The incredible popularity of Bitcoin (Bitcoin) has spawned many imitators. Over the last 8 years, at least several thousand new altcoins have been released. Of course, most have vanished in the oblivion,—probably because they were just scam schemes to make a quick profit from the very beginning. But there are others, too, and some of them look like they are here to stay.
Smaller cryptocurrencies are usually more volatile than Bitcoin, and although this means a higher risk, it also gives investors an excellent opportunity to make a profit.
Here are the top 5 most valuable cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin according to price and market cap.
Ethereum (ETH/USD) is a software platform that enables decentralized smart contracts and distributed applications (DApps). The platform runs on its own cryptographic token, ether, which is used somewhat as a “fuel” for its applications. While Bitcoin is often referred to as the digital gold (because of its difficult “mining” process, limited supply, and certain investment qualities) Ethereum is sometimes called “digital oil”.
Released in 2015, Ethereum managed to earn a very strong reputation. Many cryptocurrency experts believe that it is a more attractive investment vehicle than even Bitcoin.
So far, the market capitalization of the “digital oil” ($28 billion) is about two and a half times lower than one of Bitcoin. At the same time, many investors are betting on ethereum for its future potential, including software giants such as Microsoft and IBM. Ethereum has also become the platform of choice to kickstart new projects through ICO (Initial Coin Offering), and many new tokens are created based on its underlying ERC-20 standard.
XRP is a native currency of the Ripple platform, a real-time global settlement network and currency exchange that offers instant and low-cost international payments. Launched in 2012, Ripple is designed to enable “secure, instant and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks”. According to some cryptocurrency enthusiasts, the platform may someday become an “alternative to SWIFT” as a means of interbank transfer.
Ripple is already used by many large companies and banks, including BBVA, Mizuho, Mitsubishi UFJ, UniCredit, UBS, and Santander. The company is supported by investors such as Accenture, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures and Seagate.
Earlier this year, Ripple has seen a rapid rise in price. At the moment, XRP has a market cap of $7 billion, but sometimes it happens to surge past Ethereum and even bite bitcoin's heels.
Launched in the year 2011 and sometimes referred to as “digital silver”, Litecoin was inspired by Bitcoin, and in most regards is still technically identical to it. However, it has a faster block generation rate and hence offers a faster transaction confirmation. Moreover, Litecoin was one of the first crypto currencies to implement SegWit protocol, which allows a greater number of transactions to be processed by the network in a given time. The project is still actively developed by its famous creator Charlie Lee.
For years, Litecoin stayed in the shadow of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, trading around $3—4 dollars per token. This March, however, right before the SegWit protocol implementation, the “digital silver” has seen a rapid surge in price. Now LTC is trading close to a $50 mark and, according to most experts, will continue to grow. The cryptocurrency is traded on most exchanges, and is also accepted by a growing number of merchants.
This digital currency and blockchain platform was launched in early 2015 and gained fame quickly. It differs from many other digital currencies in that it’s completely open source and community-oriented from the ground up. NEM also features a number of interesting innovations. For instance, the cryptocurrency uses the POI (Proof-Of-Importance) algorithm to time stamp transactions. POI is a modification of the “proof-of-stake” algorithm, where a user's importance is determined by how many coins and transactions they have made. This was designed to encourage users not simply hold the cryptocurrency but instead actively carry out transactions.
This year, a major update is expected: NEM will switch from Java to C ++. The new version, Catapult, will be able to handle up to 3000 transactions per second. Also, a NEM-based ICO platform named COMSA is being developed. According to Tech Bureau, the platform will significantly optimize fundraising in digital currency.
NEM is popular not only in its home country, Japan, but is also actively traded on many major exchanges, including Poloniex and Bittrex.
Dash (originally known as Xcoin or Darkcoin) was launched in January 2014. It is a combination of several cryptographic algorithms and all transactions are anonymous thanks to the Darksend protocol. Mining Dash tokens requires less energy as compared to Bitcoin. All decisions on the system development are made not by a small group of programmers, but by all members of the Dash network through the decentralized management mechanism.
Unlike most cryptocurrencies, where all tasks on the network are performed by miners, Dash utilizes so-called masternodes which perform governance functions, while the miners are responsible mostly for creating new blocks. Because masternodes provide vital network functions, the block reward is split between miners and masternodes. Another distinct feature of DASH is the use of the X11 hash algorithm.