Many people confuse Ethereum with Ethereum Classic.
In this article, we will explain what each of these cryptocurrencies are, why Ethereum split into two projects, and what are the goals, advantages, and disadvantages of each.
So What Is Ethereum?
Ethereum is a decentralized, open-source blockchain that supports smart contract functionality. Ether is Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, and it is the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization after Bitcoin.
Ethereum’s smart contract functionality is one of the main reasons for its success. Smart contracts are self-executing contracts between parties on a blockchain and allow the terms of an agreement to be written directly into the lines of code.
They are highly useful because they allow the secure execution of immutable contracts without third-party involvement.
Ethereum was initially described in 2013 by co-founder Vitalik Buterin as a decentralized software platform that functions as a base layer for decentralized applications on top.
Applications on Ethereum run without any interference from third parties, because they have no control. They cannot interfere or commit fraud on the blockchain. This protection has lead Ethereum to become the largest open-ended, decentralized software platform in the world.
Many popular altcoins and applications are based on the Ethereum platform and use it as a foundation for their projects. This is the main driver of Ethereum’s success, and perhaps what makes it one of the most important cryptocurrencies ever created.
So what Is Ethereum Classic?
Ethereum Classic is the original Ethereum blockchain, a decentralized blockchain that also supports decentralized apps and smart contract functionality. It became Ethereum Classic after Ethereum was forked in 2016 to recover funds from a third-party hack.
It resulted in the original Ethereum becoming Ethereum Classic, which maintains the old network. The newer blockchain was simply called Ethereum and maintains an altered network without the hack.
Both blockchains share the same record before the hard fork in July 2016. However, all records and future updates on Ethereum after this time are not compatible with Ethereum Classic.
So Why Did Ethereum and Ethereum Classic Fork?
As mentioned, the blockchain forked due to a third-party hack, which resulted in a dispute between the then Ethereum network or community.
It all started with the “The DAO” the first Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a community-based funding platform on the Ethereum blockchain.
“The DAO” was a crowd-funded, Ethereum-based, decentralized venture-capitalist firm for the crypto community. It was extremely successful and raised roughly 150 million dollars worth of Ether.
However, security flaws resulted in a hack, which allowed the hackers to steal Ether worth around 50 million dollars. The stolen Ether was recoverable, but it meant that the community had to make a tough decision.
They could either create a hard fork to recover the Ether or do nothing. A hard fork is irreversible, unlike a soft fork, which is backward compatible.
Doing nothing meant upholding the integrity of a decentralized application, which is immutability and freedom from manipulation by any group or individual.
Allowing a hard fork meant violating a tenant of blockchain technology, that the blockchain can never be changed, and could open the door for future forks that may be based on unknown motivations.
Eventually, the community voted, and a hard fork was implemented, which ended up splitting the community in two.
This resulted in Ethereum Classic for the small group that did not want a hard fork and the new Ethereum, which reversed the DAO hack and moved forward with a new blockchain.
So what Are the Strategy/Goals of Each Project?
While both Ethereum and Ethereum Classic are based on the same blockchain technology and smart contract functionality, there are some differences in their strategy and goals.
Ethereum’s Strategy and Goals
The original blockchain intended to move Ethereum from a Proof of Work system to a Proof of Stake system. The Ethereum community has opted to fulfill this intent and is completely switching to Proof of Stake.
Ethereum has no hard cap on the amount of Ether that can be mined, hence Ether is not scarce. However, the supply managed to allow for a consistent yearly supply of Ether.
Ethereum Classic’s Strategy are Goals
The Ethereum Classic community has opted to eliminate the move to Proof of Stake and will instead remain on the Proof of Work system.
Ethereum Classic also has a limited supply of coins that can be mined, which is hard-capped at around 210 million coins.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each platform?
The Advantages of Ethereum Are:
Higher market value
Evolved blockchain technology
Proof of Stake systems are faster and more energy-efficient
Proof of Stake systems are immune to 51% attacks
The Disadvantages of Ethereum Are:
Unlimited supply of coins (No hard cap)
Proof of Stake systems are susceptible to a double-stake attack
The Advantages or Ethereum Classic Are:
Limited supply of coins (Hard capped at 210 million)
Proof of Work systems are immune to double-stake attack
The Disadvantages or Ethereum Classic Are:
Lower market value
Old blockchain technology
Proof of Work systems are slower with high energy consumption
Proof of Work systems are susceptible to 51% attack
While both cryptocurrencies have the same roots and are based on similar blockchain technology, their ethos, security, strategy, goals, advantages, and disadvantages make them different. Soon, their underlying software systems will also become very different from one another.
Ethereum’s move from a Proof of Work system to a Proof of Stake will further scale their network by making faster, more energy-efficient, and arguably more secure transactions.