Ethereum is a system for decentralized applications that uses blockchains, but in a completely different manner than how they are used in bitcoin.
The Basic Framework
Ethereum has at its core a way to apply arbitrary rules for ownership, transaction formats and state transition functions — taking both the state of a blockchain and a transaction for that chain, and then outputting a new state as its result. It does this by way of an internal scripting language that is aware of a system’s state while being Turing-complete, which means it can encode any computation that may be performed by the system.
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