Ethereum is based on Bitcoin’s protocol and its Blockchain design but is tweaked so that applications beyond money systems can be supported. The two Blockchains’ only similarity is that they store entire transaction histories of their respective networks, but Ethereum’s Blockchain does a lot more than that. Besides the history of transactions, every node on Ethereum network also needs to download the most recent state, or the current information, of each smart contract within the network, every user’s balance and all the smart contract code and where it’s stored.
Essentially, the Ethereum Blockchain can be described as a transaction-based state machine. When it comes to computer science, a state machine is defined as something capable of reading a series of inputs and transitioning to a new state based on those inputs. When transactions are executed, the machine transitions into another state.
Every state of Ethereum consists of millions of transactions. Those transactions are grouped to form ‘blocks,’ with each and every block being chained together with its previous blocks. But before the transaction can be added to the ledger, it needs to be validated, that goes through a process called mining.
Mining is a process when a group of nodes apply their computing power to completing a ‘proof of work’ challenge, which is essentially a mathematical puzzle. The more powerful their computer is, the quicker it can solve the puzzle. An answer to this puzzle is in itself a proof of work, and it guarantees the validity of a block.
A lot of miners around the world are competing with each other in an attempt to create and validate a block, as every time a miner proves a block new Ether tokens are generated and awarded to said miner. Miners are a backbone of the Ethereum network, as they not only confirm and validate transactions and any other operations within the network but also generate new tokens of the network’s currency.