When you hear the term cryptocurrency, bitcoins are likely the first thing that comes to mind. Did you know that there are other cryptocurrencies besides bitcoin? There are more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies in use as of January 2021.
Cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin are known as altcoins. They are similar to Bitcoin in some ways, but they also differ from it in other ways. For instance, some alternative coins produce blocks or validate transactions using a different consensus algorithm. Or, they set themselves apart from Bitcoin by offering fresh or extra features, like smart contracts or low price volatility.
There were almost 9,000 cryptocurrencies as of March 2021. Altcoins made up more than 40% of the entire cryptocurrency market in March 2021, according to CoinMarketCap. 1 Since altcoins are generated from Bitcoin, their price trajectories frequently resemble Bitcoin’s. However, according to experts, the growth of new markets for these coins as well as the maturation of cryptocurrency investment ecosystems would make altcoin price fluctuations independent of Bitcoin’s trading signals.
First on our list of Bitcoin alternatives, Ethereum is a decentralised software platform that makes it possible to create and maintain smart contracts and decentralised applications (dapps) free from third-party manipulation, fraud, or control. Ethereum aims to build a decentralised ecosystem of financial services that anybody in the world may use freely, regardless of their country of origin, race, or religion. Due to the fact that people in certain nations that lack governmental infrastructure and official identifications may access bank accounts, loans, insurance, and a wide range of other financial goods, this element makes the consequences for those people in such countries more compelling.
Ethereum is a well-known decentralised software platform and an alternative to bitcoin. The decentralised platform makes it possible to create smart contracts and execute decentralised apps (DApps) without interruption, fraud, third-party control, or intervention. A decentralised set of financial goods accessible to anybody worldwide has been made possible with the release of Ethereum.
After bitcoin, Ethereum has overtaken it as the second-largest digital currency in terms of market valuation. It’s important to note that Ethereum behind the dominating bitcoin by a wide margin. The market capitalization of Ethereum is now about 19% that of bitcoin as of January 2021.
Ethereum intends to switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake as its consensus method in 2021. With this change, the Ethereum network will consume significantly less energy and process transactions more quickly. Participants in the network can “stake” their ether by using proof-of-stake. This procedure aids in network security and transaction processing. Eth rewards those who do this in a manner akin to an interest account. This is a substitute for the proof-of-work system used by Bitcoin, which rewards miners with extra coins for completing transactions.
One of the first cryptocurrencies to imitate Bitcoin was Litecoin, which was introduced in 2011. It is frequently referred to as the “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.” Charlie Lee, an MIT graduate and former Google developer, developed it.
Litecoin employs “scrypt” as a proof of work, which can be decoded with the aid of consumer-grade CPUs, and is built on an open-source, decentralised worldwide payment network. Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many aspects, however it offers a faster transaction confirmation time since it has a higher block creation rate. Litecoin is now accepted by an increasing number of businesses besides developers. The sixth-largest cryptocurrency in the world as of January 2021, Litecoin has a market capitalization of $10.1 billion and a per-token value of $153.88.
Cardano is a cryptocurrency that uses “Ouroboros proof-of-stake” and was developed using a research-based methodology by engineers, mathematicians, and cryptography professionals. Charles Hoskinson, one of the original five founding members of Ethereum, cofounded the project. He left Ethereum after having some issues with the direction it was going, subsequently participating in the creation of Cardano.
Cardano’s development team built its blockchain through thorough testing and peer-reviewed research. The project’s researchers have authored over 90 publications on blockchain technology covering a variety of subjects. The core of Cardano is built on this study.
Cardano appears to stand out among its proof-of-stake competitors as well as other significant cryptocurrencies as a result of this stringent approach. Cardano has also been called the “Ethereum killer” due to claims that its blockchain can do more. Nevertheless, Cardano is still in its infancy. In terms of decentralised financial applications, it still has a long way to go even if it beat Ethereum to the proof-of-stake consensus architecture.
By creating decentralised financial products like to those offered by Ethereum and offering answers for issues like voter fraud, chain interoperability, and legal contract tracking, among others, Cardano seeks to become the world’s financial operating system. Cardano has a $9.8 billion market value as of January 2021, and one ADA is currently trading for $0.31.
A new proof-of-stake cryptocurrency called Polkadot is designed to foster interoperability between different blockchains. Its protocol is made to link oracles, permissioned and permission-less blockchains, so that various systems can collaborate on projects together.
The relay chain, which enables the interoperability of many networks, is the main component of Polkadot. Parachains, or alternative blockchains, with their own native coins for certain use cases are also permitted.
Polkadot differs from Ethereum in that developers may design their own blockchains while utilising the security that Polkadot’s chain already provides, as opposed to only developing decentralised apps on Polkadot. With Ethereum, developers may build new blockchains, but they must also build their own security systems. This leaves new and smaller projects vulnerable to attack because a blockchain’s security increases with its size. In Polkadot, this idea is referred to as shared security.
Gavin Wood, one of the original Ethereum project founders who had different ideas about the project’s direction, developed Polkadot. One DOT trades for $12.54 and Polkadot has a market capitalization of $11.2 billion as of January 2021.
Because it was one of the first and most successful hard forks of the original Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) has a significant position in the history of alternative currencies. A split occurs in the bitcoin realm as a consequence of discussions and disagreements between developers and miners. Due to the decentralised nature of digital currencies, major modifications to the source code underpinning the token or coin in question must be approved by the majority; the specific cryptocurrency determines the method for this process.
