Nor was it simply the deep pockets. At these prices, even smaller operators have been able to make real money running a few machines in home-based, under-the-radar mines. Take the 20-something Wenatchee man we’ll call “Benny”—he didn’t want to be identified—who last July bought three mining servers, set them up in his house (one in the master bedroom and two in the living room)—and began mining Ethereum, bitcoin’s closest cryptocurrency rival. As Ethereum climbed from $165 in July to nearly $1,200 in January, Benny had not only repaid his $7,000 investment but was making enough to pay his mortgage. As a side benefit, this winter, Benny’s power bill went down: The waste heat from the three churning servers kept the house at a toasty 78 degrees. “We actually have to open the windows,” he told me in January. His servers, meanwhile, pretty much run themselves—although, when he’s at work, clerking at a grocery, he monitors the machines, and the Ethereum price, on his phone. “It’s just basically free money,” Benny says. “All I have to do is wake up in the morning and make sure nothing crashed during the night.”
Ethereum is also being used as a platform to launch other cryptocurrencies. Because of the ERC20 token standard defined by the Ethereum Foundation, other developers can issue their own versions of this token and raise funds with an initial coin offering (ICO). In this fundraising strategy, the issuers of the token set an amount they want to raise, offer it in a crowdsale, and receive Ether in exchange. Billions of dollars have been raised by ICOs on the Ethereum platform in the last two years, and one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies in the world, EOS, is an ERC20 token.
For conventional currency markets trading in the monies of stable, profitable countries, the fluctuations within the value of each currency is measured in fractions of a penny. Bitcoin values, on the other hand, rise and fall dramatically throughout each trading day, jumping in whole dollar amounts. This means that if you don't have your act together and place a transaction order at the right time, you will lose magnitudes more cash than you would have trading dollars for yen. The value of Bitcoin as a whole, for example, dropped more than 50 percent over the 36 hours after China banned the cryptocurrency. A lot of speculators lost their shirts during that day. And it will almost certainly happen again.
It is possible that the Ethereum Platform will not be used by a large number of external businesses, individuals, and other organizations and that there will be limited public interest in the creation and development of distributed applications. Such a lack of interest could impact the development of the Ethereum Platform and potential uses of ETH. It cannot predict the success of its own development efforts or the efforts of other third parties.