Bitcoin vs. Ethereum: A side-by-side comparison | finder.com
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Bitcoin vs. Ethereum

What’s the difference?

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Bitcoin and Ethereum are the two biggest giants of the cryptocurrency world. Bitcoin (BTC) was the first coin and Ethereum (ETH) followed a few years later.

There are a lot of similarities between them. Ethereum was initially created as a “hard fork” of bitcoin, so its programming is almost the same as bitcoin. The main difference is that ETH has built-in “smart contract” technology, which bitcoin doesn’t.

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What makes bitcoin and Ethereum similar?

There are a lot of similarities other than the programming.

  • Both coins are valuable: At the time of writing, bitcoin and Ethereum are the No. 1 and 2 coins, respectively, in terms of market cap. They’re the world’s biggest and most valuable cryptocurrencies.
  • Both coins are popular: Even with hundreds of other cryptocurrencies now in existence, bitcoin and Ethereum remain widely used.
  • Both coins are old: Some of the newer coins outperform bitcoin and Ethereum in various ways. Other coins are quicker to transfer, have lower fees or have extra features.
  • Both coins use “proof of work” mining: Mining is how transactions are processed on the blockchain. Back when bitcoin and Ethereum were created, proof-of-work mining was how all cryptocurrencies handled transactions. These days, not all coins use proof of work, and some coins don’t even need mining.

Also, both coins have scaling problems. Because they’re so old, both bitcoin and Ethereum are having trouble with being too popular and having too many people using them.

Having too many users means both can experience slower transactions and higher transaction costs. To solve this, both are also introducing their own different solutions to this problem.

Over the years, both coins have differentiated themselves more and more from each other, but their upcoming solutions to the scaling problem will be making them extremely different.

The bitcoin solution to the scaling problem

Over the years, bitcoin has had other hard forks that were specifically designed to solve its scaling problem.

The Ethereum fork was designed to add smart contracts. But other hard forks were designed to make transactions faster and cheaper, to help accommodate all the extra users that were arriving, such as Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash.

But the bitcoin as we know it today resisted those hard forks and remained unchanged. Instead, it introduced a system called “SegWit” and has future plans of creating something called the “Lightning Network”.

  • SegWit: A new way of arranging data to make transfers faster and easier. The downside is that you can only use SegWit with certain wallets and certain exchanges. This basically means that bitcoin users have to turn SegWit on and off to use it properly. If it’s turned on, or off, at the wrong time when sending money, they risk losing their bitcoin. For this reason, most people just kept it turned off.
  • The Lightning Network: A system that basically involves setting up multiple payment channels to go around the blockchain. The idea is to keep smaller transactions off the main bitcoin network. It’s still under development.

The Ethereum solution to the scaling problem

Ethereum’s smart contracts are extremely useful but can also slow down the network, especially when there are a lot of extremely complicated smart contracts with a lot of different steps.

It needed different solutions. Its planned updates include:

  • Plasma: The Plasma update will only broadcast smart contracts to the main Ethereum blockchain after the contract’s completion. Basically, it moves all the complicated and slow parts behind the scenes and only puts the final result on the main blockchain. This should prevent smart contracts, especially more complicated ones, from slowing down the network.
  • Casper: This is a major change. It involves switching from the old proof-of-work mining system to a new and more efficient proof-of-stake algorithm. Rather than having computers solve problems to verify blocks, it will instead have people verify transactions simply by holding ETH in their wallets. It’s an increasingly common mining method for new coins, but modifying an old blockchain like Ethereum is a lot more difficult.

