The cryptocurrency market has become crowded, with new cryptocurrencies coming out daily, while old ones disappear faster than ever. Let’s check out the top 20 cryptocurrencies, as they appear on coinmarketcap.com
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Bitcoin is the king of the crypto world. To many, it is synonymous with “cryptocurrency.” Its purpose is to provide a peer-to-peer electronic version of cash to allow payments to be sent online without the need for a third party (such as Mastercard).
The rapid rise in Bitcoin’s price has brought about an explosion of new Bitcoin investors. With the huge increase in interest has come a rise in merchants accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment. Bitcoin is fast moving towards its goal of becoming a currency accepted worldwide.
Read more on What is Bitcoin?
2. Ethereum (ETH)
Ethereum is the revolutionary platform which brought the concept of “smart contracts” to the blockchain. First released to the world in July 2015 by then 21-year-old Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum has quickly risen from obscurity to cryptocurrency celebrity status.
Buterin has a full team of developers working behind him to further develop the Ethereum platform.
Ethereum has the ability to process transactions quickly and cheaply over the blockchain similar to Bitcoin but also has the ability to run smart contracts. Think about automated processes which can do just about anything.
Read more on What is Ethereum?
3. Ripple (XRP)
Ripple aims to improve the speed of financial transactions, specifically international banking transactions.
Anyone who has ever sent money internationally knows that today it currently takes anywhere from 3-5 business days for a transaction to clear. It is faster to withdraw money, get on a plane, and fly it to your destination than it is to send it electronically! Transaction fees are usually around 6%, but it can vary depending on the financial institution.
Ripple’s goal is to make these transactions fast (it only takes around 4 seconds for a transaction to clear) and cheap.
The Ripple team currently comprises over 150 people, making it one of the biggest in the cryptocurrency world. They are led by CEO Brad Garlinghouse, who has an impressive resume which includes high positions in other organizations such as Yahoo and Hightail.
Read more on What is Ripple?
4. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin Cash was created on August 1, 2017 after a “hard fork” of the Bitcoin blockchain. For years, a debate has been raging in the Bitcoin community on whether to increase the block size in the hope of alleviating some of the network bottleneck which has plagued Bitcoin due to its increased popularity.
Because no agreement could be reached, the original Bitcoin blockchain was forked, leaving the Bitcoin chain untouched and in effect creating a new blockchain which would allow developers to modify some of Bitcoin’s original programmed features.
Generally speaking, the argument for Bitcoin Cash is that by allowing the block size to increase, more transactions can be processed in the same amount of time. Those opposed to Bitcoin Cash argue that increasing the block size will increase the storage and bandwidth requirement, and in effect will price out normal users. This could lead to increased centralization, the exact thing Bitcoin set out to avoid.
Bitcoin Cash does not have one single development team like Bitcoin. There are now multiple independent teams of developers.
5. EOS (EOS)
Billed as a potential “Ethereum Killer,” EOS proposes improvements that can challenge Ethereum as the dominant smart contract platform. One main issue EOS looks to improve is the scalability problems which has plagued the Ethereum network during times of high transaction volume, specifically during popular ICOs.
A perhaps more profound difference EOS has, compared to Ethereum, is the way in which you use the EOS network. With Ethereum, every time you make modifications or interact with the network, you need to pay a fee. With EOS, the creator of the DAPP (decentralized app) can foot the bill, while the user pays nothing. And if you think about it, this makes sense. Would you want to have to pay every time you post something on social media? No, of course not!
In addition to this, EOS has a few other technical advantages over Ethereum such as delegated proof of stake and other protocol changes. Just know that EOS has some serious power under the hood to back up the claim of “Ethereum Killer.”
EOS was created by Dan Larrimer who is no stranger to blockchain or start-ups. He has been the driving force behind multiple successful projects in the past such as BitShares, Graphene and Steem.
6. Stellar Lumens (XLM)
In a nutshell, Stellar Lumens seeks to use blockchain to make very fast international payments with small fees. The network can handle thousands of transactions a second with only a 3-5 second confirmation time.
As you may know, Bitcoin can sometimes take 10-15 minutes for a transaction to confirm, can only handle a few transactions a second and, in turn, has very high transaction fees.
This sounds a lot like Ripple! Stellar Lumens was based on the Ripple protocol and is attempting to do similar things. Some of Stellar Lumens’ main uses will be for making small daily payments (micropayments), sending money internationally, and mobile payments.
Stellar Lumens is focusing on the developing world and, more specifically, the multi-billion dollar industry of migrant workers who send money back to their family in impoverished countries.
The Stellar Lumens team is led by Jed McCaleb, who has worked in numerous successful startups in the past such as eDonkey, Overnet, Ripple, and the infamous Mt. Gox.
7. Litecoin (LTC)
Similar to Bitcoin, Litecoin is a peer-to-peer transaction platform designed to be used as a digital currency. Due to some notable technical improvements, Litecoin is able to handle more transactions at lower costs. Litecoin has been designed to process the small transactions we make daily.
Litecoin is referred to “digital silver” while Bitcoin is known as “digital gold.” This is because traditionally silver was used for small daily transactions while gold was used as a store of wealth and was not used in everyday life.
