Since Bitcoin first emerged in 2008, cryptocurrency has already gone through a major boom. Seemingly overnight, thousands of different cryptocurrencies emerged in a dynamic, fast-moving industry.
As time has gone by, many have faded into obscurity, but some have maintained their position, even consolidating on it to steadily grow in both status and value. These are the most commonly-known cryptocurrencies in use today, and often the most stable in a marketplace known for its volatility.
Below, you can find a brief overview of the six most well-known and popular cryptocurrencies today:
Even if you are just starting to dip your toes into the water of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is the one that you have probably seen in the news. As the original digital currency and the asset that introduced Blockchain to the world, it is often considered the “King.” Its position at the top is marked by enjoying the highest market cap, exchange volume, and usage worldwide – something that seems unlikely to change soon.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin Cash emerged nine years after Bitcoin on August 1st, 2017 after a controversial hard fork in the Bitcoin blockchain’s network. In layman’s terms, a hard fork is when miners adopt new guidelines and rules to create new blockchain. While this may not sound controversial, this hard fork does represent a split in consensus within the Bitcoin community.
As Bitcoin grew, the community disagreed about how to best scale the Bitcoin Blockchain so that it would run smoothly. Unfortunately, the two sides could not agree on a mutual resolution, which led to a hard fork when one side took another path to create the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. This controversy has dogged Bitcoin Cash and left it open to criticism from detractors – but despite its rocky beginnings, it is now a popular cryptocurrency.
Unlike Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum is more than just another digital currency. It’s also a platform cryptocurrency, otherwise known as a distributed computing platform. While the Ethereum token acts just like any other cryptocurrency, its blockchain allows for dapp (decentralized application) development – which means it can leverage the power of thousands of computers across its network.
Dapps which run on the Ethereum platform pay in ETH to use the platform, while the tokens themselves are mined the same way as Bitcoin, through solving cryptographic hashes. Ethereum’s value lies in its high adaptation rates and robust growth – which has given it a comfortable position in the top three.
Ethereum Classic (ETC)
Bitcoin was not the only coin to have a hard fork: Ethereum Classic is a result of a hard fork to the Ethereum blockchain. The hard fork was once again due to a lack of consensus within the Ethereum community on technical matters. Ethereum Classic did not grow as explosively as Bitcoin Cash, but many speculators believe that its current underperformance marks a significant future opportunity with plenty of room for growth.
Litecoin first came onto the scene in 2011. Developed by Charlie Lee, it shares much of its architecture with Bitcoin, most notably its Blockchain. For this reason, like many other coins, it is considered an Altcoin – a cryptocurrency alternative to Bitcoin. Litecoin is often an attractive digital currency to newcomers since it offers a fast network speed combined with a healthy market cap and volume.
Ripple is a major cryptocurrency that offers more than just digital currency. The XRP token itself is a currency that serves a decentralized payments blockchain. This blockchain uses confirmation by consensus to allow virtually instantaneous asset transfer without even moving the transfers.
This singularly useful trait has made XRP the cryptocurrency of favor for most government and financial institutions – particularly as banking transfers are slow, cumbersome, and expensive. Ripple represents a significant investment opportunity for cryptocurrency traders simply due to the likelihood of institutional use.