An invention of the internet, cryptocurrencies, are growing more and more in both value and popularity as a whole. Not bound by geography or ancient banking systems, this digital currency is increasingly popular in the digital age, with more and more users valuing the speed and potential privacy and anonymity that it can provide. There are over 3000 currently active cryptocurrencies, but we’ve collected some of the most prominent in their market and looked deeper into what they are and what they can offer.
Created and released by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, Bitcoin was not only the first, but is also the lead runner in all things cryptocurrency. With thousands of merchants all over the world starting to accept bitcoin payments including online casinos, WordPress.com, Microsoft, and even sandwich retailer Subway, there’s no denying the influence and impact that this cryptocurrency has had on markets worldwide. The exchange rate works out at around 1 bitcoin to every £3390.80, but is set to continue to rise in the coming months, or possibly even weeks. This market-leader had the biggest market cap to date, sitting at around $10billion which is more than the other cryptocurrencies combined.
Most people who are introduced to cryptocurrencies as a concept will hear of Bitcoin first and foremost, with all others being referred to as ‘altcoins’. Altcoin – short for alternative coins – are referred to as such because they are, quite simply, an alternative to Bitcoin. There’s no denying how successful Bitcoin has been, and with the ease and security Bitcoin provides, it’s easy to see why.
Ethereum itself isn’t actually the currency we’re talking about here – in fact, it’s Ether, the cryptocurrency that the platform Ethereum uses. Ethereum is a decentralised platform, designed to execute peer-to-peer ‘smart contracts’. Focusing on the more technical side of blockchain development, it allows people to code and enact contracts without any third parties involved. It was created by Vitalik Buterin and launched in 2015, and was even marketed as the ‘next generation cryptocurrency and decentralised application platform’.
Comparing Ethereum and Bitcoin is practically impossible simply because they are nothing alike. Where Bitcoin is a currency in and of itself, Ethereum is a platform used to create contracts without the need for a third party, using their own currency called Ether. But ultimately, Ethereum was the first alternative to Bitcoin, and holds its own.
Another system as opposed to a currency in and of itself is Ripple. With its own cryptocurrency called ‘ripples’, Ripple is a real-time gross settlement system, currency exchange and remittance network. Released in 2012, Ripple is a system built to connect banks, payment providers, digital asset exchanges and corporates to help provide an easy, frictionless way to send money globally without needing to use the older infrastructure that most payments are glued to.
It’s instant, real time and reliable exchanges make for a secure payment method, and with a low operational and liquidity costs it’s no wonder that Ripple is gaining popularity. Ripple currently sits at a $243million market cap, the Ripple network is already being integrated into banks which is only serving to increase its price.
Unlike Bitcoin, Monero is an entirely anonymous cryptocurrency. This private digital currency gives you the opportunity to manage and control your funds completely, with no other parties having access to, or control over your money and your account. All of your transactions and accounts are kept private and away from anyone else’s eyes, and all transactions are completely untraceable – It has even been picked up by the darknet markets due to its security and anonymity.
Monero uses a ring signature technology that ensures only the sender and receiver will ever see the information about a transaction. With a $138million market cap, Monero is used mostly, and loyally by individuals wishing to be incognito on the web. However, beyond its anonymity, Monero is limited in uses, though with its lack of cap on data size, there is plenty of room to grow.
Like Monero, Dash is a cryptocurrency with a focus on privacy and anonymity. Originally called Darkcoin, it was rebranded to Dash in an attempt to move its reputation away from being associated with the dark web and its markets. With secure, private and fast transactions, Dash is becoming more and more widely known, though perhaps not to the level of Bitcoin. The Dash site, however, has the option to change your Dash coins to Bitcoin, so the two currencies aren’t too far apart.
With a market cap of $77million and the rolling out of Dash Evolution, the cryptocurrency is becoming more and more user-friendly. Dash can be spent at a number of different merchants, including web Stores such as Brave New Books, Bitstickers and Yipptee.
Perhaps the most similar to Bitcoin, Litecoin is a cryptocurrency created by a former Google employee. Charles Lee created Litecoin as an alternative to Bitcoin, and it can be mined, used as currency and transacted for goods and services in the same, or similar ways to its counterparts. To some, Litecoin might even be considered a Bitcoin clone. However, it offers a completely different mining algorithm and faster transactions in most cases.
But with the market cap falling from $1.2billion in 2013 to its current standing at $180million, Litecoin seems to be losing popularity rather than gaining it. It is accepted as a payment option in a few places such as AllThingsLuxury and RetroTowers, but its scope is nowhere near as wide as Bitcoin, or some of its other alternatives.
There are a number of different cryptocurrency alternatives, and with Bitcoin Cash hitting the market, it’s easy to see just how far this technology can stretch. Does Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency have the potential to be the future of cryptocurrency? We’ll have to wait and see.