If you've ever downloaded the Bitcoin-qt client or another of the mainstay wallet clients available to Bitcoin users, you probably know the adrenaline rush experienced the first time the blockchain catches up and your BTC balance actually loads: you're firmly in the future. This is nothing like your bank account, nothing like the dollars or euros in your wallet. This is Blade Runner crypto bank stuff, from your couch.
Well, the first time I booted up Ethereum's wallet/browser Mist, I felt that - only 10x. I felt that I was playing around with a clunky, precocious prototype of what cryptocurrency would naturally evolve into sometime circa the year 2020 or 2022, let's say. And that was at version 0.5; Mist is now up to 0.8 with some juicy new built-in futuristic features, including Stake Voice. The feature is described as "a generic polling app, intended to be able to give Ether Stake holders an opinion on any controversial topic. It doesn't keep any ether, and all it does is verifies that a key holder indeed agrees or disagrees with that statement. The votes and balances are then tallied by the app itself and the tally is updated if any of the currently voting accounts change their balance."
Mass real-time polling of the Ethereum community; again, this stuff feels a bit like where decentralized cryptocurrency would end up in four to six years, only we are getting to play with it today, in prototype form.
And thankfully, so far the mass polling feature has also been used for some lighthearted 2016 present day stuff: one user sought to establish consensus as to whether Nutella hazelnut cocoa spread is, in fact, overrated.
In a recent Q&A with developers at the London Ethereum meetup (video embedded above), a woman asked Ethereum's creator, Vitalik Buterin, if he could share a bigger picture insight into the crypto technology he invented with the help of some other leading minds.
"I'm not a coder, but I think what you're doing is going to change society at a very deep level. I was wondering if you could share your vision for the next five or ten years," she asked when the microphone got to her.
"Ummm," Vitalik Buterin replied initially, his typically humble Internet persona true to form at a real world meet up.
Then came his rapid fire answer: "I personally focus a lot on the mobile technology side, for the vision for Ethereum we want to create a scalable, fast, world computer that's powerful enough that a large portion of the world's financial, supply chain, identity, whatever infrastructure can actually run on top of it and ideally sort of create a network that can power a large part of the "internet of value" as much as we like or dislike that particular slogan on basically nothing but a few million consumer laptops."
Watch the rest of his reply to her question and other questions at the meetup on Ethereum's YouTube channel here.
Whatever your current stance or understanding of Ethereum may be, one thing is certain aside from the size of the project's ambitions: public interest is steadily growing.
Of all the videos on my YouTube channel, more than 200 of them, the most popular by far right now is an explainer of what makes Ethereum different from Bitcoin. A number of other Ethereum-related videos and discussions have seen a sharp uptick in views over the last couple months, and subscriptions to my paid weekly newsletter about Ethereum & the cryptocurrency industry have veritably skyrocketed over a similar time frame.
Although I have concerns that the recent DAO hack may have somewhat undermined short term confidence in Ethereum and dampened excitement for the nascent smart contracting field, I think slightly longer term - even a month or two out, post hardfork... if that's the route that the community ends up going - it could be back to boom times, in terms of development timelines. In fact, it seems the developers haven't take a breath - 0.8 was pushed out even in the midst of DAO drama.
And if you watch the whole clip embedded above from Ethereum London, it should become clear to you as well - that's my hope, at least - that an awful lot of thought and testing has gone into this project so far, and likely will continue to go into it based on current valuation.
Will there be future bugs? No doubt in my mind. But I also think the scope of eventual innovation and commerce Vitalik's creation opens up makes it worthy of future coverage, research, and usage. My view is bolstered by a recent post from the co-founder of Coinbase praising Ethereum as the "forefront of digital currency", posted around the same time Coinbase announced acceptance of Ether on their exchange.
Full disclosure: At time of publication, I do hold some bitcoins and ethers for the long term. I'm a long term researcher and user of these currencies.