Six years after Bitcoin, Vtalik Buterin (a real person) created Ethereum as a means of making cryptocurrencies more accessible and usable, and with a speedier decentralized network. The network in use is open-sourced, and an investment in Ethereum is an investment in the underlying technology and its driving technology.
What this means is that users can develop apps, tookens and smart contracts to be used alongside their accounts, making it the Linux of the cryptocurrency world. Changes can be made on various levels, subject to the approval of the community. As a result, transaction times are much smaller thanks to a wider community of developers, and many more blockchain technologies are created based upon it.
Since the blockchain technology (which goes by the name of Solidity) used is more accessible and uncontrolled by any central entity (as is the case with Bitcoin), more and more applications join the environment regularly (somewhat reminiscent of the Android versus Apple application environment). Ethereum has its own digital wallet systems (Mist and MetaMask).
A testament to the coins success is the list of Fortune 500 companies that have declared their open support for it, including J.P. Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Intel and at least 30 other major organizations – all which have joined forces to create business-ready versions of the technology.
As with Bitcoin, a fork has occurred resulting in Ethereum and Ethereum Classic – the original version.