Etherum co-founder Vitalik Buterin was one of the key speakers at this year's TechCrunch Disrupt, which was held last week in San Francisco. Asked to explain what Ethereum is to the average user, Buterin defined a blockchain from the perspective of those who understand its current most popular use — in cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.

Buterin said that a blockchain can keep track of how much money a person has at any given time — or what he calls "cryptoeconomics." But, while that's the initial use of a blockchain, Buterin and his colleagues have found that such a decentralized system of keeping tabs on transaction records can extend to a far wider range of applications. He calls this "general purpose watching," and it's at the heart of what Ethereum is.

"The core idea behind Ethereum is: you can have a general purpose watching," Buterin told the audience at Disrupt SF. "We can have a blockchain where instead of a blockchain working like a Swiss army knife where you have five different tools for five different categories of applications, you have a blockchain that understands general-purpose programming language."

Indeed, Ethereum is considered to be the world's foremost enterprise blockchain, with applications that extend beyond just cryptocurrencies. Ethereum has found use in manufacturing, shipping, and even in the music industry. Ethereum's applications continue to expand, including the possibility of replacing credit card companies, a mass adoption that could disrupt many of today's industries.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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