When competing groups cannot come to an agreement, the digital currency may occasionally split, with the previous chain maintaining its original code and the new chain starting as a new iteration of the preceding coin with updated code.
One of these splits gave birth to BCH in August 2017. The argument about scalability, which led to the development of BCH, concerned the one megabyte block size restriction on the Bitcoin network (MB). With a block size increase from one MB to eight MBs, BCH aims to boost transaction speed. The rationale behind this is that larger blocks can accommodate more transactions. It also makes additional adjustments, like as doing rid of the block-space-affecting Segregated Witness protocol. BCH has a $8.9 billion market cap as of January 2021, and each coin is worth $513.45.
Stellar is an open blockchain network created to link financial institutions for the aim of massive transactions and give corporate solutions. Huge transactions between banks and investment firms, which used to take days, require a lot of middlemen, and are expensive, may now be completed very instantly and with little to no expense to the parties involved.
Stellar is still an open blockchain that anybody may use, despite the fact that it has positioned itself as an enterprise blockchain for institutional transactions. The mechanism enables international exchanges between any currencies. Lumens are the native currency of Stellar (XLM). Users must own Lumens in order to conduct transactions on the network.
Jed McCaleb, the creator of the Ripple system and a founding member of Ripple Labs, established Stellar. After some time, he quit working for Ripple and helped form the Stellar Development Foundation. Stellar Lumens, which as of January 2021 are priced at $0.27, have a market capitalization of $6.1 billion.
A decentralised oracle network called Chainlink connects external data to smart contracts like those on Ethereum. Blockchains by themselves are unable to establish a secure connection with external apps. With the use of Chainlink’s decentralised oracles, smart contracts may interact with external data and be based on information that Ethereum itself cannot access.
Several use cases for Chainlink’s solution are described in depth on its blog. Monitoring water sources for contamination or unlawful syphoning that may be occurring in particular towns is only one of the numerous use cases that are mentioned. It is possible to install sensors to keep an eye on corporate water use, local water levels, and water tables. This information might be tracked by a Chainlink oracle and sent right to a smart contract. With the incoming data from the oracle, the smart contract might be configured to carry out penalties, provide flood warnings to cities, or charge businesses using excessive amounts of a city’s water.
Together with Steve Ellis, Sergey Nazarov created Chainlink. One LINK is now worth $21.53 and the market capitalization of Chainlink is $8.6 billion as of January 2021.
A cryptocurrency called Binance Coin serves as a means of payment for the costs related to trading on the Binance Exchange. Trades can be made at a discount for those who pay for the exchange using the token. The blockchain that powers Binance Coin also serves as the foundation for Binance’s decentralised exchange. Based on trade volumes, Changpeng Zhao launched the Binance exchange, which ranks among the most popular markets worldwide.
Initially, Binance Coin was an Ethereum blockchain-based ERC-20 coin. It ultimately had a mainnet launch of its own. The proof-of-stake consensus model is utilised by the network. One BNB was worth $44.26 as of January 2021, giving Binance a market capitalization of $6.8 billion.
One of the first and most well-known stablecoins, or digital currencies that try to tether its market value to a currency or other external reference point in order to lessen volatility, was Tether. The majority of digital currencies, even popular ones like Bitcoin, have frequently suffered periods of extremely high volatility. Tether and other stablecoins aim to reduce this volatility in order to draw in consumers who may otherwise be wary. The cost of Tether is closely correlated with the value of the US dollar. Instead of truly converting to fiat money, the system enables users to move funds more quickly and easily from other cryptocurrencies back to dollars.
Tether, a cryptocurrency that was introduced in 2014, identifies as “a platform powered by blockchain and created to simplify the usage of fiat currencies in a digital setting.” Effectively, this coin reduces the volatility and complexity sometimes associated with digital currencies by enabling people to use a blockchain network and related technology to deal in traditional currencies. Tether, with a market size of $24.4 billion and a token price of $1, is the third-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization as of January 2021.
Monero is a private, anonymous, and untraceable form of money. When this open-source cryptocurrency first appeared in April 2014, the cryptography community and fans quickly became quite interested in it. This coin is entirely community- and donation-driven in its development. With a heavy emphasis on decentralisation and scalability from the beginning, Monero provides total privacy through the use of a unique method known as “ring signatures.”
With this method, a collection of cryptographic signatures with at least one actual participant appears, but it is impossible to identify the real one because they all seem to be legitimate. Due to extraordinary security features like these, Monero has gained a bad name and has been associated with illegal activities all over the world. While this is a strong contender for use in anonymous illegal transactions, dissidents of repressive governments all over the world may benefit from Monero’s privacy features. Monero has a market capitalization of $2.8 billion and a per-token value of $158.37 as of January 2021.
Investors in the bitcoin industry looking to diversify their holdings might consider other cryptocurrencies. The bulk of the almost 9,000 alternative currencies have yet to become well-known, despite the fact that others, like Ethereum’s ether, are known by name. The potential for cryptocurrencies to transform current finance is exemplified by altcoins. But before investing in them, investors should do their homework. Investing in altcoins has risks that are comparable to or occasionally even higher than those of Bitcoin.