The Litecoin blockchain is a fork from the Bitcoin chain. It was initially launched in 2011 when its founder, Charlie Lee, was still working for Google. Well-known as a cryptocurrency expert, Charlie Lee is backed by a strong development team who appear to be achieving what they set out to do. They have recently achieved a very notable accomplishment with the first successful atomic swap.
Read more on What is Litecoin?
8. Tether (UDST)
Tether is a cryptocurrency token issued on the Bitcoin blockchain. Each Tether coin is allegedly backed by one US Dollar. The goal is to facilitate transactions with a rate fixed to the USD.
Amongst other things, Tether looks to fix some of the legal issues which can arise when trading cryptocurrencies and it aims to protect people from market volatility.
Tether has faced controversy regarding their business model, and some consider it a scam.
9. Cardano (ADA)
Cardano is a smart contract-focused blockchain. It was originally released under the name Input Output Hong Kong by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood, a few of the early team members of Ethereum, and later rebranded into Cardano.
Cardano is trying to fix some of the largest problems the cryptocurrency world which have been causing ongoing issues for years such as scalability issues and democratized voting.
They have the potential to challenge Ethereum’s dominance in the smart contract world. Cardano is developing their own programing language similar to Ethereum; however, they are focusing more heavily on being interoperable between other cryptocurrencies.
While some cryptocurrencies are all bite but no bark, Cardano is quite the opposite. They are quietly focusing on a strong software which will be completely open-source.
Cardano’s team comprises some of the best minds in the industry, and they seek to create a strong foundation which others can build upon for years to come.
10. IOTA (MIOTA)
IOTA has seen many of the issues Bitcoin and Ethereum have with the PoW (Proof-of-Work) and PoI (Proof-of-Importance) models and looks to improve them with their revolutionary transaction validation network simply called “Tangle.”
When issuing a transaction in IOTA, you validate 2 previous transactions. This means you no longer outsource validation to miners which requires wasteful amounts of computing power and usually a large stake of coins. These required resources are, in effect, centralizing the currencies which many believe were created to be decentralized in the first place.
With IOTA, the more active a ledger is, the more validation there is. In other words, the more people who use it, the faster it gets. You don’t have to subsidize miners, so there are no fees on transactions. That’s right: zero.
The IOTA team has been actively developing blockchain technology since 2011, and created the IOTA foundation and company in 2016. Since its emergence, the team has been continuously growing, attracting exceptional talent from around the world.
11. TRON (TRX)
As stated in TRON’s whitepaper, “TRON is an attempt to heal the internet.” The TRON founders believe that the internet has deviated from its original intention of allowing people to freely create content and post as they please; instead, the internet has been taken over by huge corporations like Amazon, Google, Alibaba and others.
TRON is attempting to take the internet back from these companies by constructing a free content entertainment system. This will enable users to freely store, publish and own data, giving them the power to decide where and how to share.
The project is led by founder Justin Sun, who has been listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list twice (in 2015 and 2017). In addition, Sun is a protégé of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China’s former Ripple representative and the founder of Peiwo APP.
Sun has assembled a strong team with heavy hitters including Binshen Tang (founder of Clash of King), Wei Dai (founder of ofo, the biggest shared bicycles provider in China), and Chaoyong Wang (founder of ChinaEquity Group). Sun has also secured the support of a few notable angel investors such as Xue Manzi.
12. Monero (XMR)
Monero is a digital currency designed to be used as a completely anonymous payment system.
A common misconception with Bitcoin is that it is completely anonymous. In reality, all payments processed on the Bitcoin network are recorded on a public ledger (blockchain), so Bitcoin is actually only partially anonymous or “pseudonymous.”
This means that you can, in theory, trace back every transaction a coin has been involved with from its creation. Though users aren’t able to inherently link the public key on the blockchain with the private keys used to store the coins themselves, there will always exist a correlation between the two.
Monero has solved this problem by implementing cryptonic hashing of receiving addresses, therefore separating the coin from the address it is going to. This can be hugely valuable for anyone wishing to conceal their purchases.
The Monero development team consists of 7 core developers, only two of which are publicly known. There have been over 200 additional contributors to the project and software updates are implemented every six months or so.
13. Dash (DASH)
Dash (which comes from “digital cash”) aims to be the most user-friendly and scalable cryptocurrency in the world. It has the ability to send funds instantly confirmed by “double-send-proof” security with the added functionality of erasable transaction history and the ability to send transactions anonymously.
Like Bitcoin, Dash is meant to be used as a digital currency but has some added values such as much faster transaction times and lower fees. For a slightly higher fee, Dash has the added function of “instant send” which allows transactions to be confirmed almost instantly. This is one of the main selling points of Dash because many believe that this feature would allow it to be used in brick and mortar establishments.
The Dash development team consists of over 50 members and is led by former financial services professional Evan Duffield.
14. Ethereum Classic (ETC)
Ethereum Classic came about after a hard fork of Ethereum in 2016. The fork was a result of the infamous DOA hack where around 50 million dollars worth of Ethereum was stolen due to what was considered an oversight in the code.
