In the rapidly evolving world of tech innovation, Ethereum, a decentralized model for applications that mitigate fraud, censorship or third-party interference has taken another leap forward in blockchain technology.
On February 29, the company announced a second version release of their platform called Homestead; the first stage of the Homestead launch took place on March 1 for the Testnet. The Mainnet will kick in midday on March 14 — affectionately known as Pi Day, a day commemorating the legendary mathematical constant pi (π).
This new milestone — iteration number two of their four-pronged Ethereum release roadmap — allows for the infusion of new blockchain solutions and features, all in the spirit of decentralized collaboration. Among other intents, it will foster an infrastructural roadmap for stakeholders such as bitcoin crowdfunding tool Swarm and the identity-based messaging system Whisper.
This announcement comes nearly six months after Frontier, their first beta version of Ethereum, was released. It attracted acclaim and repute among many of the leading financial institutions and banks worldwide, fueling a meteoric rise in Ethereum’s value as a cryptocurrency.
A few months following Frontier’s launch, the Ethereum ecosystem experienced some consensus bugs and network hiccups leading to a collaborative effort among users and miners to address the issues. Having resolved most of the issues, the Ethereum team elected to move forward with the launch of Homestead.
“It’s a milestone where we are moving from pure command line tools to having stable releases of graphical user interface applications and a much more stable and stressed tested network,” Alex Van de Sande, lead developer at Ethereum Foundation, told BTCMANAGER. “The network is more stable, and it now solves many of technical issues that we found on the first Frontier test.”
Jeff Coleman is Head of Technology at LedgerLabs, a Toronto-based consulting and development firm that integrates decentralized system applications within the fields of security, finance and governance. He told BTCMANAGER that since Homestead is intended for general audiences, simple, graphical programs will be made available in the coming weeks which will allow users to manage funds or mine blocks without extreme levels of technical expertise. He noted that the graphical wallet program (still in beta at the time of this writing, but should be released soon after Homestead) already allows users to take advantage of advanced Ethereum functionality such as multi-signature wallets where multiple signatures are only required for withdrawals that exceed a pre-set rate.
Coleman also pointed out that the AlethOne tool (still currently bundled with some additional tools but soon to be available on its own) will allow even less-technical users to join the mining effort, as long as they possess a recent graphics card with at least 2GB of onboard memory in it. Furthermore, new Ethereum-based applications are also emerging for users to try out, such as those listed at http://dapps.ethercasts.com/
Homestead marks the point where Ethereum ‘takes the training wheels off’ and welcomes the general public into a network that has been largely the domain of programmers and command-line junkies since July of last year!
– Jeff Coleman, LedgerLabs
“In addition to a few behind-the-scenes tweaks which will be going live, the key takeaway for general audiences is that the network has survived a thorough ‘burning in period’ and is now considered safe enough for the masses,” Coleman added. “It is interesting to note that no double spending events or major security failures were recorded during the 7 or so months of Frontier, which is an impressive record and shows that the network is safe enough for everyone to participate in now.”
At the end of the day, according to Coleman, Homestead signifies a serious milestone for the Ethereum project that shows that it is coming of age. “In the Homestead era, regular users will finally be able to participate fully in Ethereum’s ecosystem — without having to type long lines of commands into little black boxes! As more Ethereum-based applications leave the development phase and become ready for general use, the technical capabilities of a generalized blockchain platform will be clearly on display, demonstrating the incredible array of problems to which blockchain technology is uniquely suited: more than just payments!”
As for Ethereum’s long-term vision, Van de Sande says that the company endeavors to build a world computer that will be as accessible and easy to use as the Internet.
We keep that vision alive daily. And while we are not there yet, Homestead represents a huge leap forward. While before you’d have to be a seasoned developer with knowledge of the command line in order to build tools, now anyone who has enough computer knowledge to download and run an office app should be able to use Ethereum. It’s a far cry from the everyday Facebook user, but it’s one step closer.