Ethereum vs Bitcoin: Differences between ETH and BTC

Roland Säde
| Editor:
June 14, 2023
11 min read

Cryptocurrency has grown in popularity in less than a decade, altering how we view and transact money. Ethereum and Bitcoin have emerged as the most well-known and significant digital currencies among the many available.

Both have advantages and problems and have ardent followers who believe in their potential as future currency. So, what makes these two cryptocurrencies different, and which one should you choose? This question has baffled many individuals, and the answer is complex.

This article will compare Ethereum and Bitcoin, focusing on their technologies, transaction speeds, fees, performance, and future possibilities. By understanding these aspects, readers can make informed decisions regarding their investments and explore the opportunities these ground-breaking cryptocurrencies offer.

What is Ethereum?

Launched in 2015 by co-founder Vitalik Buterin and others, Ethereum extends Bitcoin's use of blockchain by enabling a decentralized computer system. It is an open-source, decentralized blockchain network built on its native cryptocurrency, Ether (ETH), for transactions and interaction with applications.

This system facilitates smart contracts - self-executing code-based agreements - enabling the development of decentralized applications (DApps), which operate independently of a central entity. These smart contracts are programmed in Ethereum's own language, Solidity, opening a wide range of potential applications, such as decentralized financial services and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Ethereum used to function on proof-of-work (PoW) much like Bitcoin, but in 2022 they changed to Proof of Stake (PoS) as a more secure and energy-efficient way to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain. However, Ether isn't just a medium of exchange and store of value; it's also used for transactions, smart contracts, and DApps interaction on the Ethereum network.

DApps allow Ether and other crypto assets to be used in varied ways, including as collateral for loans, or lending to earn interest. For instance, a user could deposit ETH into a DApp, take out a loan through it, and earn interest on the deposit.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was launched in 2009 by the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. It was designed as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, allowing transactions outside the control of banks or governments through a decentralized network.

Nakamoto's 2008 white paper led to the creation of Bitcoin's blockchain, a decentralized ledger technology solving the Byzantine Generals Problem - a challenge in achieving consensus in decentralized systems. This is overcome using a proof-of-work method and the blockchain, with miners acting as 'generals' to validate transactions.

The Bitcoin blockchain, publicly accessible and recording all transactions, is protected against tampering by a process involving hashes - long numerical strings processed by the SHA-256 hash function. Differences in blockchain versions are detected and rejected by network participants.

Miners generate and broadcast blocks via a proof-of-work process, using substantial computing power for hashing functions. This ensures network consensus and prevents fraudulent activity, contributing to Bitcoin's stability and popularity.

Initially used as a medium of exchange, Bitcoin has also become a store of value, an asset maintaining its worth over time.

ethereum vs bitcoin compared

Differences in Technology

The technological foundations of Ethereum and Bitcoin form the basis for their unique features and functionalities. Ethereum, often referred to as a decentralized world computer, utilizes smart contracts to execute agreements without the need for intermediaries. Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with computer code containing the terms of the agreement. They automatically facilitate the exchange of assets or the execution of predefined actions once specific conditions are met.

Bitcoin is primarily a digital currency, with safe transactions handled via a decentralized blockchain protocol. Bitcoin is now mainly used as a store of money, whereas Ethereum provides smart contract transactions and decentralized applications. Regardless of their functionalities, the explosive growth of cryptocurrencies is a compelling aspect.

Ethereum Smart Contract vs. Bitcoin

Ethereum and Bitcoin are famously different in how they approach smart contracts. Solidity, Ethereum's advanced scripting language, allows for the formulation and execution of complicated smart contracts. These contracts can create decentralized applications (DApps) and automate various tasks, including financial transactions and supply chain management. While capable of executing rudimentary smart contracts, Bitcoin focuses on peer-to-peer electronic payment transactions rather than broader programmable features.

Ethereum's blockchain network executes smart contracts as self-executing protocols that allow decentralized governance, enforcing rules and performing actions without intermediaries such as lawyers or banks. These smart contracts are adaptable to various use cases and have become the driving force behind another multi-billion market – DeFi.

