Ether (ETH) is the token that powers the distributed applications and smart contracts that run on the Ethereum blockchain.
Because ether is one of the most popular cryptocurrency tokens available today, most crypto exchanges allow users to buy and sell ether.
However, the exact approach you take to buying ether will vary depending on which exchange you use. A few exchanges let users purchase ether directly using fiat currency. But on other exchanges, you cannot buy ether with fiat currency directly. You have to purchase ether using another cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin. If you already own bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, this is not a major hurdle, but if you’re new to crypto investing you may prefer a more seamless process for trading fiat currency for ether.
Another way to get ether is to mine it yourself. Like bitcoin and most other major cryptocurrencies, ether can be mined by setting up computers that help to maintain the Ethereum blockchain and that supply the resources required to run DApps and smart contracts.
The step-by-step process for mining ether is beyond the scope of this article. Aspiring ether miners should note, however, that the Ethereum network does not support ASIC mining, or the use of specialized mining devices similar to those used in Bitcoin. This is due partly to the fact that mining ether requires a great deal of memory and the specialized ASICs that excel at mining bitcoin aren’t well equipped to mine ether because they lack extensive memory resources. The ether mining process is like this because Ethereum’s mining algorithm requires miners to execute general computations that include much more data than a Bitcoin miner.
Prospective ether miners should note that the Ethereum development team has stated that it plans eventually to shift from its current proof-of-work consensus model to a proof-of-stake model. If the shift to proof of stake does take place, ether mining operations would cease and users would instead “stake” ether in order to support the Ethereum blockchain. Staking would then become a way of acquiring new ether.
While it remains unclear when Ethererum might shift to a proof-of-stake model, the likelihood that this shift will take place at some point in the future means that an ether mining operation may not be a good long-term investment.