Move over, bitcoin. The world of virtual currencies is getting very crowded with so-called altcoins.
The explosion in price and prominence of bitcoin has led to the growth of dozens of other cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, companies are betting that blockchain, the underlying technology of bitcoin, could fundamentally change the economy, leading to a surge in blockchain projects.
The rise of the altcoins
The following is a list of some of the most prominent altcoins around. Many are blockchain experiments that use the sale of “coins” to fund the project and fuel the network.
This post is intended as a quick overview. You should definitely do more research if you intend to buy. It’s also worth noting that buying some of these is not exactly easy. In many cases, you’ll likely need to buy bitcoin or ethereum first. As with all investments, but especially ones in the crypto space, avoid investing money that you are not comfortable losing given the volatility of the space.
Prices and market capitalization of altcoins are based on data from CoinMarketCap.com on Jan. 22, 2018.
- Price: $973.84
- Market capitalization: $95 billion
Of all the non-Bitcoin cryptocurrencies out there, ether (as the currency is called) or Ethereum (the name for the network) is the one most likely to ring a bell. Companies are particularly enamored with this system because of its so-called smart contract features.
- Price: $1.21
- Market capitalization: $47 billion
While much of the cryptocurrency space was created in defiance of the traditional banking space, Ripple’s intent has always been to aid the sector, primarily by facilitating global payments. The company said in a tweet that three of the top five global money transfer companies are expected to use XRP—Ripple’s cryptocurrency—in payments this year, with more to come.
- Price: $1,592
- Market capitalization: $26.9 billion
One of bitcoin’s signature attributes is its decentralized structure. Rather than a central entity making decisions, the community of miners vote on things like how to improve the system. In 2017, there was a disagreement within the community over how to address scaling issues. That disagreement led to a fork and the creation of Bitcoin Cash.
- Price: $0.54
- Market capitalization: $14 billion
Like most cryptocurrencies, Ada, Cardano’s coin, can be used to transfer funds digitally, but its developers have plans to build a platform that can run financial applications and smart contracts. Cardano says it is setting itself apart by balancing privacy with regulation with the goal of promoting financial inclusion.
- Price: $175.47
- Market capitalization: $9.6 billion
Like Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin was also created as a fork from Bitcoin. Its main claim to fame is its quicker settlement goal: Litecoin aims to settle transactions in two-and-a-half minutes, compared to 10 minutes for Bitcoin.
Litecoin can also be purchased and sold on mainstream exchanges like Coinbase. With the exception of Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum, buying alt coins usually starts with buying Bitcoin or Ethereum on an exchange like Coinbase and then going to another exchange.
- Price: $0.93
- Market capitalization: $8.4 billion
NEM is another blockchain project that is looking to help companies and industries improve things like payments and logistics. Its trying to differentiate itself by making its blockchain highly customizable. As it says on its website, “If you’re new to blockchains, NEM was created to be your entry point into the blockchain industry. If you’re an experienced developer, NEM has the power you need to create cutting edge blockchain apps.”
- Price: $0.45
- Market capitalization: $8,1 billion
Stellar is eyeing the way people, banks and payment networks move money. Its co-founder Jed McCaleb, a veteran in a still nascent industry. He built and sold Mt. Gox, the first bitcoin exchange and then went on to co-found Ripple. Stellar’s currency is called lumens.
- Price: $118.62
- Market capitalization: $7.7 billion
NEO is all about creating the framework for the “smart economy”—one where digital assets are easily moved, where digital identity is safe and where smart contracts make everything work smoothly.
- Price: $2.39
- Market capitalization: $6.6 billion
IOTA, which stands for Internet of Things Application, is betting on the future of connected devices, as its name implies. The idea is that as the number of devices connected to the Internet grows—everything from iPhones to smart cars—so will the number of micropayments. That payments ecosystem will need a system to enable that quickly. IOTA also claims it can deliver this without fees.
- Price: $749.80
- Market capitalization: $5.9 billion
Of all the altcoins on this list, Dash is one the few that is intended to be used by people to buy goods and services. In this sense, it is a lot like bitcoin, although the founders are trying to learn from the mistakes made in building Bitcoin. Dash, which is a portmanteau of digital and cash, is supposed to be faster and cheaper than bitcoin.
- Price: $312.77
- Market capitalization: $4.9 billion
One of bitcoin’s most notable features is its perceived anonymity. While it provides pretty good privacy for its users, Monero aims to be totally opaque. That feature has made it particularly popular on the dark web, where bitcoin has become decidedly passé.
- Price: $0.06
- Market capitalization: $4.4 billion
TRON is looking to take on Internet giants like Facebook and YouTube for creative types. It is looking to “decentralize” the web so that musicians, artists and others can share their creations with the world without having to rely on a “centralized services.” Founder Justin Sun, is worth following on Twitter, too.