The blockchain was forked in order to recoup the losses from this attack, but a small portion of the community did not wish to go back and change the original blockchain. Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum, and subsequently the development team chose to go with the hard fork and work on what is now “Ethereum” today.
15. NEO (NEO)
A leading platform for smart contracts and sometimes referred to as “China’s Ethereum.” NEO (formally Antshares) hopes to digitize many types of assets which were formerly kept in more traditional means, and therefore make it possible to use them in smart contracts.
To imagine a potential use case of NEO, think digitizing the title to a house into a smart asset, and then setting up that asset to automatically transfer to another person after payment for the house has been received. This would be, in effect, a simple smart contract.
NEO founder Da Hongfei is a leading figure in the cryptocurrency world and has worked on numerous blockchain projects in the past. The development team consists of 6 in-house investors and a large community of third-party developers.
16. Binance Coin (BNB)
Binance Coin is the coin used to facilitate operations on the Binance platform, a cryptocurrency exchange that is capable of processing 1.4 million orders per second. The name “Binance” is derived from the combination of the terms “binary” and “finance,” referring to the integration of digital technology and finance.
The BNB coin is used to pay exchange fees, withdrawal fees, listing fees, and all other possible transaction expenses on the Binance platform. In order to incentivize new users to do their cryptocurrency trading on Binance, the team is offering discounts when BNB is used to pay fees. The discount will be 50% in the first year, 25% in the second, 12.5% in the third, and 6.25% in the fourth year before the discount ends.
Binance was primarily marketed to Chinese cryptocurrency investors at first, but they also have English, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Russian versions of the platform.
17. NEM (XEM)
NEM (New Economy Movement) is the world’s first Proof-of-Importance (PoI) enterprise based on blockchain technology. With a focus on business use cases, the software was built from the ground up with adaptability in mind. NEM’s goal is for companies to use their “smart asset system” to implement customizable blockchains. A smart asset can be almost anything: a cryptocurrency token, a business’s stock or a company’s invoicing and records.
Some potential use cases for NEM’s technology include: voting, crowdfunding, stock ownership, keeping secure records, loyalty rewards point programs, mobile payments and escrow services. A list of NEM’s use cases can be found here.
The development of NEM is monitored by the Singapore-based NEM Foundation.
18. VeChain (VET)
As described in VeChain’s development plan, the organization’s purpose is to build “a trust-free and distributed business ecosystem based on the Blockchain technology self-circulated and expanding.”
They plan to do this by creating an efficient trustless business ecosystem to significantly reduce the wasteful information transfer systems of today.
Some of the areas and industries the VeChain platform is focusing on include eliminating counterfeiting in the fashion and luxury industry, food safety tracking systems, digitizing maintenance in the car industry and many other global supply chain processes.
19. Tezos (XTZ)
Tezos is a smart contracts platform hot off their wildly successful and controversial ICO. Tezos is working to create a cryptocurrency “commonwealth” where the holders of XTZ tokens have the ability to vote in new protocols, which will effectively give users full control over the future of the blockchain.
In addition, this allows for Tezos processes to incrementally change and improve overtime, instead of requiring the radical changes every now and then that tend to lead to hard forks.
With Tezos, users can vote for rewards to be allocated to developers who are making great contributions to projects, and therefore incentivizing the development of the platform.
Tezos has a few technological differences when compared to Ethereum such as the use of dPoS, the unique ability to upgrade without the need of a fork, and formal verification which allows for code to be mathematically proven to be correct. This is particularly useful in the case of sensitive calculations needed in fields such as aircraft design and nuclear development.
20. Zcash (ZEC)
Zcash is a value transfer protocol forked off the Bitcoin blockchain. Zcash can be used like Bitcoin, with a few added improvements. With “zero cash technology,” Zcash shields both the amount transferred and the senders, making transactions truly anonymous.
Zcash is one of the new kids on the block in the world of “private transactions.”
An interesting note is that Ethereum is in the process of implementing some of Zcash’s technologies to enable transactions on the Ethereum network to be anonymous as well.
Zcash is being developed by the Zerocoin Electric Coin Company. They’ve had some great successes, most notably JP Morgan’s announcement that they would implement Zcash’s privacy technology to Quarum, a technology JP built on Ethereum.
Bonus coin: DOGECOIN (DOGE)
Dogecoin is a peer-to-peer electronic payment system based on the popular 2013 meme of the Shiba Inu dog. It was a fork of Luckycoin, which was itself a fork of Litecoin. The coin uses a PoW script mining algorithm similar to Bitcoin; however, while Bitcoin has a limited number of coins, there is no limit to the number of Dogecoins which can be created. The current rate of Dogecoin creation is over 5,000,000,000 coins a year.
Dogecoin is one of the oldest altcoins in existence, and for that reason, they have a relatively large community. The Reddit page has about 90,000 shibes (the group name for their community members).
Dogecoin is an excellent coin to use for micro transactions and is commonly used for tipping on articles. The coin is a sort of self-proclaimed “joke coin” which has gained a lot of popularity.