Developers are currently working on a long series of upgrades to the system. Under the codename “Casper,” Ethereum is slowly shifting from a “proof-of-work” system to a “proof-of-stake” system.

Without getting too technical, this should reduce the computer power required to mine ether and keep the system running.

Ultimately, it will lead to faster transaction times and lower fees.

Watch Vitalik Buterin talk about his plans for scaling Ethereum below:

For now, Ethereum remains the go-to platform for building new technology. It is the gateway to the blockchain, and we are only just scratching the surface of its potential.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.

Where to Go Next?

Ripple (XRP) – Loved this ethereum guide? Learn about the third-biggest cryptocurrency
Guides – Dive into more guides about bitcoin, blockchain and all things crypto.
News – Keep up to date with the bitcoin world.
Market– See up-to-date price movements for the top 20 coins and more.
Block Explorers – Our block explorers let you dive into the blockchain and find any bitcoin transaction.

blockchain nevada lab

In the middle of the Nevada desert, a cryptocurrency pioneer is building an ambitious blockchain community and research center. 

Nestled between Tesla’s gigafactory and facilities run by Google and Apple, the sprawling blockchain “utopia” will feature a high-tech park, an e-sports arena, and a college.

This is the grand vision of Jeffrey Berns, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who made his fortune buying ethereum back in 2015. After selling at an opportune moment, he amassed a multi-million sum.

“This will either be the biggest thing ever or the most spectacular crash and burn in the history of mankind”

Speaking to the New York Times, Berns outlined his ambitious goal of building a community around blockchain technology.

He plans to establish a new blockchain town on the Truckee River, complete with schools and houses, all with full backing from the local Storey County officials in Nevada.

Visit the site at the moment, however, and you’ll find a solitary office building acting as the nerve center for the project. Berns has poured more than $300 million into the land and development so far, including the hiring of 70 staff members to get the project off the ground.

Nevada blockchain laboratory
A future vision for the blockchain research park. Credit: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects and Tom Wiscombe Architecture

High-Tech Neighbors: Tesla, Google, Apple

This once-quiet desert region in Nevada is now home to some of the biggest tech companies on the planet.

Tesla’s notorious “gigafactory,” the biggest factory on Earth, is located right next to Jeffrey Berns’ blockchain development. Apple and Google’s data centers are nearby, with Switch’s data center based near Las Vegas. Microsoft also runs an operations center in the region.

If San Francisco is the beating heart of the tech world, Nevada is its nerve center.

Tesla was lured here with a $1.3 billion incentive, while Berns cites the low tax environment and zero income tax.

The location of his blockchain utopia puts future blockchain research right in the heart of the tech world. It’s an apt choice for a future of collaboration and experimentation.

Powered by Ethereum

Berns may have made his fortune with ether, but his love for Ethereum doesn’t end there. He plans to run the entire project and community through the Ethereum blockchain.

Further reading: What is Ethereum? (A Simple, Comprehensive Guide for Beginners)

All employees and residents in the community will use the Ethereum system to vote on local decisions. They’ll also use it to store and control their personal data, with private keys stored across multiple devices for security.

As an extra backup, Berns is planning to build cold storage and deep storage vaults in the Nevada mountains.

This blockchain utopia won’t just help develop blockchain technology, but actively use it to function. The societal experiment is as big a feature as the blockchain laboratories he aims to build.

“Something tells me this is the answer”

As he explained to the NYTimes, “Something inside me tells me this is the answer, that if we can get enough people to trust the blockchain, we can begin to change all the systems we operate by.”

“Innovation Park” as the development is known, is still in the early stages, but it’s an exciting venture for blockchain technology. We may begin to see not just technological advancements, but real community change, powered by blockchain. 

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.

sidechains

Lack of scalability has been one of the biggest problems of blockchain technology since the release of Bitcoin back in 2009. Slow transaction speeds, high fees, and congestion have become major stumbling blocks, but sidechains may offer a solution. 

In this piece, we cover everything you need to know about sidechains, from the basic definition to the evolution of this technology to potential applications for blockchains. 