Ethereum vs. Bitcoin Protocol

Another fundamental difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin is their underlying protocols. One notable difference is the mining process. Bitcoin employs proof-of-work, but Ethereum uses proof-of-stake and EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) as the program that runs its application code or smart contracts. The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) enables developers to create decentralized apps on the Ethereum network. This adaptability comes at the expense of scalability, as the EVM's computing demands are higher than Bitcoin's more straightforward protocol. Based on the Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus method, Bitcoin's protocol stresses security and immutability, making it ideal for storing and transferring value.

Ethereum's methodology has resulted in better performance, outpacing Bitcoin by 100,000%. However, it also has challenges, such as needing more ether. This requirement may hinder decentralization.

Transaction Speed and Fees

Transaction speed and fees are crucial considerations for users of cryptocurrencies, as they directly impact usability and cost-effectiveness. Let's explore how Ethereum and Bitcoin differ in these aspects.

Eth vs. Btc Transaction Speed

Ethereum transaction processing times are much faster than Bitcoin, with an average time of 15 seconds compared to 10 minutes. This makes Ethereum the more suitable option for quick transactions.

Moreover, Ethereum's transaction fees are lower than bitcoin's, with the former's median fee at $0.25 and the latter's reaching up to $50 during high demand, a difference of 100,000%. These differences make Ethereum more accessible to a broader user range and better equipped to handle a high volume of transactions, important reasons given its rising popularity in decentralized applications.

While bitcoin has its strengths, the contrast between Ethereum and bitcoin is unmistakable regarding transaction speed and fees. Ethereum has been focusing on improving its infrastructure to increase transaction throughput. However, due to the growing popularity of decentralized applications and the sheer volume of transactions, Ethereum has encountered scaling issues, resulting in periodic network congestion and delayed confirmation times. In contrast, Bitcoin prioritizes transaction security and decentralization, resulting in a slower transaction speed when compared to Ethereum. However, developments such as the Lightning Network have been deployed to enable speedier Bitcoin transactions via off-chain channels.

Ethereum Fees vs. Bitcoin

Transaction fees are another differentiating factor between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Ethereum's fees are typically higher due to the complex computational requirements of executing smart contracts and the network's occasional congestion. With its focus on value transfer, Bitcoin tends to have lower transaction fees. However, the fees for both cryptocurrencies can vary depending on network demand and congestion.

Performance and Future Potential

Several factors affect the performance and future potential of Ethereum and Bitcoin. From the stability and development of the blockchains to the current market positions and the cryptocurrencies' growth potential.

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, having been around for over a decade. Recent data suggests the market cap difference between BTC and ETH can be as high as 100,000%. While initially appearing impossible to bridge, closer examination reveals several factors.

Conversely, Ethereum, created in 2015, is a relatively new player in the game. This implies Bitcoin had an extended period to establish itself as the dominant market player.

Moreover, Bitcoin's supply is limited to 21 million coins, whereas Ethereum has no limit. Various factors influence cryptocurrencies' market cap, including regulatory changes, investor sentiment, etc.

Ethereum vs. Bitcoin Performance

Ethereum has gained significant traction in recent years, solidifying its position as the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Its performance has been driven by the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications and the increasing demand for blockchain-based solutions. Being the pioneer in cryptocurrency, Bitcoin holds the largest market capitalization and has enjoyed substantial growth over the years. Both cryptocurrencies' price movements and market dynamics reflect their unique characteristics and evolving investor sentiment.

Ethereum vs. Bitcoin Future

Ethereum and Bitcoin have promising prospects, albeit with different focus areas. Ethereum's ongoing transition from a Proof-of-Work to a Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism, known as Ethereum 2.0, aims to address scalability issues and significantly improve transaction speeds. This upgrade, coupled with the continued growth of DeFi and the Ethereum ecosystem, positions Ethereum for further expansion. With its established store of value narrative and growing institutional adoption, Bitcoin will continue playing a crucial role as a digital asset and potential hedge against inflation.

As cryptocurrency and blockchain become more familiar, industry insiders focus on the future of digital currencies. As a peer-to-peer cash system since 2009, Bitcoin is often given attention over Ethereum for its limited supply (Bitcoin's supply is limited to 21 million). Interest in Bitcoin also peaks before the 'halving' events that see the network's rewards slashed in half every four years, which usually drives the price up.

