Ether (ETH) is the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network and is the fuel for running smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. It is used to pay transaction fees for all operations that are performed within the network. Ether has grown in value and popularity since its initial release in 2015.
At its core, ether is a token created as a way to incentivize miners to power the Ethereum network. Transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are processed and verified by computers called nodes. These nodes join together in consensus to ensure the validity of the transactions on the blockchain, and this requires the nodes to stake 32 ETH.
In exchange for providing the stake needed to process transactions, nodes receive ether tokens as a reward. In addition to serving as the fuel to power the Ethereum network, ether tokens can also be used as a store of value and form of payment. Transactions to and from ether tokens are recorded on the public Ethereum blockchain, making them safe and transparent.
Since ether tokens are decentralized and based on blockchain technology, they also allow for near-instant, low cost transactions unlike those of more traditional forms of payments.