The Rise of Ethereum: A Comprehensive Guide to the World's Second Largest Cryptocurrency

A series exploring Ethereum, it's history, future and relation to the wider crypto ecosystem

The Rise of Ethereum

by | Jun 27, 2023 | Benefits, Blockchain, Ethereum, Why Crypto

This article will explore the phenomenal rise of Ethereum, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency

Ethereum - second largest cryptocurrency and its rise

Ethereum: The second largest cryptocurrency and its rise to success

In the dynamic landscape of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has long held the throne. In the years since Bitcoin’s inception, others came along such as Litecoin, Dogecoin and Ripple but Ethereum emerged as Bitcoin’s most formidable contender.  With its unique features and innovative technology, Ethereum has quickly ascended to become the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation. This comprehensive guide will delve into the rise of Ethereum, its key features, and its potential impact on the world of finance and technology.

This article is part of the below series on Ethereum: 

  1. The Rise of Ethereum: A Comprehensive Guide to the World’s Second-Largest Cryptocurrency
  2. A Timeline & History of Ethereum: From Inception to Ethereum 2.0
  3. What Is Ethereum in Basic Terms & How Does It Relate to the Wider Crypto Ecosystem
  4. The A-Z of Ethereum Forks: From the DAO Hack to Ethereum Classic and Beyond
  5. Ethereum vs Bitcoin: A Comparative Analysis of the Top Two Cryptocurrencies
  6. Understanding Ethereum’s Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (DApps)
  7. Exploring the Use Cases and Real-World Applications of Ethereum
  8. The Beacon Chain and The Merge: Ethereum’s Roadmap to Proof-of-Stake
  9. The Future of Ethereum: An In-Depth Look at Ethereum 2.0 and Beyond

The Genesis of Ethereum

Ethereum was conceived by Vitalik Buterin, a programmer and co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine. Buterin envisioned a platform that went beyond the financial use cases supported by Bitcoin. He proposed Ethereum in late 2013 as a platform that leverages blockchain technology to enable developers to build and deploy smart contracts and decentralised applications.

The Ethereum network was officially launched on July 30, 2015, following a successful initial coin offering (ICO) in 2014 that raised over $18 million. The ICO also marked the creation and distribution of Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, Ether (ETH), which serves as the fuel for operations within the Ethereum network.

For a detailed timeline and history of Ethereum, refer to our article “A Timeline & History of Ethereum: From Inception to Ethereum 2.0“.

The Evolution of Ethereum

From its beginnings, Ethereum has undergone significant development and evolution. The platform has faced numerous challenges and controversies over the years, including the infamous DAO hack in 2016, which resulted in a hard fork that led to the creation of Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum has also grappled with scalability issues as it strives to support a growing number of decentralised applications. The network’s upgrade to Ethereum 2.0, aims to address these scalability issues and improve the platform’s security and sustainability.

For a comprehensive understanding of Ethereum forks, check out our article “The A-Z of Ethereum Forks: From the DAO Hack to Ethereum Classic and Beyond“.

Ethereum vs Bitcoin: A Comparative Analysis

While Bitcoin and Ethereum are the two largest cryptocurrencies and often get confused as being similar, they serve entirely different purposes and have distinct features. Bitcoin was designed as a digital currency to be used as a medium of exchange, while Ethereum was designed as a platform for decentralised apps and smart contracts.

Ethereum vs Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Ethereum vs Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in their race to dominate the crypto landscape – Image credit: PixaBay/xuanduongvan87

Bitcoin and Ethereum also differ in their consensus mechanisms. Bitcoin uses proof-of-work (PoW), which requires miners to solve complex mathematical problems to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain. Ethereum, on the other hand, has transitioned to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism as part of its Ethereum 2.0 upgrade, which is expected to be more energy-efficient and scalable.

For a deeper comparison, refer to our article “Ethereum vs Bitcoin: A Comparative Analysis of the Top Two Cryptocurrencies“.

Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (DApps)

One of the defining features of Ethereum is its support for smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps). Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code. They automate processes, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing the risk of fraud.

DApps are applications that run on a decentralised network, offering direct interaction between end-users and providers. They have the potential to disrupt various industries, including finance, supply chain management, and gaming.

