Ethereum was once an exciting, even mind-blowing concept -- a “World Computer” -- that promised to bring complete and full computing power to the blockchain. And in truth, if you think about it, it still is. But there are now many, many competitors to Ethereum vying to do the exact same thing, and do it better.
What’s more, despite thousands of smart contracts operating on Ethereum’s blockchain, actual usage is quite low relative to the crypto’s market capitalization which, even in the bottom of the 2018 bear market, exceeded $10 billion.
How many $10 billion dollar traditional companies can get away with that?
But despite these factors, Ethereum is probably not going anywhere for quite some time - call it Vitalik’s leadership, call it first mover advantage, call it what you want. So maybe picking some up is still a good idea.
Just in case you, reader, want to acquire some Ether (the name of the Ethereum token itself) bearing all this in mind - here’s a guide!
The most straightforward thing to do is to buy some, and it’s quite possible to buy it both with fiat money (that is, government-issued money like dollars or yen or rupees) and with other cryptocurrencies, primarily Bitcoin.
Ethereum, having been for years one of the top three cryptoassets by market capitalization, is almost as widely available as Bitcoin is. This means that most of the methods outlined in our “buy bitcoin” guide also double for Ethereum. For that reason, readers are encouraged to have a look at that guide in tandem with this one.
These methods start with in-person buying. Many Bitcoin ATMs also double as Ethereum ATMs, and the crypto-ATM tracking website CoinATMRadar.com has a section just for Ether.
Just as with Bitcoin, there are Peer-to-Peer (P2P) options for buying Ether - although admittedly not as many. A LocalBitcoins copycat, LocalEthereum, works in much the same way by offering a gateway for users to connect and exchange fiat money for Ether. LocalEthereum offers more than 30 methods of exchange, in addition to arranging in-person exchanges.
The decentralized, private P2P exchange Bisq also hosts fiat-Ether trading, in addition to a number of other buying pairs. Bisq is one of the few P2P options that does not require personal information, as it is committed to privacy and anonymity.
Moving beyond P2P exchanges, Ethereum is universally available on centralized exchanges, along with other major cryptoassets such as Litecoin and XRP. These include exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, or Bitfinex and many others.
As we explained in the Bitcoin buying guide, centralized exchanges offer virtually unlimited buying limits, quickly, and at the fair market price - but only after a signup process that is not unlike signing up for a bank account.
Every single major centralized fiat-crypto exchange these days will offer Ethereum for purchase.
However, the fact remains that it is probably still slightly easier to buy Bitcoin than Ethereum, by the tiniest of margins. If you find yourself in possession of some Bitcoin, and want to buy Ether instead, the options for this are by now universal.
Crypto-only exchanges will be useful for this purpose, and they are even more numerous than fiat-crypto exchanges - although, these days, the two types are drawing ever closer together as the biggest crypto-only exchanges adopt fiat gateways one by one. Nearly 200 exchanges are ranked on CryptoCompare’s exchange list, by user reviews.
Developers of Ethereum have been planning a switch from a Proof-of-Work consensus to the purportedly more scalable Proof-of-Stake. But this switch, called “Casper” (shorthand for “Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget,” or Casper FFG) has been constantly delayed and in work for years.
What’s more, Ethereum’s founder Vitalik Buterin has had healthy disagreements with fellow Ethereum consensus developer Vlad Zamfir, who has mostly gone off on his own to work on a different imagining of Casper. Although their relationship is by all accounts amicable, Casper seems nowhere close to implementation.
The upshot of this delay is that, for the time being, Ethereum can still be mined with a high powered Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).
There are two ways to mine cryptocurrency, broadly speaking: do it yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you. For the first option, see our guide on how to mine Ethereum.
The latter option is known as Cloud Mining, where the user can buy mining contracts for hashing power, and choose which from a selection of coins to mine. We also have a guide on Ethereum cloud mining.
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