Teenage hacker creates next
Teenage hacker creates next: Most people think of bitcoin as a form of money, if they think of bitcoin at all. But 19-year-old hacker Vitalik Buterin sees it as something more — much more. He sees it as a new way of building just about any internet application.
The bitcoin digital currency is driven by open source software that runs across thousands of machines around the globe. Borrowing code from this rather clever piece of software, independent hackers have already built applications such as the Twitter-style social network Twister, the encrypted e-mail alternative Bitmessage, and the unseizable domain name system Namecoin. But Buterin believes that many other applications can benefit from the genius of the bitcoin software, and that’s why he’s joining forces with several other hackers to create something called Ethereum.
He envisions Ethereum as an online service that lets you build practically anything in the image of bitcoin and run it across a worldwide network of machines. At its core, bitcoin is a way of reliably storing and moving digital objects or pieces of information. Today, it stores and moves money, but Buterin believes the same basic system could give rise to a new breed of social networks, data storage systems and securities markets — all operated without the help of a central authority.
Born in Russia and raised in Canada, Buterin was interested in mathematics and computer science from an early age. But when he first stumbled on to bitcoin in 2011, it didn’t grab him. “I ignored it,” he says. “I thought it had no intrinsic value, so it had to fail.”
But, over the next few weeks, he grew curious about this unusual creation. He received his first bitcoins as payment for articles written for a site called Bitcoin Weekly, where he was paid five bitcoins per article, the equivalent of $3.75 (£2.26) at the time. “It was my first ever real job, and it paid around $1.30 (78p) per hour,” he says. He kept writing about the digital currency in the pages of Bitcoin Magazine and other pubs. Then, in 2013, just as he was about to lose interest in the thing, the price of bitcoin skyrocketed.
Deciding that bitcoin was going to be a much bigger deal than most people realised, he dropped out of university and started traveling the world, jumping from bitcoin meetup to bitcoin meetup and contributing to various open source projects. Ethereum is the result of all those conversations and software experiments.