When Bitcoin officially came out in 2009, it was nothing short of revolutionary, although it took a few years for the mainstream public to appreciate this. However, many fintech (finance technology) fans saw immediate opportunities, and it wasn’t long before Bitcoin inspired the development of other types of virtual cryptocurrencies. The first contenders debuted as early as 2011.
Today, there are not hundreds, but thousands of competing cryptocurrencies, all at least partially inspired or motivated by Bitcoin’s success. Collectively, any virtual currency that isn’t Bitcoin is known as altcoin (i.e. alternative to Bitcoin).
The most popular virtual currencies after Bitcoin
Although Bitcoin (BTC) remains the clear favorite (current market value, ~$440), a few altcoins have gained traction and developed a decent following and market valuations. Here are some of the big names in cryptocurrency today other than Bitcoin:
•–Litecoin (LTC) – one of the first successful competitors for BTC, Litecoin was released in 2011. It works along the same principles as Bitcoin but with a lighter, more efficient mining procedure (hence the name).
•–Ethereum (ETH) – a relative newcomer, Ethereum went live in July 2015. The currency unit itself is called ether, and uses a fixed release scale (as opposed to Bitcoin which uses a deflationary scale).
•–Dash (DASH) –Dash was introduced to the cryptocurrency markets in early 2014 under the name XCoin, which was promptly changed to Darkcoin and finally rebranded as Dash last year. It claims to add true anonymity to transactions (BTC is pseudo-anonymous).
•–Dogecoin (DOGE) – believe it or not, this cryptocurrency with a market cap of over $23 million (1 DOGE is ~$0.0002) started as a joke on Reddit. You know that meme with the dog who laughs at his own corny jokes? That’s the “Doge” in Dogecoin. This altcoin’s biggest strength is its community of followers.
•–Peercoin (PPC) – Peercoin came on the scene in 2012, and rewards miners not only for their “proof of work”, but also “proof of stake”, i.e. how invested they are in the currency.