The Guide to cryptocurrencies

Several years ago, say eight or nine, it would have been easy to write a short cryptocurrency list, because following Bitcoin’s release in 2009, digital currencies entered the mainstream slowly. But building up steam since 2012, crypto releases have been booming, and in the last year or so, the list of cryptocurrencies has grown to over 2,500 different coins. While it is possible some of the smaller or newer names on the cryptocurrency list won’t stay on it for long, from the way things look today in mid-January 2019, cryptocurrencies will likely be around for a while.

And First There Was Bitcoin


Bitcoin, which to some is synonymous with crypto, is so ubiquitous, there are bitcoin ATMs cropping up around the world. As the first of its kind, it has the support and name recognition the others likely long for. Currently, there is a 17.5 million supply of the coins, with ticker symbol BTC, with a cap of 21. When it first was released, the price remained low, from just a few cents to a few dollars, building slowly and unsteadily until December 2017 where it reached an all-time high of more than $20,00.00.

The 2017 rise was astounding. On January 2, 2017, the price was just under $1,000. On October 2, 2017 it was worth almost $4400 and on the 30th of the month, it had reached $6767. At the end of November, just one month later, it was worth over $10,000. In the week from November 27 to December 4, Bitcoin rose some 30%!

Founded by a person or group (it isn’t publicly known) mysteriously identified as Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin came to be in 2009 with a white paper entitled Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic cash system.  The paper explained the flaws of the financial system as we have known it and proposed a solution, Bitcoin, which would be based on transactions without a third party. Since then, the idea of money, for many people has changed, with a new vocabulary entering the mainstream. The Bitcoin wannabees or kinda-bees are known as altcoins, and the money we typically have in our wallets and bank accounts, such as US dollars, euros, and Great British pounds, is known as fiat currency.

The very first Bitcoin was mined in January 2009. Mining is necessary to get or release cryptocurrencies and is accomplished using strong computer power solving intricate mathematical algorithms. Today, many miners have put together mining rigs made up of strong GPUs to solve the equations faster, and when they are successful, they get paid in Bitcoin. People can use their Bitcoins to buy and sell products and services like traditional money. The transactions get recorded on the Blockchain.

Blockchain, Exchanges And Wallets


The promise of the blockchain is that it is safer and more secure and more anonymous than transactions made through bank transfers or other payment systems. Blockchain uses cryptography to confirm transactions, which are then recorded on the public ledger, the blockchain, in blocks. Cryptocurrency is not the only blockchain application, and people are investigating other ways to use blockchain technology beyond cryptocurrency transfer. This move is thought to be a positive and important by-product of the development of Bitcoin.

Using a crypto is different from using fiat money, but not all that different. Because cryptos aren’t tangible, they aren’t stored in your wallet in your back pocket, purse or briefcase. Instead, they are stored in an e-wallet uniquely designed for cryptos. Users buy Bitcoins with fiat currency, using a standard method, such as a credit card or bank transfer, to transfer the sum via an exchange, or host.

When someone makes a transaction, the network authenticates it and records it on the blockchain. In addition to a crypto wallet, users need to use a host or crypto exchange that lets people send and receive Bitcoins or other coins on their cryptocurrency list. Your exchange account isn’t listed under your name, but rather with a long string of characters that are used to identify you when you make a transaction. Since your name or other details aren’t used, you remain anonymous. Once the crypto-coins are in your wallet, you can use them for buying, selling, trading, investing, etc.

Bitcoin put all of this in play and deserves its place as the king of cryptos.

Top Cryptos after Bitcoin


In terms of development, impact and share, following Bitcoin, some of the first major coins to be founded early on were Litecoin and Namecoin, which were founded in 2011. Other coins joined the crypto party in 2012, with five more in 2013, including Ripple. 2014 saw the founding of more coins including Dash, NEO, Monero and Conye. This last one is currently inactive, following a lawsuit by Kanye West. The well-known hip hop artist sued the coin, which had used him as its mascot.

