The History of Ethereum – The Timeline

Within just eight years since its inception, Ethereum has powered not only the world’s second largest cryptocurrency but also the creation of novel digital assets spanning from financial contracts, to art, to plots of virtual land. Why did Ethereum come into existence and what enabled its rise? We tackle this question visually.

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ethereum history - timeline

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Ethereum is a public service that uses the blockchain technology to store records and execute smart contracts between peers without relying on a third party. Or, using Ethereum Foundation’s own definition [1],

“Ethereum is a technology for building apps and organizations, holding assets, transacting and communicating without being controlled by a central authority.”

How and why Ethereum came to exist is the question we attempt to answer in this infographic.

How Did Ethereum Start?

Ethereum started as a white paper [2] published by Vitalik Buterin in 2014. In it, Vitalik cites Bitcoin as the first truly decentralized currency because it succeeds at building a public ledger that can be trusted:

The innovation provided by Satoshi is the idea of combining a very simple decentralized consensus protocol, based on nodes combining transactions into a “block” every ten minutes creating an ever-growing blockchain, with proof of work as a mechanism through which nodes gain the right to participate in the system.

This blockchain ledger, however, misses important features which result in it not being programmable to the degree that a computer is. Bitcoin scripting language is not Turing-complete [3]. Plus, Bitcoin itself does not store enough information about its own transactions — the problems that the Ethereum white paper refers to as value-blindness, lack of state, and blockchain blindness.

The solution is then creating an altogether new blockchain that can work with any data-manipulation rule sets (Turing completeness) and can store granular data about its transactions. Enter Ethereum.

The white paper then gives a more technical definition of Ethereum

[sic] a blockchain with a built-in Turing-complete programming language, allowing anyone to write smart contracts and decentralized applications where they can create their own arbitrary rules for ownership, transaction formats and state transition functions.

Although the paper went on to describe the math and architecture of Ethereum, the blockchain was not actually built until programmer Gavin Wood approached Vitalik in 2014 and offered to write an implementation.

The same year Ethereum pre-sale was launched generating USD $18.3 million in pre-sales or 60 million ether.

In July 2015, Ethereum’s first block or the “genesis block” was minted.

What is the Future of Ethereum?

At the time of press, Ethereum is the world’s second largest crypto currency by market capitalization. Since cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value, their value is derived from their desirability by the public which makes the price of Ether, Ethereum’s token, volatile like many other crypto tokens, if not all. (We have yet to discover if even stablecoins are mostly stable. )

Ethereum market capitalization chart

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The volatility and Ethereum’s relative novelty make predicting the future or even assessing the present quite tricky. But the prospect of Ethereum’s continued existences makes for some interesting scenarios.

The most optimistic scenario is perhaps Ethereum becoming world’s default record keeping system, including the monetary system, relied on by governments or even replacing them. Perhaps it would be equivalent to a world government with its own money, digital land, and cyber army.

For now, there is little indication of Ethereum rivaling fiat money or being used by governments as official tender.

Putting speculation aside, there are some things that we know with virtual certainty.

There will be a day that the last bitcoin is minted – bitcoin number 21 million which may influence its value and the value of Ethereum, although that is speculation once again.

Since September 15, 2022 Ethereum has become dramatically more energy efficient than, for example Bitcoin. This will likely make the technology more sustainable and widely adopted, although that is yet to be determined.

Ethereum is likely to become the backbone of a new Internet, dubbed web3, that is hosted on decentralized peer-to-peer networks. This Internet, if it materializes, may solve the privacy issues that plague Web 2.0 by removing centralized control of large corporations over people’s data. it will also enable anonymity and ownership of many new types of assets like Non-Fungible Tokens and others.


How we did it

While working on this infographic, it became clear to us that there is a need in explaining various web3 technologies and concepts which is disappointingly difficult to do in the limited space that we have in the canvas.

Infinite-Machine-by-Camila Russo
The history of Ethereum itself is well-documented by its creator in his many blog posts [4] and in books like “The Infinite Machine” by Camila Russo. In the infographic we attempted to visualize an overview of the history while providing some context for the technology powering it.

After doing research on web3, it did not escape us that infographics of web3 might work quite differently than our Web 2.0 effort. I can imagine that in the future this same infographic could be authored collaboratively by hundreds of people at once, researching, writing, and editing, as well as creating the illustrations. This way the information would have the best chance of being neutral and well-researched. Perhaps funds could be raised to continue documenting Ethereum’s history and features could be added for this infographic to display explanations of technical terms. This is already technologically possible, for example, by using the DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) type of smart contract on Ethereum. People could fund and vote on different additions to this visualization. For now, here is our best effort visualizing web3 using web2.

A special thanks goes to Sergey Bomko for patiently answering all the technical questions related to the blockchain technology. Thanks to Mark Vital and Daniel Action for helping with the research and design. Daria Bai for creating illustrations of Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood, and the vision of the future. Min Pyo Hong for helping to set up our crypto donations. Thanks to Unstoppable Domains for providing learning materials. Many thanks to Mark Rose, Eric Klien, 0xABADBABA1, Dylan Bodnariuk, Maksym Lobenko, Alexander Vushkan for reading the article and giving valuable feedback.

Feel free to donate to us. All contributions will be used to reward creators and best reviewers and continue the work on this infographic:

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1. ^ What is Ethereum? Ethereum Foundation,, retrieved Sep 16, 2022

2. ^ Ethereum Whitepaper, by Vitalik Buterin, 2014,

3. ^ What is Turing completeness, an explanation from

4. ^, Vitalik Buterin’s personal blog

Further reading

  1. Crypto-hackers Is Building the Next Internet with Ethereum”, by Camila Russo, 2020.
  2. Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money, by Nathaniel Popper, 2016.
  3. “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, Satoshi Nakamoto, 31 October 2008.
  4. Ethereum yellow paper, by Gavin Wood, 2014.