But Ethereum also holds strong potential for growth; it's not just a currency but a platform for decentralized app development. Experts predict that Ethereum's scalability and efficiency in smart contracts and decentralized finance could surpass Bitcoin in market capitalization.

Pros and Cons

Let's examine their strengths and weaknesses to understand better the advantages and disadvantages of using Ethereum and Bitcoin.

Pros of Ethereum against Bitcoin

When we discuss eth vs btc, some notable advantages make Ethereum stand out. One of the significant pros of Ethereum is its versatility and programmability. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum allows developers to create and execute smart contracts like self-executing agreements with predefined rules. This opens up many possibilities for building decentralized applications (DApps) and customizing blockchain functionalities. 

Another advantage of Ethereum is its faster transaction processing time. Ethereum's block time is shorter than Bitcoin's, meaning transactions get confirmed more quickly. This translates to a smoother and more efficient user experience, especially when it comes to interacting with DApps or conducting transactions on the Ethereum network

Pros of Bitcoin vs Ethereum

If we compare Bitcoin vs Ethereum, we see that Bitcoin's main strengths lie in its recognition as the original cryptocurrency and store of value narrative. Its widespread acceptance and adoption have solidified Bitcoin as a trusted digital asset and a potential long-term investment. Bitcoin's scarcity, achieved through the capped supply of 21 million coins, has also contributed to its popularity and perceived stability.

Cons of Ethereum against Bitcoin

Ethereum's primary drawback is its scalability issue. The increased computational demands of executing smart contracts have led to occasional network congestion and higher transaction fees. Addressing these scalability issues remains a crucial focus for the Ethereum community to enhance its usability and appeal to a broader audience.

Cons of Bitcoin vs Ethereum

Bitcoin's limited functionality compared to Ethereum is one disadvantage. While Bitcoin excels as a digital currency and a store of value, its scripting language needs to be more flexible and have fewer programmable features. Additionally, Bitcoin's price volatility is a factor that users and investors must consider, as it can result in significant price fluctuations over shorter time frames.

Comparison with Other Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin and Ethereum are the most prominent players in the crypto space. But other altcoins have caught the interest of traders and investors. Let's see how some of them compare against Ethereum and Bitcoin.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum vs. Bitcoin Cash

Bitcoin Cash is a fork of Bitcoin that aims to address scalability issues by increasing the block size limit. However, Bitcoin Cash has a smaller market capitalization than Bitcoin and Ethereum. Ethereum's smart contract capabilities and vibrant ecosystem give it an advantage over Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash regarding functionality and potential use cases.

Dash vs. Bitcoin vs. Ethereum

Dash, another cryptocurrency, focuses on transaction speed and privacy. While Dash offers faster transaction confirmations than Bitcoin and Ethereum, its market capitalization is significantly lower. Ethereum's programmability and Bitcoin's dominant market position give them an edge over Dash regarding overall adoption and market acceptance.

Bitcoin Cash vs. Ethereum

Regarding market capitalization and performance, Ethereum surpasses Bitcoin Cash, indicating greater investor confidence and market demand. Ethereum's extensive developer community and a broader range of use cases contribute to its continued growth and market dominance compared to Bitcoin Cash.


Ethereum and Bitcoin, as leading cryptocurrencies, differ in their technologies, transaction speeds, fees, performance, and future potential. Ethereum's focus on smart contracts and decentralized applications positions it as a versatile platform with significant growth potential. Bitcoin's recognition as the original cryptocurrency and its store of value narrative has solidified its position as a trusted digital asset. Understanding the unique characteristics and trade-offs of Ethereum and Bitcoin enables investors and users to make informed decisions based on their risk tolerance, needs, and financial goals.

Looking ahead, both Ethereum and Bitcoin show promise for future development. Ethereum's ongoing upgrades, such as Ethereum 2.0, aim to address scalability and improve transaction speeds, enhancing its usability and attracting a broader user base. Bitcoin's continued institutional adoption and position as a potential hedge against inflation contribute to its long-term growth prospects.

The cryptocurrency market is dynamic and ever-evolving. While Ethereum and Bitcoin dominate the market, new cryptocurrencies and innovative technologies may emerge, offering alternative solutions and investment opportunities. Therefore, staying informed and regularly assessing the evolving landscape is crucial for individuals seeking to navigate the cryptocurrency market effectively.

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