Of course, making a list of top cryptocoins is not all about the year of release. Other factors need to be factored in and looked at when choosing to place one particular crypto on a list of top crypto-assets while leaving others off. Take for example Bitcoin, the grandpappy of cryptos. One reason it seems to always make the top cryptocurrency list is that it was the first, it is widely known, and it is widely accepted, and with 10 years behind it, there is a history. For anyone who wants to follow it, there is history, experience, trends, etc.

Topping the Cryptocurrency List

Here are a few of the main cryptocurrencies, those that generally top every list of important crypto-assets.

Ether


Ether was released in 2015 with the code ETH and it generally finds itself somewhere towards the top of any cryptocurrency list. Ether is a coin based on the decentralized infrastructure behind it, Ethereum. One thing to remember about Ether, though, is that it was not developed to be treated as an asset or to be used as a currency, but rather as a way to pay for computation. Ethereum is very central to Ether.

Ethereum was created by Vitalik Buterin with built-in applications for developers, called smart contracts. These were designed for writing computer programs to run on a custom-built peer-to-peer blockchain.

The idea is that Ethereum will let developers do many things relating to debts and promises, such as creating markets, storing registries, and moving funds. It is forward thinking, looking to the future, believing that the platform will enable an unlimited variety of actions that haven’t even been invented yet, all free of middlemen or counterparty risks.

Ethereum supports many, many apps via crowdsourcing, everything from a car sharing platform to games, wallets, and media applications – and even other virtual cryptocurrencies! Ethereum promises that smart contracts can’t be hacked, won’t have downtime and will be free of fraud and censorship.

Ether is known as the crypto-fuel for the entire network based on Ethereum. As a form of payment, Ether is a requisite component for using Ethereum, the platform. There is not an infinite supply of Ether, rather there is a cap of 18 million per year. Four times a minute (or so), the most recent transactions were processed adding a new block to the existing blockchain. Miners who complete blocks earn 3 Ether for their proof of work. This is based on the resources their computer uses to prove the work. The supply in circulation in mid-January 2019 is 105 million.

Ethereum Classic


An open-source platform based on the blockchain, Ethereum Classic, like the other Ethereum, is based on smart contract scripting. Also like the other Ethereum, the coin is known as Ether, but this coin has the ticker symbol of ETC.

Ethereum Classic is a direct result of a hard-fork taken by the Ethereum community in which the bulk of the community forked. The forking group chose to restore stolen Ether to owners who had been victims of hacking in June 2016, but the classic side rejected that idea, deciding instead to continue to use the previous unforked version of the crypto. They felt that the principle of immutability (the idea that blockchains can’t be changed) was critical to the integrity of the blockchain and thus rejected making changes to reimburse the victims of Ether theft.

The code is written in C++, Go, Rust and Scala and is based on proof of work, but it’s not officially a part of the Ethereum Foundation. The circulating supply stands at 108,000,000 in mid-January 2019.

Ripple


Ripple is another crypto topping almost any global cryptocurrency list. With its coin symbol as XRP, The company created its system to be a faster and less expensive method for making cross-border payments, important in the financial field. In 2012, 100 billion XRP coins were released via a distributed ledger a few months before the company, Ripple Labs, was formed. Ripple Labs created the settlement system known as Ripple, and since then has gone on to create other Ripple-named entities including RipplePay and RippleNet.  It was designed for businesses and organisations, giving banks and payment providers a new, fast and reliable, on-demand way to transfer liquid assets across borders.

In 2014, MIT Technology Review named Ripple Labs one of the years 50 smartest companies.  Four years later, at the end of 2018, RippleNet is a global network of over 100 financial institutions, and it is in place to reduce customer friction in payments across borders, such as costs, time, uncertainty, and errors. Ripple touts its scalability, with 1500 transactions handled per second.

Ripple’s currency, XRP, is known as the Digital Asset for Payments, and supports a variety of tokens including cryptocurrencies, fiat money as well as non-currency units of value such as frequent flier miles, commodities, and mobile minutes. 

