Ethereum is a new land for coding

Pelle Braendgaard is a veteran programmer. At the age of 12, he used to go to his local computer store in Denmark to write BASIC code on the Sinclair 8-bit ZX Spectrum. In 1993, he stumbled across Mosaic, the first graphical web browser while accidentally manipulating the UNIX command line on a university computer. He quickly fell in love with the website and found a job as a webmaster for AltaVista, a pioneering search engine.

With a mixed Danish and American accent, Braendgaard says: “In the early days, you really had to find it all by yourself. We all have to learn everything… there are no good libraries. There is no good development tool ”.

The site has matured ever since, but Braendgaard has left. Now, he is writing decentralized applications, or “DApps” for Ethereum, a technology based on encryption. It’s a field as promising as the web of the 1990s. It offers the same novelty and opportunity to make an impact.

Ethereum is not just a new digital currency, it is a new kind of decentralized computer that no one has control over but can be seen by anyone. On this machine, a new generation of applications, called DApps, was born.

How can Ethereum be a cryptocurrency and a computer at the same time? Instead of running on a laptop or server, it runs on thousands of PCs at the same time, all synchronized with blockchain technology. In its simplest form, blockchain is an ordered list of items to which all computers agree. On Ethereum, that list is made up of programmable computer states (numbers 1 and 0). Anyone can pay (Ether, not dollars) to run their code and thus change the state of the computer. Mining rabbits put their machines in a random math race for a chance to choose which code to run next (that is to add the next block of 1s and zeros to the list) and collect a fee. relate to.

This system is called the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), or more commonly known as the “world computer”. The code is run publicly, but the user has an alias. It is like Amazon Web Services, except that instead of Amazon being the seller and the user is the buyer, the user can play the role. There is no individual control of the system. That makes Ethereum something truly new, something that has never appeared before.

Decentralized applications (DApps) are programs that run on the world’s computers. However, “run” may not be the right word because Ethereum-the-computer is terribly slow and coding for it is like turning the digital clock back for decades. Currently, computations on EVM are too expensive and inefficient to run a modern web-based service like Twitter. Even storing a profile picture would cost hundreds of dollars and now the network can only run about seven transactions per second. (For comparison, Facebook runs 25,000 transactions per second on searches alone. Software change can speed up some things, but Ethereum has always been slower than a regular computer.

It’s a cumbersome system, but that doesn’t stop developers from writing Ethereum programs. They are drawn to what the platform earns by spending all of those additional resources. DApps are small, interconnected scripts to transfer money and connect users. They are very good at coordinating multiple computers to perform tasks in exchange for currency without any central oversight. This decentralization is Ethereum’s biggest attraction. DApps don’t need to trust the benevolence of central administrators like Amazon to run the code or in payment systems like PayPal or banks to change money.

Blockchain theorists have a name for this decentralized protection from outside interference: They call it “trustlessness” – “distrust” and that’s at the core of many DApps. (This term is confusing, because it sounds like a label for something you can’t trust. If a voting DApp is used in a presidential election the DApp can count the votes themselves and all votes will be anonymized, but anyone can see the code has counted them and the system will be immune to interference from foreign countries, Russia for example Braendgaard is the lead engineer of another DApp called uPort.This DApp uses trustlessness to allow users to manage their own identities Users can prove their identity to other apps, but, unlike when logging into the app via Facebook or Google, they can do so without having to trust vendor focused.

Ethereum is also being used to create a bunch of new markets built on trust principles. This is really pleasing to tech people. Project Golem describes itself as “AirBnB for computers”. Users can either sell the machine’s unused computing power or buy it from someone else. Users first used it to process CGI images on strangers’ computers. These acceptors don’t need to believe that Golem will pay them for their computation time or that the code will run as promised; transactions are guaranteed by the openness of the network. In the future, Golem could be an alternative or even a challenge to current cloud hegemony.

Gnosis is another well-known marketplace DApp. It’s a prediction market, meaning users can bet on the outcome of events (e.g. will Roger Federer win the Australian Open?) And askers can capitalize on the wisdom of events. crowd to better predict the outcome of the event. Prediction markets have existed in the past, but they have always been tightly controlled and reliant on trust in a central source to determine the correct answer and withdraw money. “With Gnosis, we’re not just using Ethereum for payments. We are using it to build the core of the prediction market, ”said Martin Köppelmann, co-founder of Gnosis. “Before, people had to send money to our company, our company would keep the money and then we send it back. Now the big difference is that it’s actually on par. We don’t touch users’ money.

Ethereum itself and all the code that runs on it are open source and public, so if the user is technically savvy, they can verify how much they will be charged and see the code. How safe is this. On traditional apps, users had to blindly trust developers to charge them appropriately and protect their credit card information. Phil Daian, Ph.D. at Cornell’s Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contraction said: “On Ethereum, the need for security is shifted to platform users, which can be good or bad. If you are a system knowledgeable user, you will have all the necessary information. If you do not understand like my grandmother then that may be beyond your security capacity.

Identifying the security code on Ethereum is not a task for the digitally underdog and neither is coding. Ethereum ties the code and currency together so tightly that a security hole could cause enormous cost. A recent vulnerability in Parity Wallet, a popular DApp that stores users’ ether assets, allowed hackers to steal $ 30 million worth of Ether from DApp users. The reason is just missing a single word.

The loss of security vulnerabilities makes writing Ethereum code a difficult task. In the Parity Wallet attack… a small accident caused millions of dollars in damage. You have to think about these types of security holes and security flaws.

Most people don’t worry about the apps they use to mishandle their money, because the law restricts them from encountering credit card fraud. The DApps make no such guarantees. Decentralization and anonymity make the law and regulation enforcement of Ethereum difficult, if not impossible. Instead, users depend on their own technical knowledge and members of the community to spot scams. In addition, DApps like Gnosis can be used for illegal purposes. There are many moral dangers. Daian commented on Ethereum prediction market: “I can bet a million dollars that you will be alive on Monday. If someone wants to assassinate you, they will choose the other side of the bet, kill you and take my money.

Ethereum has such a range of dangers but for developers like Braendgaard. That’s what makes it so interesting again. Like the internet in the early 1990s, the network was largely undeveloped by programmers, untapped by businesses and incomprehensible to the general public.

Ethereum is still waiting for its killer DApp, the email equivalent. The network simply may not be ready yet and there is no guarantee it will exist. But developers like Köppelmann are confident it will improve. You said we were the internet in 1994. If you had the vision in 1994 to create YouTube it would be a beautiful vision, but that’s not possible. Ethereum’s early developers saw too much potential in the network and believed it would turn out to be something new. Developers are betting on their time and code. And sooner or later, just like Netscape did with the internet, a DApp will bring the world to Ethereum. And one of them will write it.

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