What if I told you that the best model for money the world has ever seen already exists?
Ethereum (ETH) has taken the world of crypto by storm with the rising popularity of decentralized finance (DeFi) and various other applications launched on what is essentially the new Internet of value. Unfortunately, this does not come without a unique set of challenges, and defining ETH has proven to be a difficult task.
Into the Ether
The Ethereum Foundation is integral to building an Internet-based alternative to financial systems of traditional legacy financial markets. In this new era of finance, systems and applications have the advantage of not only being completely open and transparent – but trustless. Thus, the application of ETH requires various innovations, such as a native currency that allows the network to continue operating seamlessly without interruption.
In many ways, early ETH adopters have experienced a dilemma similar to the feeble attempts made at defining the Internet in the 1980s, long before anybody could anticipate the societal paradigm shift it would inevitably cause. If you ask a search engine such as Google to define the Internet, you will likely receive an answer similar to this:
A global computer network, providing a variety of information and communication facilities consisting of interconnected networks while using a standardized communication protocol.
Although this may technically be right, there is a fundamental communication breakdown - this is a definition meant for the technologically savvy. Ethereum as a whole provides the missing layer to what will ultimately usher in a new era of the Internet: value. And so, a more appropriate question would be “how does the Internet impact humanity?”. In order to answer that question, we need to take a look at what we are using the Internet for 99% of the time – applications.
Ethereum’s Application Layer
Imagine the Internet is a stack of various technologies with applications being at the top. Although the Internet cannot exist with any part of its technological stack missing, the application layer defines how meaningfully this technology can impact our lives. While innovations of the Internet made data cheap, available, and infinitely scalable, the exposure to an abundance of readily available information is the opposite of what drives the concept of value behind a monetarily-driven structure.
The subsequent layers below the initial application layer are nothing more than a means to an end, meant to provide products and services to the public.
Determining something’s value is influenced by its scarcity, cost, and demand. However, being cheap, available, and copiable are the opposite of what drives monetary incentives. Money, and value by definition, are solely based on how scarce, expensive, and difficult to obtain the desired placeholders are.
The Missing Layer of Value
When Bitcoin (BTC) solved the “double-spend” problem, it achieved its mission of successfully creating Internet scarcity: a transaction sent over the Internet without the sender being able to keep a copy for themselves was accomplished for the first time, thus retaining its value.
The BTC protocol only provides scarcity to Bitcoin and nothing else... this, however, is where Ether gets its value - through tokenization, the ERC-20 standard is a printing press to solving digital scarcity for any crypto-asset. The bottom line is that Ethereum exists as an emergent layer of the Internet. It uses communication protocols to create a network that defines how digital value gets managed.
Just as applications on the Internet define what the Internet is, the applications on Ethereum define what Ethereum is – as a result, the Ethereum network blockchain has become the agnostic settlement layer of the Internet.