What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is often compared to Bitcoin, however, they serve two very different purposes. While Bitcoin aims to act as a storage of value and is directly a currency with its own blockchain; Ethereum brings smart contracts into the decentralized economy. Ethereum is a blockchain platform with a cryptocurrency called Ether that is used on it. Because Ethereum is a blockchain platform, developers can build on top of Ethereum to create their own smart contract cryptocurrencies.
Ethereum's intention is to be built upon to create decentralized applications (dapps). Each decentralized app aims to fill a particular transactional niche. Some aim to act as a decentralized loan service where you can lend or borrow without having to go through a bank or traditional lender. Interest is automatically charged and given to the person lending the money. Other apps strive to include the community in how the currency functions by providing a voting system within the blockchain itself for new features. Cryptocurrency is a new way to think about money with the potential to create new ideas that have not even been considered yet. Ethereum provides a platform to match the freedom and scale of the internet might just be the next technological advancement that drastically changes how we interact on a global scale.
What is Ethereum 2.0?
With any software, scalability is hard to build into the initial version. Ethereum was created on July 30th, 2015 and the team has learned a lot as more and more people use Ethereum directly and build upon it. Ethereum's growing popularity highlights areas for improvement such as scalability, security, and sustainability.
Upgrading a system that is active and growing by the day will not happen overnight. Phase 0 in the migration to Ethereum 2.0 is the creation of "The Beacon Chain". This feature was released on December 1st, 2020 to coordinate the network as well as to lay the groundwork for the rest of the migration. The beacon chain does not directly affect the still active Ethereum blockchain.