Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.
Ethereum applications run on a custom built blockchain, an enormously powerful shared global infrastructure that can move value around and represent the ownership of property. Developers are able to create markets, store registries of debts or promises, move funds in accordance with instructions given long in the past (like a will or a futures contract) and many other things that have not been invented yet, all without a middle man or counterparty risk.
The project was bootstraped via an ether pre-sale during August 2014 by fans all around the world. It is developed by the Ethereum Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit, with contributions from great minds across the globe.
The Ethereum Wallet is a gateway to decentralized applications on the Ethereum blockchain. It allows you to hold and secure ether and other crypto-assets built on Ethereum, as well as write, deploy and use smart contracts.
What is Ether?
Ether is a form of payment made by the clients of the platform to the machines executing the requested operations. To put it another way, ether is the incentive ensuring that developers write quality applications (wasteful code costs more), and that the network remains healthy (people are compensated for their contributed resources).