structures in a cohesive (∞,1)-topos
The notion of étale homotopy can be understood as a vast generalization of the following classical fact.
The nerve theorem says that for a paracompact topological space and a good cover of by open subsets, then the simplicial set obtained from the Cech nerve of the covering by degreewise contracting all connected components to a point, presents the homotopy type of .
If here is more generally a locally contractible space there is in general no notion of “good” enough open cover anymore. Instead, one can consider the above kind of construction for all hypercovers and take the limit over the resulting simplicial sets. The classical theorem by Artin-Mazur states that this still gives the homotopy type of .
The construction itself, however, makes sense for arbitrary topological spaces and in fact for arbitrary sites.
In the literature, particularly the étale site is often considered and “étale homotopy” is often implicitly understood to take place over this site.
But the concept is much more general. In particular, one can understand the construction of the limit over contractions of hypercovers as a presentation of naturally defined (∞,1)-functors in (∞,1)-topos theory.
Notably, if the given site is a a locally ∞-connected site, then the étale homotopy construction computes precisely the derived functor that presents the fundamental ∞-groupoid in a locally ∞-connected (∞,1)-topos. Many constructions in the literature can be understood as being explicit realizations of this simple general concept. Detailed discussion of this is at geometric homotopy groups in an (∞,1)-topos.
Even more generally, étale homotopy give the notion of shape of an (∞,1)-topos. (…)
E. M. Friedlander, Fibrations in étale homotopy theory (numdam), Publ. Math. Inst. des Haut. Études Scient., 42, (1973), 5 – 46.
Eric Friedlander, 1982, Étale homotopy of simplicial schemes , volume 104 of Annals of Mathematics Studies , Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Tomer Schlank?, Alexei Skorobogatov?, A very brief introduction to étale homotopy. In: “Torsors, étale homotopy and applications to rational points”. LMS Lecture Note Series 405, Cambridge University Press, 2013. (pdf)