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What exactly is Ethereum?

It's weird that for such a thing as Ethereum there has not yet been a question asked that would suit a lot of new comers. The reason I ask is because I have far from a solid understanding on Ethereum and would like to be able to point myself and newcomers to this question in the future. I hope this isn't too off-topic. Feel free to answer in a way that suits newcomers and not so much the question.

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  • I'd argue that this isn't a duplicate as the question is: "What IS Ethereum?" not "How do I EXPLAIN Ethereum?". The difference is the answers both questions receive: this one receives answers as to what Ethereum is. The other receives answers as to how to answer this question. A bit meta, I suppose but a significant difference. – Xunie Jul 30 '16 at 19:15
  • I'd argue that your question is implicit in the former question, and that the action of explaining is really only secondary to the underlying meaning of what that question is asking. I'd also expect both questions to attract the same, or at least very similar, answers. However, it's all semantics, and I'm happy for others to disagree. That's one of the reasons why we're here :) – Richard Horrocks Jul 30 '16 at 19:23
  • Maybe' you're right, I don't know. – Xunie Jul 30 '16 at 20:13
  • We could possibly split the answers between this question and the one Richard linked. One for explaining things to peoople, the other for actual explanations. Is that an idea? – Xunie Jul 30 '16 at 21:41
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Ethereum is one of the technology platforms known as blockchains. Started 2015, it aims to offer more flexibility than other blockchain platforms that mainly focus on transferring value - sending money from one party to another. Ethereum introduced the concept of a smart contract where contract resolution can happen inside the blockchain and there is no need for third party or service to enforce it. This opens up the door for new applications and more cost efficient way of operating in the realms of finance, insurance, property registries, public record keeping to name a few.

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