In late 2013, Vitalik Buterin began considering new Bitcoin and Mastercoin extensions (an overlay protocol that extends Bitcoin to provide basic smart contracts). In October 2013, Vitalik proposed to the Mastercoin team a more generic approach that would allow a flexible and scriptable (but not Turing-complete) contract to replace Mastercoin's proprietary contract language. The Mastercoin team was impressed, but the plan was too far out of the box to fit into their development schedule.
In December 2013, Vitalik began sharing a white paper describing the idea behind Ether: a Turing-complete programmable and universal blockchain. Dozens of people saw this early draft and provided feedback to Vitalik, helping him evolve his proposal.
Andreas followed the progress of Ether very closely, but he was in the early stages of writing his book "Mastering Bitcoin" and was not directly involved with Ether until much later. However, Dr. Gavin Wood was one of the first people to reach out to Vitalik and help provide C++ programming skills, and Gavin became a co-founder, co-designer and CTO of Ether.
Gavin can also be credited with the subtle change in thinking of Ether as a platform for building programmable money, where blockchain-based contracts can save digital assets and transfer them to common computing platforms based on pre-defined rules. This began with a subtle change in focus and terminology, and became more intense with the growing emphasis on the "Web 3" system, which sees Ethereum as part of a set of decentralized technologies, the other two being Whisper and Swarm.
Beginning in December 2013, Vitalik and Gavin refined and developed this idea, working together to build the protocol layers that form Ether.
The founders of Ether are considering a blockchain that is not purpose-specific, but supports a wide variety of applications by becoming _programmable_. The idea is that by using a general-purpose blockchain like Ether, developers can write their specific applications without having to develop the underlying mechanisms such as peer-to-peer networks, blockchains, consensus algorithms, etc. The Ether platform aims to abstract these details and provide a deterministic and secure programming environment for decentralized blockchain applications.
Like Satoshi, Vitalik and Gavin did not just invent a new technology, they combined it with existing technologies in novel ways and provided prototype code to prove their ideas to the world.
The founders have been working for years to build and refine the vision. on July 30, 2015, the first ethereum parcel was mined.