While the founder of Bitcoin remains shrouded in mystery, the story of who created Ethereum is much clearer.
In 2011, a young Russian-Canadian computer programmer’s interest in Bitcoin took him down the path of co-founding Bitcoin Magazine and writing for the outlet as a journalist, and then later as a coder on cryptocurrency projects such as Dark Wallet and Egora.
Then at just nineteen years old, Vitalik Buterin formalised an idea in a whitepaper during November 2013 that would apply blockchain technology in a way that would go beyond Bitcoin’s remit and disrupt industries other than finance.
The realisation of this idea birthed Ethereum, with Vitalik Buterin amongst five of the original founders. The other founders of Ethereum include Bitcoin Magazine co-founder Mihai Ailisie, Anthony Di Iorio, Charles Hoskinson and Amir Chetrit, who were all keen to get on board after Buterin had sent around his whitepaper to 13 people.
After trying to implement his vision on Mastercoin - a smart contract protocol on top of Bitcoin - Buterin decided that he would need to envisage a whole new platform that would use a general scripting language to open up use cases of cryptocurrency beyond money. As a talented journalist and computer programmer, Buterin quickly became familiar with Bitcoin’s shortcomings and decided a new blockchain was needed to fulfil his vision.
His idea, Ethereum, was officially announced on BitcoinTalk on January 23, 2014 and aimed to provide a blockchain platform for smart contracts that covered a wide range of applications. By the time of the BitcoinTalk announcement, the founding development team had expanded to include Jeffrey Wilcke and Dr. Gavin Wood, while Stephen Tual and Joseph Lubin joined the non-development leadership team.
Jeffrey Wilcke is one of the main developers who expertise is in the Go programming language. Dr. Wood first wrote the C++ client for Ethereum in December 2013 and then released Ethereum’s yellow paper in April 2014, which outlined the Ethereum Virtual Machine that runs smart contracts and the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Stephen Tual and Taylor Gerring eventually replaced Charles Hoskinson and Amir Chetrit in the leadership team by June 2014. Joseph Lubin went on to found ConsenSys in October 2014, a startup focused on building decentralised apps.
The pre-sale of ether (the cryptocurrency that powers the Ethereum blockchain) went live on July 22, 2014, a short while after the Ethereum Foundation was established in Zug, Switzerland. Since then Ethereum has evolved into the most popular smart contract platform and boasts the largest number of developers working on the protocol out of any cryptocurrency project.