afr | Among the blockchain cognoscenti, everyone is talking about Ethereum.
A rival blockchain and virtual currency to bitcoin, Ethereum allows for the programming of "smart contracts", or computer code which facilitates or enforces a set of rules. Ethereum was first described by the programmer Vitalik Buterin in late 2013; the first full public version of the platform was released in February.
Commercial lawyers are watching the arrival of Ethereum closely given the potential for smart contracts in the future to disintermediate their highly lucrative role in drafting and exchanging paper contracts. Smart contracts are currently being used to digitise business rules, but may soon move to codify legal agreements.
The innovation has been made possible because Ethereum provides developers with a more liberal "scripting language" than bitcoin. This is allowing companies to create their own private blockchains and build applications. Already, apps for music distribution, sports betting and a new type of financial auditing are being tested.