The organization that provided some of the infrastructure of Ethereum such as EthereumJ, the ethereum blockchain explorer live.ether.camp, and the first Ethereum ATM, are offering some practical examples live on the blockchain of smart contracts. Anyone can see and inspect the elements behind each transaction. As stated in the blog post, “We want users of the Ethereum blockchain to be able to see what smart contracts look under the hood.” Transparancy, as the ether.camp team points out, is vital to ensuring there is trust between users of the system. “We think transparency is a major asset that both parties agree upon.”
One of the things that distinguishes the Ethereum platform from all the other Blockchains is the fact it is a distributed computing platform, rather than just another cryptocurrency system. Probably the biggest thing that will differentiate it from other blockchains is its ability to run smart contracts. Every time you read about Ethereum, the phrase “Smart Contracts” keeps coming up, but it is still a hard concept to grasp for those new to blockchains. Ether.camp, wants to help you understand it a little better. “Smart contracts are a big hype in the block chain industry” says Roman Mandeleil from Ether.camp. “Our new feature provides a complete transparency to the subject [of smart contracts], and makes the smart contracts transparent for everybody.”
In a nutshell, a smart contract is a small computer protocol that lives in the blockchain and is activated when a user initiates it. It provides the means to activate automatically and execute programs based on specific conditions. If you are familiar with If This Then That (IFTTT), you are familiar with the concept of smart contracts. Essentially a contract is something that is told “If” something happens, “Then” complete and execute the following task.
The examples provided by ether.camp include an online auction, a crowd sale of tokens or coins, a coin safe for locking funds away until a set time, and a marriage contract signed on the blockchain. While there are countless ways a smart contract could be used, the team at ether.camp want to give you some ideas of just what is possible with distributed ledger smart contracts.