Bitcoin, a digital currency issued on the Bitcoin blockchain, is the first and the most famous cryptocurrency. It’s so widely known that many people use term Bitcoin and cryptocurrency interchangeably. However, there are other cryptocurrencies (aka altcoins) that run on different blockchains and offer a range of applications and technological advantages or tradeoffs.
Markets remain diversified, with many coexisting coins providing a variety of features. Long-term investors hedge their bets, investing in a portfolio of the leading cryptocurrencies, trying to catch the one that could become the future Microsoft or Apple. Short-term traders enjoy the forex-like market volatility, leveraging the fluctuating prices and uncertain regulatory environment. Whether you are an aspiring investor or a trader, it’s good to know alternative cryptocurrencies so that you can make better investment decisions. Here are the 5 top crypto coins worth researching.
Ethereum (ETH) is the second biggest cryptocurrency in the world, according to the Coinmarketcap. The majority of websites and wallets use the term Ethereum for the platform, the blockchain, and the cryptocurrency even though the coin itself is called Ether, a term rarely used.
The concept of Ethereum was first proposed by a young Russian researcher and programmer, Vitalik Buterin. The biggest advantage of Ethereum is the introduction of self-executable smart contracts, often called decentralized applications (DApps). Smart contracts are mini-programs that can execute any function or condition, often the issuance of new crypto tokens. Anyone can use the Ethereum programming language, Solidity, to create tokens, build decentralized applications, and run them on the Ethereum Virtual Machine. The majority of current crypto tokens are made using Ethereum’s ERC20 standard. Ethereum competitors in the tokenization niche include NEO, EOS, Stellar, and Cardano.
Ethereum is often part of a diversified crypto investment portfolio. Benefits of ETH include the intrinsic value of the platform other than monetary transactions and the broad adoption by blockchain projects, tech startups, and companies interested in token issuance and asset tokenization.
The name Ripple may refer to the company (Ripple Labs), the Ripple network (RippleNet) that executes transactions, the Ripple blockchain, or the XRP coins used in the operations.
The Ripple blockchain provides an alternative to slow, costly, and outdated financial transfer systems such as SWIFT. Using Ripple, large companies can quickly transfer money abroad, while bypassing the traditional currency exchange rates and additional banking costs.
Unlike decentralized and open-source blockchains, Ripple is a centralized and for-profit company that hopes to monetize its cross-border transfer solution. The founders famously used traditional funding channels to raise significant seed capital from global banks and public investors. It makes Ripple more trustworthy in the higher corporate echelons and almost uniformly despised by the crypto enthusiasts who believe in decentralized finance.
Benefits of Ripple include transaction speed and scalability. XRP settlements take approximately 5 seconds, while the BTC settlement speed is around 10min (the average time it takes to create a new block on the Bitcoin blockchain). Ripple is also more scalable at the moment; it can support over 1500 transactions per second (TPS) as opposed to Bitcoin’s 7 TPS.
Litecoin is considered one of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the world. It was developed in 2011 as a solution to Bitcoin’s low transactional speed and scalability issues. It was meant to complement Bitcoin’s store of value status with faster and cheaper transactions.
Based on the same source code as Bitcoin, Litecoin retains many Bitcoin features. It uses Proof-of-Work based consensus. New coins are mined, which provides a sense of scarcity that’s meant to boost the coin’s inherent value. LTC and BTC’s numbers are capped at a certain number; there are 84million Litecoins to 21million Bitcoin, and both coins can use similar technologies such as the Lightning Network to speed up transactions in the future.
LTC differences include:
- Shorter block time (2,5min instead of 10min per block)
- Different hashing algorithm (Scrypt, instead of SHA-256)
- More expensive mining setup (memory heavy vs. processing heavy).
Many crypto enthusiasts point out the redundancy of Litecoin in the sea of newer and faster coins focused on the payment niche. However, Litecoin remains one of the older and better-known coins with a large market cap and an active community of investors, which makes it an exciting currency for speculators.
EOS blockchain and native cryptocurrency (EOS) are in direct competition with Ethereum. The open-source project offers a smart contracts platform with minimal fees and millions of transactions per second capability.
EOS white paper was only published in 2017, claiming a solution to previous blockchains’ scalability issues by introducing a delegated proof of stake consensus. Since then, the cryptocurrency quickly rose to the high 7th position in the Coinmarketcap (as per Dec 2019).
Critics of DPoS solution point out that EOS obtains higher network throughput and potential scalability at the cost of decentralization and security. EOS network has only 21 so-called block producers. Advantages of EOS platform include:
- Easy environment and tools for DApps developers
- Ultra-low fees (aiming at zero fees in the future)
Despite severe criticism from decentralization activists, EOS coin is in popular demand, and the DPoS consensus concept animates further research and development throughout the crypto communities. The platform is still relatively new, and it will have to work harder to entice developers and startups to tokenize on EOS rather than Ethereum.
Bitcoin Cash is a hard fork of Bitcoin that split away in 2017 and is currently the fifth-largest cryptocurrency, according to the Coinmarketcap.
Advantages of BCH, as opposed to BTC, may include future scalability thanks to larger block sizes that allow more transactions per block and faster settlements. Proponents of BCH point to the excellent results of the network stress test in 2018 that saw over 700k successful operations in a day. BCH can currently process circa 116 transactions per second. The coin also has many compatible wallets and a vibrant community that broke away from the Bitcoin classic and continues to develop BCH and promote its global adoption.
Critics point out to the recent BTC, BCH, and BSV feuds about the block size that ranged from philosophical debates to twitter wars, and might have confused and alienated some of the mainstream media and investors.
There is an ongoing discussion about which coin is most likely to succeed in the financial markets thanks to its technological and socio-economic advantages. The potential winner of this race, if there is ever a winner, could dominate the market in terms of adoption and application across industries. Many hope that buying into the right cryptocurrency long-term could be similar to investing in early Microsoft or Apple.
Bitcoin maximalists believe Bitcoin will be the only functional coin of the future, while proponents of Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, or Bitcoin SV think their chosen coins are optimal for the long-term growth and adoption. Like with the dotcom bubble, only time will tell which cryptocurrencies, if any, remains successful over time and how the blockchain technology continues to disrupt various industries.
In the meantime, as an aspiring crypto investor, you should always do your own research, watch market movements, and follow recent developments in the blockchain and cryptocurrency niches.
This article is an expression of authors’ views and publically available information about cryptocurrencies. This article does not constitute financial or investment advice.