While decentralized, Ripple does not work on a so-called blockchain, but rather a ledger that is not mined. In fact, it is not based on a proof or work system, but rather something called a consensus, and it claims many advantages. Ledger instead of block, Ripple stores information about all of its accounts on a distributed database that is managed by independent servers. The servers check transaction records, making comparisons as a way to validate the transactions. The January 2019 supply in circulation is over 41 billion.

Litecoin


One of the earliest altcoins to join the field was Litecoin, which was launched way back in 2011 and created by a Google employee, MIT grad Charlie Lee. Litecoin is a peer-to-peer crypto that is technically quite similar to Bitcoin and is one of the standard names found on many a cryptocurrency list. In the market, it is known as LTC. In addition to having faster processing times than bitcoin, it will release a larger number of coins (4 times as many), possesses a similar but slightly different GUI and has a different hashing algorithm. In May 2017, Litecoin adopted Segregated Witness. Also known as SegWit, Segregated Witness is the name for a small change (soft fork change) in how transactions are formatted. SegWit serves to make transactions more secure.

While Bitcoin processes a block in some 10 minutes, Litecoin, likely Bitcoin’s biggest rival, endeavours to generate them in 2.5 minutes, which might still be too slow and energy heavy for a perfect payment method. There are currently some 21 million coins in circulating supply.

Bitcoin Gold


With a ticker symbol BTG, Bitcoin Gold is a hard fork of Bitcoin that took place on October 24, 2017. Written in C++ and Qt, it is an open-source, proof-of-work crypto that is based on Bitcoin. The big difference is how it is mined. BTG uses standard GPUs for mining, instilling the coin with decentralisation, and giving miners everywhere a fair chance to reap awards.

Bitcoin Gold was founded by six co-founders and today has a global team of more than 20 individuals. BTG supports a wallet and BTGPay, a network of merchants and partners that lets consumers use Bitcoin Gold to shop. With a supply limit of 21,000,000 BTG, there are currently 18 million in circulating supply.

DASH


With 8.5 million coins in circulation in January 2019, Dash, which is a Bitcoin-based, open source, peer-to-peer crypto, is basically an anonymous currency with a focus on being portable and fast. The term Dash is made up of two words: digital and cash. Transaction fees are kept low and its payment platform is known for being easy to use, private and user friendly. Dash was a fork of Bitcoin, founded in January 2014 and designed to be a decentralised improvement over the original Bitcoin.

Dash is a popular crypto found on nearly any cryptocurrency list.

NEO


Founded in 2014, NEO is a blockchain and cryptocurrency with a maximum supply of 100 billion coins, of which 65% are currently in circulation. NEO, with ticker symbol NEO, uses smart contracts on the NeoContract system plus digital assets and a digital identity to create a Smart Economy and believes that community development is a key focus. NEO has a strong, global, and diverse community. While developed in C#, Java as well as other programming languages can be used in the developer ecosystem of NEO.

Monero


Monero, or XMR, is a cryptocurrency that was created in 2014 based on a public ledger with decentralisation, open source development, fungibility, and privacy as main features. Based on a Proof of Work timestamping, Monero has a circulating coin supply of close to 20 million, which it is the crypto’s coin max limit. The company stresses its commitment to security, privacy, inability to be traced, and fungibilty. Even so, the company has been involved in hacking schemes where hackers are able to mine circulating Monero. Nevertheless, crypto-mining malware attacks are on the rise across cryptocurrencies according to McAfee. 

VSYNC


VSYNC is known as a currency for everyone. A community-driven, decentralised crypto, VSYNC, with ticker symbol VSX, is based on Bitcoin and Dash and is known for its fast transaction speeds. The company claims VSYNC is different from other names on the cryptocurrency list as it is instant, decentralised, nearly free of frees and truly anonymous. Based on Proof of Stake, the coin has a maximum supply of 171 million coins. The circulating supply is around 160 million in mid-January 2019.


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