We not only discuss why sidechains are important from a technical perspective but also why they are an integral part of driving real-world uses of blockchain technology.

Sidechains, Explained in Simple Terms

Think of it this way. A blockchain can be compared to a highway for vehicles. While one lane may be enough for a steady flow of cars, it probably can’t support a surge of hundreds of thousands of vehicles. 

If there are thousands of cars on the highway, it’s likely to result in slower travel times and increased congestion.

The best way to solve this is by creating a better infrastructure for travel. 

Now, apply this concept to blockchain technology. The intent of any blockchain is to be able to easily send and store all user data (for example, transactional data of cryptocurrencies, data for dapps and smart contracts, and more). 

The biggest issue, however, is that each blockchain has traditionally been reliant upon one lane of traffic – the mainchain. 

By creating multiple roads that connect to the main road, we can create a more efficient transportation system. Similarly, this concept can be used in blockchains. 

Sidechains are mechanisms that allow for data processes to take place off the mainchain, all while being connected to the mainchain if needed. Just as a car can travel back and forth from the main road to a side road, so can data between a blockchain’s mainchain and its sidechains.

sidechains 2
Credit: CryptoIQ

The difficult part is moving assets (like bitcoin) from the mainchain to a sidechain securely, while proving the bitcoin is yours.

Done correctly, however, it’s theortically possible to make faster transactions via a sidechain, or even swap bitcoin to ether without using an exchange.

Why Are Sidechains Needed?

At first, blockchains didn’t technically have a major infrastructure issue. However, as traffic increased, we began to see these issues become more apparent. 

Take the Ethereum blockchain, for example. As more people started using CryptoKitties and other dapps, network fees increased.  Scalability problems became more obvious.

Similar to roads during rush hour traffic, blockchains were (and still are) mostly unprepared to deal with an increase in users and transactions during peak usage times. This became particularly obvious in December 2017. 

More People Using Blockchain = More Congestion

Around December 2017, we saw a range of factors expose the scaling problem of blockchains:

First, more people were buying cryptocurrencies due to a bull market. 

Second, new dapps that used large amounts of data were arriving on the scene. 

Third, there was a rapid increase in the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) that utilized existing blockchains to issue new tokens. 

All of this culminated in record highs for blockchain transaction fees. Blockchain project teams certainly knew that this problem could happen but didn’t necessarily know the extent of the impact. 

Ethereum transaction fees

That’s why research has been going on to develop a variety of scalability solutions. Sidechains have been discussed for quite some time but weren’t yet capable of providing the solution that was needed at that time.

Although we haven’t seen congestion like December 2017 since, blockchains need to prepare for the future.

For instance, projects have to consider how another bull market could once again expose scalability issues. 

Additionally, we should consider the potential for new blockchain innovations (beyond just cryptocurrencies). These will require larger amounts of data, potentially beyond the limits of mainchain technology. Sidechains are one proposed solution to expand the types of apps that blockchains are capable of running.

Why Haven’t Sidechains Been Adopted Sooner?

In blockchain technology, all sorts of advancements have been made only in the last couple of years. So why do some integrations (i.e. addition of sidechains) take longer than others? This is a valid question. 

The best answer is that implementing newer technologies comes with big risk. Look at blockchain platforms like Ethereum and EOS. Not only do they feature their own native cryptocurrency but they also support dapps and tokens from other projects. 

By not considering all of the current and future risks of making a big change like sidechain integration, any given blockchain risks not only its own project but also hundreds or thousands of others.

In theory, sidechains can ensure much greater scalability without risking the security of the mainchain. In reality, this hasn’t yet been 100% proven. 

The “Scalability Trilemma”

Ethereum founder, Vitalik Buterin, summed things up when he outlined the “scalability trilemma.”

vitalik buterin scalability

The trilemma points to three things key to blockchain technology: security, decentralization, and scalability.

Most solutions can improve one or two of those things, but usually at the expense of one of the others. In other words, if you want scalability, you probably have to sacrifice security and/or decentralization.

This is the case with sidechains.