Where to buy BTC and ETH

Name Product Payment Methods Available Fiat Currencies Available Cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrency
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CoinSpot is an Australian-based marketplace that allows you to easily buy, sell or trade more than 100 cryptocurrencies.
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Supporting over 100 coins, you can exchange a variety of cryptocurrency pairs on this peer-to-peer platform.
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Name Product Payment Methods Available Fiat Currencies Available Cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrency
BTC, XRP, USDT, ETH, NEB, XVG, TRX, NEBL, ETH, NEO, FUN, ETC, BCC, POE, DASH, ELF, ICX, BNB, ZRX, APPC & 80+ more
Trade 60+ cryptocurrency pairs on this up-and-coming exchange based in China. Multi-language support.
Credit card, Debit card
AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, CNY & 50+ more
BTC, BCH, ETH, LTC
Buy and sell bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash on one of the world's most renowned cryptocurrency exchanges.
Cash, BPAY, POLi, Cryptocurrency
AUD
BTC, BCH, ETH, XRP, ADA, XEM, LTC, XLM, MIOTA, TRX, DASH, NEO, XMR, EOS, QTUM, BTG, LSK, ETC, XVG & over 60+ more
CoinSpot is an Australian-based marketplace that allows you to easily buy, sell or trade more than 100 cryptocurrencies.
Credit card, Debit card, SWIFT, SEPA, Cryptocurrency
USD, EUR, RUB, GBP
BTC, DASH, ETH, XRP, ZEC
Use your USD, EUR or RUB to buy and sell cryptocurrency at competitive exchange rates and with high maximums for verified accounts.
Credit card, Debit card, Neosurf, Cashlib, Trustpay, ePay
EUR, USD, GBP, CNY, SEK, NOK, DKK
BTC, ETH
Buy bitcoin with cash or credit card and get express delivery in as little as 10 minutes.
Cryptocurrency, Credit card, Bank transfer, Wire transfer
USD, EUR, JPY
BTC
With options to buy bitcoin and popular altcoins through credit card, wire transfer and more, Bitflyer offers users the choice of paying with cryptocurrency or USD, EUR and JPY.
MoneyGram, Perfect Money, Western Union, Cryptocurrency, OKPAY
USD, EUR, RUB
BTC, ETH, LTC
Buy and sell crypto and other digital currencies on this global fixed-rate exchange.
Cryptocurrency, Payeer, AdvCash, Perfect Money, Capitalist, QIWI* Only available for RUB deposits
USD, RUB
BTC, BTG, DASH, ETH, LTC, DOGE, WAVES, LSK, BCC, TRX, NANOX, PAC, ZEC, XVG, EOS, ETC, RDD, TOKC, B2X, TTC & 400+ more
Pay in USD, RUB or trade crypto to crypto at this Russian-based cryptocurrency exchange with hundreds of coins listed.
Credit card, Debit card
USD, EUR
BTC, BCH, ETH, XMR, ZEC, DASH, XRP, ETC, LTC, DOGE, XLM,1ST, ADX, AMP, ANT, BAT, BCN, BNT, BTG, CFI, CVC & 70+ more
Access competitive crypto-to-crypto exchange rates for more than 35 cryptocurrencies on this global exchange.
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Use USD/EUR to buy bitcoin and Ether with credit card or cash on the Coinmama cryptocurrency exchange.
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BTC, XRB, ETH, DCN, BCH, NIO, TRX, DASH, COB, DOGE, PRIX, DSR, XCPO, LTC, VERI, LOC, NUA, PKT, PPT, ICO & 80+ more
Supporting over 100 coins, you can exchange a variety of cryptocurrency pairs on this peer-to-peer platform.
PayPal, Moneygram, OKPAY, Perfect Money, SEPA, WebMoney, Western Union, Wire Transfer, Paxum, QIWI, Payeer
EUR, USD
BTC, ETH, ETC, ZEC
Cryptonit is a secure platform for trading fiat currency for bitcoin, Litecoin, Peercoin and other cryptocurrencies — delivered to the digital wallet of choice.
Cash, PayPal, Western Union, SWIFT, Flexepin, Gift Cards & more
CAD, USD
BTC, ETH
Buy and sell bitcoin with privacy on this multi-signature, peer-to-peer exchange that supports a wide range of payment options.
Cryptocurrency
-
BTC, BCH, KCS, DRGN, DBC, XRB, ETH, PRL, LTC, SNOV, DENT, RPX, QLC, NEO, UTK, BNTY, ACT, POE, UKG, LA, LEND, VEN & 50+ more
Browse a variety of coin offerings in one of the largest multi-cryptocurrency exchanges and pay in cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency
-
BTC, BTG, DASH, ZET, XVP, XPM, WDC, VTC, VRC, UNO, TROLL, START, SLR, SLG, RDD, QTUM, PPC, POT, OK, NVC, NMC, NLG, NEOS & 25+ more
Trade an array of cryptocurrencies through this globally accessible exchange based in Brazil.
Cryptocurrency
-
BTC, ETH, XRP, DOGE, XLM, ETC, STRAT, LTC, SC, DGB, BCH, LSK, XMR & 50 more
Trade various coins through a global crypto to crypto exchange based in the US.
Electronic Funds Transfer, SEPA, Wire Transfer *payment methods vary per country
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BTC, ETH, XVG, SC, XRP, DOGE, STRAT, XMR, ADA, OMG, ETC, BCC, XLM, DGB, UKG, QTUM, ZCL, RDD, LTC, NEO & 120+ more
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Buy and sell cryptocurrency at this US-based exchange which offers fiat currency payment options, including wire transfer, ACH bank transfer and SEPA.
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Compare up to 4 providers

What makes bitcoin and Ethereum different?

One of the main differences is that bitcoin is capped at a supply of 21 million. There will never be more than 21 million bitcoin in existence. It’s expected to reach this limit by around 2140.

Meanwhile, ETH has an unlimited supply, but the creation of new coins is very tightly controlled to keep inflation from ruining the coin’s value.

Some other differences are found in the way bitcoin and Ethereum are growing over time, and with the other coins and blockchains they’ve started working with.

For example, a system called Rootstock is being developed as an “attachment” for the bitcoin blockchain. If it works, this attachment will bring smart contract technology to the bitcoin blockchain where needed.

Meanwhile, Ethereum has developed its own industry standard, called ERC20. This is like a set of measurements for cryptocurrency to allow for greater compatibility between multiple currencies.

These standards are very useful. Just like a train needs to be exactly wide enough to ride on its rails, cryptocurrencies need to have exactly the right programming to fit into wallets and be easily transferred.

By creating the ERC20 standard, coins can start off with the right match and more easily become popular and widely used. So far, countless new ERC20 coins have forked off Ethereum, and it’s been one of the main sources of new cryptocurrencies.

Prices: Bitcoin vs. Ethereum

Bitcoin

1
0
Updated: 21 Apr 2018 20:55:26 UTC

Ethereum

1
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Updated: 21 Apr 2018 20:55:27 UTC

The same but different

Other upcoming developments are also set to make different coins more compatible. For example, the ShapeShift and Atomic Swap systems allow for more seamless exchanging of one coin for another without needing to buy or sell them.

There are also many planned “cross-chain” developments. These are designed to let people connect different blockchains together and transfer coins more freely among them.

Bitcoin and Ethereum started off being very similar and then got very different over time. But now they’re both coming back to meet in the middle with similar features and easier integrations with each other.

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