For a more in-depth understanding of these features, check out our article “Understanding Ethereum’s Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (DApps)“.

The Beacon Chain and The Merge

Ethereum underwent a major upgrade known as Ethereum 2.0 in 2022. The first phase of this upgrade, known as Phase 0, introduced the Beacon Chain in December 2020. The Beacon Chain is a PoS blockchain that runs alongside the original Ethereum PoW chain.

The next significant phase, known as The Merge, integrated the Ethereum 1.0 and Ethereum 2.0 networks, marking the official transition from PoW to PoS. The transition is expected to bring numerous benefits, including increased scalability, security, and sustainability, while significantly reducing the energy consumption of the network.

It’s worth noting that Ethereum Classic (ETC) which emerged from the DAO fork, along with more recent forks such as Ethereum Fair (ETHF) and Etherem PoW (ETHW), all continue to operate under the PoW consensus mechanism. 

For a detailed explanation of this transition, refer to our article “The Beacon Chain and The Merge: Ethereum’s Roadmap to Proof-of-Stake“. For more information on Ethereum Classic and more recent forks, visit “The A-Z of Ethereum Forks: From the DAO Hack to Ethereum Classic and Beyond“.

The Future of Ethereum: Ethereum 2.0 and Beyond

Ethereum 2.0 represents a significant shift in the network’s infrastructure. It plans to introduce shard chains, which are smaller chains that run in parallel to the main Ethereum chain, improving the network’s capacity and speed.

Another key feature of Ethereum 2.0 is the introduction of Ethereum WebAssembly (eWASM), which will replace the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). eWASM allows for faster execution of smart contracts and greater flexibility in the types of applications that can be built on Ethereum.

The transition to Ethereum 2.0 is a multi-year process that will fundamentally alter the Ethereum network. Despite the challenges, the potential impact of Ethereum 2.0 on the future of finance and technology is considered to be significant. It promises a more scalable, secure, and sustainable platform that could further accelerate the adoption of decentralised apps and smart contracts.

For an in-depth look at Ethereum 2.0 and its potential impact, check out our article “The Future of Ethereum: An In-Depth Look at Ethereum 2.0 and Beyond“.

Real-World Applications of Ethereum

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum’s potential extends beyond the realm of finance. Its technology has found applications in various sectors, from gaming to supply chain management, and much more.

For a detailed exploration of these use cases, refer to our article “Exploring the Use Cases and Real-World Applications of Ethereum“.

Ethereum and the NFT Boom

One of the most significant developments in the crypto space has been the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), unique digital assets that represent ownership of a specific item or piece of content.

Ethereum’s blockchain technology has been instrumental in the NFT boom, providing the infrastructure for minting and trading these digital assets that have become very popular both within and outside of the metaverse.

For more information on NFTs and the metaverse, please refer to a blog from our sister company titled “What Is the Metaverse & What Are NFTS? What Does This Mean for Business?

Ethereum’s Impact on the Financial Sector

Ethereum’s smart contracts and DApps have the potential to revolutionise the financial sector. From decentralised finance (DeFi) applications that offer lending and borrowing services without intermediaries, to tokenisation of assets that can enhance liquidity and transparency, Ethereum is at the forefront of financial innovation.

The Challenges Ahead for Ethereum

Despite its potential, Ethereum has faced and will continue to face several challenges. These include scalability issues, high gas fees, and competition from other similar blockchain platforms, as well as competition from forks such as ETC, ETHF and ETHW.

However, with the ongoing development of Ethereum 2.0 and the commitment of its robust community, Ethereum is well-positioned to overcome these challenges and remain the leader in this space for some time to come. 


Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed our comprehensive guide to the world’s second largest cryptocurrency.

The rise of Ethereum has been greater than that of any cryptocurrency, arguably even more so than Bitcoin, to become a major player in the world of cryptocurrencies. Its innovative technology, support for smart contracts, and potential for decentralised applications have captured the attention of investors and developers alike.

As Ethereum continues to evolve and address scalability challenges, its impact on the world of finance and technology is likely to grow. With its transition to Ethereum 2.0, the future looks very promising for this second-largest cryptocurrency.

Please let us know if this article covering the rise of Ethereum has been helpful by leaving a comment or joining us on social media. 

Last modified on: April 12, 2024

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