Sidechains have been notoriously difficult to implement because they rely upon SPV (simplified payment verification proofs). With SPV proofs, it’s possible to prove ownership of funds when sending from a sidechain to the main chain. 

However, without SPV proofs, there is a possibility that, when users or miners move their money back to the main chain, they could take more cryptocurrency funds than they really own in some scenarios. 

According to some research, SPV proofs are also subject to a few different types of attacks, which creates a potential security risk for the entire blockchain. This is why, “trusted sidechains”, which are more centralized sidechains run by a few blockchain companies, have dominated sidechain implementation as of 2018. 

Since the goal of most blockchain project teams is to move towards a more decentralized system, relying upon a trusted/centralized sidechain would run counter to their core principles. 

At the same time, scalability is also a top priority. Still, development teams have been reluctant to accept an either-or scenario where scalability is achieved by sacrificing decentralization.

Progress in Sidechain Technology

The discussion of how to make blockchain technology more scalable has been going on since 2012. 

Sidechain-specific research has been going on since around 2014. For the most part, sidechains remain in the research and development phase even in 2018. 

This is because researchers have felt that the technology still lacks certain key components needed for real-world implementation. However, this has begun to change just in the past year or so. 

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, chief scientist at IOHK, made a technical breakthrough that could help propel sidechains into the next stages of adoption. In a scientific paper called “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work”, Kiayias explains the increasing importance “to be able to efficiently handle multiple blockchains by the same client and reliably transfer assets between them.” 

In this research, Kiayias outlines the world’s first Proof of Proof-of-Work. The research shows that this proposed design could use SPV proofs that are able to prevent many of the normal attacks. 

From a security standpoint, Kiayias’ work is a major milestone for not only the adoption of greater scalability within one blockchain but also across multiple blockchains.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, EOS: Cross-Blockchain Communication

In the paper, Kiayias describes an ICO which distributes tokens issued on one blockchain but allows paying for them using coins in another blockchain. 

Essentially, using this research to build a real-world application could allow for the possibility of cross-chain communication. 

For instance, in the future, we could see interoperability between different blockchain networks (i.e. Bitcoin and Ethereum, EOS and NEO, or a variety of other combinations).

This is one of several ongoing efforts by around the globe to research how to improve the performance of sidechains. Here are some more important examples.

3 Projects Focused on Sidechain Deployment

Liquid

Blockstream Liquid side chain

Developed by Blockstream, this project was actually the first commercial sidechain on the market. It has already been implemented by a few different cryptocurrency exchanges. With Liquid, every transaction uses real bitcoin, pegged via a sidechain to the Bitcoin blockchain. This solution also ensures that users are always dealing with real, verifiable assets. 

This project uses a federated sidechain – a private blockchain with different features, capabilities, and benefits than the main Bitcoin blockchain. 

According to the Liquid website, Liquid will never be as decentralized as Bitcoin. However, it is designed to remove control from any single party, geographic location, or political jurisdiction. 

It also allows for increased privacy via the “confidential transactions” feature, which hides transaction amounts from everyone except for the parties directly involved in the transaction itself.

Plasma

This is a solution that uses a series of smart contracts that run on top of the Ethereum blockchain. Plasma’s goal is to scale Ethereum to be able to handle millions (or even billions) of transactions per second, compared to the current amount of only 10-15. 

This is possible because Plasma eliminates the need for every node on the network to verify all transactions as they occur.

Altcoin.io is one decentralized exchange that has created its own Plasma-like sidechain architecture to ensure that transactions are trustless and secure, but still extremely fast. 

Projects like Ethereum and OmiseGO are driving the research, development, and implementation of Plasma as a scalability solution. Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin said in May 2018, 

“So if you get a 100x from Sharding and a 100x from Plasma, those two basically give you a 10,000x scalability gain, which basically means blockchains will be powerful enough to handle most applications most people are trying to do with them.”

