Bitcoin tends to dominate blockchain news because it is the originator of digital ledger technology (aka blockchain) and the first viable cryptocurrency due to its elimination of the double spending problem. Furthermore, bitcoin has the largest market cap of any cryptocurrency or blockchain stocks.
Because blockchain is open source, anyone can use and modify the original source code to create something new with it.
Savvy developers have done just that resulting in hundreds of forms of cryptocurrency which serve as alternatives to bitcoin commonly called altcoin. Though all these altcoins differ from one another, there are three overarching types of cryptocurrency into which they all fall:
- Transactional cryptocurrency serves as a way to store and exchange value such as bitcoin and litecoin.
- Cryptocurrency platforms create an infrastructure upon which to build new blockchain applications. For example, Ethereum is a cryptocurrency platform built to run smart contracts while Factom enables developers to build secure record-keeping applications.
- Cryptocurrency applications are built on top of cryptocurrency platforms; these applications could, for example, use initial coin offerings (ICOs) to raise start-up funds to the 0x Project, which creates a decentralized exchange for other forms of cryptocurrency.
However, not every form of cryptocurrency is as useful or worth investing in as others.
Some of the most ridiculous, but, real forms of altcoin were reviewed in previous article “John Oliver lists crazy (but, real) cryptocurrency coins outside the familiar Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple.” Here are the most important types of cryptocurrency serious cryptocurrency investors may wish to watch in order of market cap.
Bitcoin (BTC) — Market Capitalization: $114.9 billion*
Bitcoin is the original decentralized cryptocurrency pioneering the use of blockchain technology to facilitate peer-to-peer payments. The distributed blockchain acts as a ledger of all transactions in the history of bitcoin thereby eliminating the need for a central bank or trusted third party to control the supply of the currency or verify transactions. Blockchain both allows a party to verify ownership of the bitcoin transacted and also prevents the double spending problem which plagued previous forms of digital cash.
Litecoin (LTC) — Market Capitalization: $6.6 billion*
Litecoin is a fork of bitcoin designed to improve the speed and scalability of peer-to-peer transfers. Litecoin transactions are confirmed four times faster than bitcoin using an easier proof-of-work system which ultimately supports more transactions and lower transaction fees.
Litecoin bills itself as a “peer-to-peer Internet currency that enables instant, near-zero cost payments to anyone in the world. Litecoin is an open source, global payment network that is fully decentralized without any central authorities… Litecoin features faster transaction confirmation times and improved storage efficiency than the leading math-based currency. With substantial industry support, trade volume and liquidity.”
Ethereum (ETH) — Market Capitalization: $37.5 billion*
Ethereum describes itself as “a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.
These apps run on a custom built blockchain, an enormously powerful shared global infrastructure that can move value around and represent the ownership of property.
This enables developers 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 middleman or counterparty risk.”
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) — Market Capitalization: $10.7 billion*
Bitcoin Cash is another bitcoin fork created to handle scalability issues associated with bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash describes itself as “follow[ing] the Nakamoto roadmap of global adoption with on-chain scaling. As a first step, the blocksize limit has been made adjustable, with an increased default of 8MB. Research is underway to allow massive future increases. [Bitcoin Cash uses a] new SigHash type provides replay protection, improved hardware wallet security, and elimination of the quadratic hashing problem.”
Bitcoin cash uses “Decentralized Development” so that “with multiple independent teams of developers providing software implementations, the future is secure. Bitcoin Cash is resistant to political and social attacks on protocol development. No single group or project can control it.”
Ripple (XRP) — Market Capitalization: $19.1 billion*
According to its official site, “Ripple connects banks, payment providers, digital asset exchanges and corporates via RippleNet to provide one frictionless experience to send money globally. Built on the most advanced blockchain technology that is scalable, secure and interoperates different networks.”
Most notably, Ripple’s blockchain doesn’t use mining like most other cryptocurrencies, instead relying on a fixed supply of the currency currently held in time-locked contracts.
Ripple “provides optional access to the world’s fastest and most scalable digital asset for payments, XRP.”
Monero (XMR) — Market Capitalization: $2.7 billion*
Monero was designed to address privacy concerns because “Monero uses ring signatures, ring confidential transactions, and stealth addresses to obfuscate the origins, amounts, and destinations of all transactions. Monero provides all the benefits of a decentralized cryptocurrency, without any of the typical privacy concessions.”
Zcash (ZEC) — Market Capitalization: $662 million*
“Zcash brings fungibility to cryptocurrency by unlinking shielded coins from their history on the blockchain” by using zero-knowledge proof to protect sensitive information for each party.
*Stock Advisor returns as of April 2, 2018