A group of Russian programmers decided to set up a new blockchain platform. The new platform would improve on Bitcoin by allowing arbitrary contracts to be specified, rather than just the simple transactions supported by Bitcoin. It would have its own cryptocurrency, which people would be able to purchase with real money. The platform would be called ‘Ethereum’, the currency ‘ether’. Initial purchase of ether started in 2014, and by earlier this year more than a billion dollars of the virtual commodity had been sold.