Editor's note: This column has been updated to disclose the writer's advocacy of blockchain technology--the underpinning of all crytocurrencies--and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warning about these investments.
If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. (It should be noted here that I am an advocate of blockchain technology.) For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract."
Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online.
Editor's note: Bitcoin and digital currencies, as with any investment, may involve the risk of loss. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warned that virtual currencies, including Bitcoin, carry "significant risk" to consumers.
As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many.
The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.
As the most trending cryptocurrency in the world, the question everyone asks is how can they get some. The simplest way is a site like CoinBase. But there are also a number of cryptocurrency exchanges such as Kraken, Poloniex, Gemini, etc.
Once you own the currency, you can securely store your coins on any number of secure digital wallets, or even a physical wallet if you write down the information. CoinBase also has a secure multi-sig vault now.
The future looks bright for Ethereum, as shows like Silicon Valley have already begun to bring Ether into the mainstream.