The cryptcurrency world has experienced a lot of upheaval in the last couple of years. We went from obscurity, to being in the limelight, to being the subject of interest (and worry) for governments and financial institutions, to being the subject of a bunch of scandals and bad press, and now we’re pretty much just chugging along. While the press at this point pretty much just shrug off cryptocurrencies as the domain of criminals and tech nerds, we’re now part of the zeitgeist, and it seems likely to me that at some point in the next decade, cryptocurrencies will once again become the center of attention (and perhaps the use of cryptocurrencies will finally be propelled into the sphere of legitimacy).
While the public at large still mostly associates the term cryptocurrency with bitcoin, or BTC, there are actually a number of cryptocurrencies that are rapidly gaining popularity. Each cryptocurrency has its own distinct characteristics. In this post, I’m going to outline a few of the most popular/most widely used cryptocurrencies, and point out some of their strengths and weaknesses.
Not much to say about this one – it’s by far the most popular and most widely used (and speculated on) cryptocoin out there.
One BTC is currently worth about $250, and the market cap (the total value of all the BTCs in existence) is $3.45 billion USD. It’s the most widely traded, most widely used in transactions, and by far the most famous cryptocurrency option out there. If you’re looking to accept cryptocurrencies in your online store, or you want to get started as a cryptocurrency trader of some sort, it’s probably advisable that you start here.
Ripple is not really a cryptocurrency – it’s more of a payment system/payment protocol. Unlike with BTC, every single transaction includes a transaction fee (to both sides), and the transaction fee is not paid to anyone – instead, that amount of Ripple is destroyed in the transaction process. Ripple transactions are also verified/confirmed faster than with Bitcoin. As of right now, the majority of the servers that validate Ripple transactions are owned by Ripple labs, as are most of the units of currency used in the payment protocol (XRP). While it’s a bit difficult to explain, Ripple is basically a cross between something like Paypal and BTC – the technology behind the verification/validation of transactions is similar to BTC, but the way that they use that technology makes Ripple closer to being a payment gateway/portal rather than a true cryptocurrency in its own right.
Ripple has a marketcap of ~275 million USD.
Litecoin is the cryptocurrency with the third highest marketcap. The implementation is extremely similar to BTC, with two exceptions – the ‘blocks’ that are mined by crypto miners get completed much quicker than BTC blocks, and the total maximum number of coins possible is much higher than the equivalent figure for Bitcoin. Litecoin proponents state that the faster block-times of Litecoin make it less likely that people can double-spend their Litecoin, in essence making it more secure.
Litecoin currently has a marketcap of ~ 63 million USD.
While Dogecoin isn’t the cryptocoin with the 4th highest marketcap, it’s undoubtedly the cryptocurrency who’s users have the most fun. Dogecoin is part genuine cryptocoin, part satire, part enthusiastic circlejerk. It’s often used on nerdier social media sites like reddit to ‘tip’ other users tiny amounts of money, and there are a number of memes that go hand in hand with dogecoin that have perpetuated the internet. It’s interesting to note that, probably because its users don’t take dogecoin super seriously, it actually gets used/transacted rather than just being stored as a form of speculation or investment. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air when compared to some the communities that revolve around other cryptocurrencies.
Dogecoin currently has a marketcap of ~13.5 million USD.