Are There Other Cryptocurrencies Than Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is arguably the most popular and widely acceptable cryptocurrency, but it’s not the only digital currency out there. In fact, there are hundreds if not thousands of other cryptocurrencies that claim to be to be more decentralized than Bitcoin. While most of them have never received credit by experts, some did make it to the mainstream. This post discusses some of the most popular cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, so let’s get started.
What is a Cryptocurrency?
Although cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have become a global phenomenon, many people still don’t understand how they really work. Bitcoin was actually an unintended invention as its inventor (believed to be Satoshi Nakamoto) was trying to develop a peer-to-peer- E-cash system. He managed to build a decentralized e-cash system, which later transformed into what we know today as Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrencies consist of a network of peers and all peers have a record of the complete balance of every account or history of all transactions. Whenever a transaction takes place, it is broadcasted in the network, which works like an online banking system. But the key difference here is that the database (blockchain) is not centralized and no single entity has control over it.
Blockchain is a distributed database that contains information about all the transactions.
It reconciles transactions as they take place.
The records are not central and are fully public.
No central authority has control over the blockchain, real owners are the people.
Ownership of a cryptocurrency is proven by a digital signature, i.e. Private Keys.
A public key points to the cryptocurrency wallet address and can be used to receive funds.
Bitcoins vs. Altcoins
Bitcoin has been a trendsetter and started a new wave of cryptocurrencies, which captured imagination, struck fear, and confused many at the same time. There also exist many other cryptocurrencies that have been gaining momentum and have proven themselves to be a real alternative to Bitcoin. One thing common among them is the decentralized peer-to-peer network where there is no central authority controlling the blockchain. This means they are free from government/bank control and manipulation.
Cryptocurrencies modeled after Bitcoin are collectively referred to as Altcoins, which aimed to improve on Bitcoin. Although some altcoins are easier to mine than Bitcoin, it comes at the cost of lesser acceptance, liquidity, and value retention. Let’s jump straight to some of the most popular cryptocurrencies/altcoins as it’s not practically possible to cover more than 1,500 digital currencies here.
Ethereum was launched in 2015 and now has an estimated market capitalization of over $40 billion. It quickly became the second most accepted digital currency after Bitcoin and split into Ethereum and Ethereum Classic in 2016 after the DAO attack.
Although Ethereum was launched recently, it gained popularity in little time as it was created to run without downtime, 3rd party influence, control, and fraud. It is mostly sought by developers who want to develop and run their apps inside the platform or investors seeking to purchase other digital currencies.
Launched in 2011 and created by former Google Engineer and MIT graduate Charlie Lee, Litecoin is among the pioneering digital currencies. Having a market cap of around $5 billion, Litecoin is based on an open-source worldwide payment network and can be decoded by consumer-grade CPUs.
Litecoin generates blocks at a faster rate than Bitcoin, which is the why its transaction confirmation is faster. In addition to developers around the world, Litecoin is also accepted by an increasing number of merchants.
Launched in 2014 and with a market cap of around $2 billion, Dash (previously known as darkcoin) provides even more secrecy and anonymity than Bitcoin. It makes transactions untraceable through a decentralized mastercode network.
With a market cap of over $2.3 billion, Monero is another open-source and untraceable digital currency that was launched in 2014. It uses ‘ring structures’ to provide complete privacy, which is probably why the currency has been linked to criminal operations on a global scale. But that wasn’t the intention of its creators as it remains the digital currency of choice for people seeking complete privacy, whether for good purposes or bad.
Zcash was launched recently in late 2016 and has a market cap of over $600 million. The open-source digital currency claims to provide better privacy and extra security than Bitcoin by keeping details like the sender/recipient and transaction amount private (selective transparency).
In addition to the aforementioned popular digital currencies, some other notable cryptocurrencies include Ripple ($20 billion market cap), Bitcoin Cash ($1.88 billion market cap), NEO ($1 billion+ market cap), Cardano ($2.1 billion+ market cap), and EOS ($5.2 billion market cap).