Ether (ETH), the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, is arguably the second most popular digital token after bitcoin (BTC). Indeed, as the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, comparisons between Ether and BTC are only natural.
Ether and bitcoin are similar in many ways: each is a digital currency traded via online exchanges and stored in various types of cryptocurrency wallets. Both of these tokens are decentralized, meaning that they are not issued or regulated by a central bank or other authority. Both make use of the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain. However, there are also many crucial distinctions between the two most popular cryptocurrencies by market cap. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the similarities and differences between bitcoin and ether.
- Bitcoin signalled the emergence of a radically new form of digital money that operates outside the control of any government or corporation.
- With time, people began to realize that one of the underlying innovations of bitcoin, the blockchain, could be utilized for other purposes.
- Ethereum proposed to utilize blockchain technology not only for maintaining a decentralized payment network but also for storing computer code which can be used to power tamper-proof decentralized financial contracts and applications.
- Ethereum applications and contracts are powered by ether, the Ethereum network’s currency.
- Ether was intended to complement rather than compete with bitcoin, but it has nonetheless emerged as a competitor on cryptocurrency exchanges.
While both the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are powered by the principle of distributed ledgers and cryptography, the two differ technically in many ways. For example, transactions on the Ethereum network may contain executable code, while data affixed to Bitcoin network transactions are generally only for keeping notes. Other differences include block time (an ether transaction is confirmed in seconds compared to minutes for bitcoin) and the algorithms that they run on (Ethereum uses ethash while Bitcoin uses SHA-256).
More importantly, though, the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are different with respect to their overall aims. While bitcoin was created as an alternative to national currencies and thus aspires to be a medium of exchange and a store of value, Ethereum was intended as a platform to facilitate immutable, programmatic contracts, and applications via its own currency.
BTC and ETH are both digital currencies, but the primary purpose of ether is not to establish itself as an alternative monetary system, but rather to facilitate and monetize the operation of the Ethereum smart contract and decentralized application (dapp) platform.
Ethereum is another use-case for a blockchain that supports the Bitcoin network, and theoretically should not really compete with Bitcoin. However, the popularity of ether has pushed it into competition with all cryptocurrencies, especially from the perspective of traders. For most of its history since the mid-2015 launch, ether has been close behind bitcoin on rankings of the top cryptocurrencies by market cap. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that the ether ecosystem is much smaller than bitcoin’s: as of January 2020, ether’s market cap was just under $16 billion, while bitcoin’s is nearly 10 times that at more than $147 billion.