Rootstock

rootstock

What sets Rootstock (RSK) apart from many other proposed solutions is that it is a drivechain/sidechain hybrid two-way peg designed to port Ethereum’s smart contract functionality to Bitcoin without impacting the main blockchain whatsoever. This is a significant project because it would be the first project to bring any sort of smart contract functionality to the Bitcoin blockchain.

In 2017, crypto security expert Sergio Demian Lerner released information about Lumino, which is a compatible version of the Lightning Network built on top of Rootstock.

During this process, Lerner introduced a new protocol called the Lumino Transaction Compression Protocol (LTCP), which forms the transaction layer to the Lumino network. The purpose of LTCP is to create far smaller bitcoin transactions to enable as many as 100 transactions to be processed by the network every second. That’s six 6-to-33 times higher than Bitcoin’s 2018 transaction limits. 

For those concerned with potential privacy concerns, Lerner suggested in 2017 that users could add greater privacy to transactions by techniques like creating new accounts with each transaction or using tumbling services to obfuscate (hide) the origin of their coins.

Future Possibilities for Sidechain Technology

The possibilities for sidechain implementation are continuously increasing with research advancements. Sidechain technology is not just important from a technical perspective. It can enable blockchains to achieve more transactions per second while also reducing transaction fees. 

Furthermore, it is one of the most vital components to driving blockchain capabilities far past what is currently possible today. When we look at decentralized applications in 2018, many are still quite rudimentary. 

A good comparison is to think of blockchain in 2018 kind of like internet connectivity in the early 2000s. 

It was still much better than the 1990s, for example. Still, there was a lot to be desired. Back then, there were no easily-accessible mobile technologies (i.e. 5G networks), so devices couldn’t connect from anywhere. 

Connection speeds were also significantly slower. Similarly, blockchains in 2018 are limited in what their services they can do. However, through the proper implementation of sidechain and other scalability solutions, any given blockchain could potentially run numerous types of advanced applications (for example, AI, IoT, and more) that require large amounts of data. 

This could empower applications that are merely concepts in 2018 as well as future applications that aren’t even in the theoretical stages yet.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.

Blockchain engineer salary

Blockchain engineers are now paid more than any other software engineer, equal only to artificial intelligence experts, as reported by CNBC.

According to statistics from Hired.com, blockchain engineer salaries are in the range of $150,000 – $175,000. That’s as much as some dentists in the USA. 

It reflects an enormous 400% rise in demand for blockchain engineers over the last 12 months.

Blockchain Engineers Paid Higher Than Average

The figures are significantly higher than the average salary for a software engineer, which is $135,000 according to Hired.

Blockchain engineers are paid a premium because there simply aren’t enough experts to meet demand. In the past, blockchain development was a niche job role, advertised only by startups and ICOs.

Now, however, we are seeing the Silicon Valley giants lining up to hire blockchain experts. IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon are all currently advertising for blockchain experts. At the same time, Wall Street banks, like J.P. Morgan are building blockchain tools.

Blockchain is expanding beyond the bedrooms and garages of plucky startups to the biggest companies on the planet.

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies Are Here to Stay

The enormous salaries and demand for blockchain engineers spell out one thing very clearly: this technology is not going away.

Despite the crash in cryptocurrency prices, there’s a sense that an industry is being built behind the scenes.

Blockchain may have disappeared from the headlines, but there’s movement under the surface. Passionate, excited, and brilliant minds are building the next generation of technology.

What Do You Need to Be a Blockchain Engineer?

Blockchain engineers typically write in Python, Solidity, Javascript, Java, Go, C, and C++ (Bitcoin itself was written in C++ by mysterious founder Satoshi Nakamoto).

You should also know the basic fundamentals of development, including HashMaps, Stack, Queues, and Tree.

Last of all, you’ll need a rounded knowledge of blockchain architecture. Ethereum is perhaps the best place to start since it’s the foundation for many blockchain development projects.

“There’s a Ton of Demand for Blockchain”

As the CEO of Hired, Mehul Patel, explains, “There’s a ton of demand for blockchain. Software engineers are in very short supply, but this is even more acute and that’s why salaries are even higher.”

With salaries higher than any other specialized software engineer, is it time for a job switch?

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.