Ethernet is the "computer of the world", a common description of the Ethernet platform. What does this mean? Let's start by focusing on computer science descriptions, and then get a more practical reading of Ethernet's features and capabilities, and compare it to Bitcoin and other distributed ledger technologies (for simplicity, we'll often use the term "blockchain" to refer to them).
From a computer science perspective, Ether is a deterministic but practically unbounded state machine with two basic functions, the first being a globally accessible single instance of state, and the second being a virtual machine that makes changes to state.
In more practical terms, Ether is an open source, global decentralized computing architecture that executes programs that become smart contracts. It uses a blockchain to synchronize and store system state from, and a cryptocurrency called Ether to measure and constrain the cost of execution resources.
The Ether platform enables developers to build powerful decentralized applications using a built-in economics approach. Censors, third-party interfaces and counterparty risk can be reduced or eliminated while ensuring continuous uptime.