Bitcoin has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded its emergence into the mainstream three years ago. Despite more than a billion dollars of venture capital funding, Bitcoin startups have failed to develop applications that appeal to mainstream customers. And over the past year, the Bitcoin community has become paralyzed by a bitter feud over how — and whether — to expand the network’s capacity.
The result: For the first time since its creation, Bitcoin is in danger of losing its status as the world’s leading cryptocurrency. The new challenger is a Bitcoin-like technology called Ethereum that has seen a surge of interest from users, developers, and the corporate world. The value of the network’s currency, called ether, is now worth more than $1 billion — that compares to Bitcoin’s total market value of nearly $7 billion. Last week, a leading Bitcoin startup called Coinbase announced it was adding support for Ethereum to its popular currency trading platform.
The growing excitement about Ethereum reflects the fact that it’s a lot more than just a Bitcoin clone. People can use the Ethereum network to make payments, just as they can with Bitcoin. But the network can do a