Wrapped ETH (WETH) has a 1:1 value of ETH and can be directly converted or exchanged. WETH conforms to the ERC-20 standard on the Ethereum network, providing utility like pre-authorized bids that can be executed at a later date.
<aside> 💡 If you would like to swap ETH for WETH (or vice versa) on OpenSea, please refer to this support article.
Ethereum is more than a decentralized "money" protocol to transact tokens; the goal of Ethereum is "...allowing anyone to write smart contracts and decentralized applications where they can create their own arbitrary rules for ownership, transaction formats, and state transition functions."* There's a lot to unpack there, but we'll start with the key term of "decentralization."
Traditionally, the only way to send/receive money digitally was through a bank or online payment system, like Paypal. "Money" in the last few centuries is traditionally created and regulated by a central bank authorized by a nation-state government. With Ethereum, individuals can trade directly with each other "peer-to-peer" without the need of intermediaries like banks because the network nodes issue and regulate the native token currency, called ether (ETH). Think of it as an internet banking app – without the bank. Your wallet lets you read your balance, send transactions, and connect to decentralized applications on the Ethereum network.
Ethereum connects people directly to each other through "smart contract" applications on the blockchain without any central authority (see What is the blockchain?). It’s a network of computers (nodes) that together combine into one powerful decentralized supercomputer – Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). There is no single point of failure, and each network interaction (transaction) is validated by the whole network, making it highly immune to attacks.
When someone wants to get a particular task done in Ethereum, they initiate a “smart contract” with one or more users. The Smart Contracts, in their essence, are self-executing. They are a series of instructions based on logic (e.g. "if-this-then-that"). Basically, if the first set of instructions are done, then execute the next function and after that the next and keep on repeating until you reach the end of the contract. The terms and agreements of these smart contracts are already written into code within the blockchain.
The smart contract is confirmed and propagates through every node across the network, eliminating the need for a central authority. Once executed, smart contracts and transactions are immutable, which means code cannot be tampered with or reversed.
Reading data from the blockchain has no cost, however, you must pay a “gas” fee to make a transaction or execute a smart contract on Ethereum. Every single step in a smart contract is a transaction or a complex computation and would have a cost that is measured in gas. The price of this gas is paid by the requester in Ether. Regardless of the wallet you use, you will always need to pay for gas when executing transactions. Ethereum miners, who perform all the important tasks of verifying and processing transactions on the network, are awarded this fee in return for their computational services.
The Ethereum network is powered by a native token called ether; also displayed as ETH or (Ξ). It is a digital currency with which everything runs in Ethereum. ETH lets you be your own bank with no third parties needed to approve or process transactions. You can send it securely to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. ETH is divisible up to 18 decimal places, so you don't have to buy 1 whole ETH. You can buy fractions at a time – as little as 0.000000000000000001 ETH if you want. ETH enables you to make transactions, pay for gas, earn interest on the holdings through staking, use and store non-fungible tokens (NFTs), trade cryptocurrencies, play games, use social media and so much more. Because ETH is more of a utility token than a token of value, its supply could be infinite (although at the time of writing there is an annual cap).
WETH is a token representing Ether. It refers to an ERC-20 compatible version of ETH. ERC-20 is a standard that allows tokens created on the Ethereum blockchain to interact with each other. For ETH to be swapped with other ERC-20 Tokens it needs to be wrapped into WETH. You can send your Ether to a smart contract and receive “wrapped” Ethereum in exchange. Wrapping ETH does not affect its value, and WETH and ETH can always be converted 1:1.