The one and only, the first and most famous cryptocurrency. Bitcoin serves as a digital gold standard in the whole cryptocurrency-industry, is used as a global means of payment and is the de-facto currency of cyber-crime like dark net markets or ransomware. After seven years in existence, Bitcoin ‘s price has increased from zero to more than 4650 Dollar, and it‘s transaction volume reached more than 500.000 daily transactions. Bitcoin is here to stay.
The brainchild of young crypto-genius Vitalik Buterin has climbed to second place in the hierarchy of cryptocurrencies. Other than Bitcoin its blockchain does not only validate a set of accounts and balances but of so-called states. This means that Ethereum can not only process transactions but complex contracts and programs. The new blockchain technology is expected to put a dent in the demand for bitcoin’s technology. This flexibility makes Ethereum the perfect instrument for blockchain -application.
For some reason, Ripple is the most unpopular coin when it comes to market likes and dislikes, maybe its name turns people off. While Ripple has a native cryptocurrency – XRP – it is more about a network to process IOUs than the cryptocurrency itself. XRP, the currency doesn’t serve as a medium to store and exchange value, but more as a token to protect the network against spam. For this reason, Ripple is often called pre-mined in the community and dissed as no real cryptocurrency, and XRP is not considered as a good store of value. Financial institutions and banks however, seem to like Ripple. At least they adopt the system with an increasing pace.
Litecoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin and tagged as the silver to the digital gold bitcoin. Faster than bitcoin, with a larger amount of token and a new mining algorithm, Litecoin was a real innovation, perfectly tailored to be the smaller brother of bitcoin. “It facilitated the emerge of several other cryptocurrencies which used its codebase but made it, even more, lighter “. Examples are Dogecoin or Feathercoin. While Litecoin failed to find a real use case and lost its second place after bitcoin, it is still actively developed and traded and is hoarded as a backup if Bitcoin fails.
Monero is the most prominent example of the kryptonite algorithm. This algorithm was invented to add the privacy features Bitcoin is missing. If you use Bitcoin, every transaction is documented in the blockchain and the trail of transactions can be followed. With the introduction of a concept called ring-signatures, the kryptonite algorithm was able to cut through that trail.
The first implementation of kryptonite, Bytecoin, was heavily premined and thus rejected by the community. Monero was the first non-premined clone of Bytecoin and raised a lot of awareness. There are several other incarnations of kryptonite with their own little improvements, but none of it did ever achieve the same popularity as Monero. Depending on what your view point some put more emphasis on the value of the coin while others are move into the adaptable technology.
Monero’s popularity peaked in summer 2016 when some dark net markets decided to accept it as a currency. This resulted in a steady increase in the price, while the actual usage of Monero seems to remain disappointingly small.
In August 2017, the Bitcoin blockchain spun off a nimbler iteration called Bitcoin Cash. It's essentially identical to Bitcoin, but with the important distinction that it has more block size capacity. The price of the cryptocurrency has already doubled from $300 to more than $600 as of this writing. And if you owned Bitcoin before the split, then you received an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash. There are approximately 16.5 million units of each in existence, which makes Bitcoin Cash the third-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world with a market cap of more than $10 billion.
Besides those, there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies of several families. Most of them are nothing more than attempts to reach investors and quickly make money, but a lot of them promise playgrounds to test innovations in cryptocurrency-technology.
The market of cryptocurrencies is fast and wild. Nearly every day new cryptocurrencies emerge, old die, early adopters get wealthy and investors lose money. Every cryptocurrency comes with a promise, mostly a big story to turn the world around. Few survive the first months, and most are pumped and dumped by speculators and live on as zombie coins until the last bag holder loses hope ever to see a return on his investment.