When people hear the word cryptocurrency, they immediately think of bitcoin. However, there’s a whole pool of altcoins that have taken the original bitcoin framework and added their own innovative spin to it in order to set themselves apart. Some are easier to mine than bitcoin, others offer more anonymity and others are backed by governments or corporations. As of this writing, there are more than 1,600 different altcoins available, and below we’ll go over a handful of the most popular ones.
Described as the silver to bitcoin’s gold, Litecoin was launched in 2011 by Charlie Lee, an MIT graduate and former Google engineer. Unlike bitcoin, it uses “scrypt” as proof of work, allowing for faster block generation and transaction confirmation. Like bitcoin, there are many merchants who currently accept Litecoin payments.
Etherium was one of the first cryptos to use the blockchain to transfer other things beyond currency. Using their token, ether, users can transfer smart contracts, deeds or distributed applications, all without any downtime, fraud or third-party interference. As of 2016, Etherium was split into Etherium (ETH) and Etherium Classic (ETC).
Originally called Darkcoin, Dash is the anonymity focused altcoin. Unlike bitcoin, it works on a decentralized master code that makes transactions virtually untraceable. It can also be mined using both CPU or GPU, making mining more accessible to more people.
Launched in 2014, Monero is another altcoin that focuses on preserving user anonymity and preventing transactions from being traced. It does this with a unique system called “ring signatures” that logs multiple false cryptographic signatures along with a single real one for each transaction. Because of this, it’s impossible to determine which signature is authentic, obscuring the real transfer details.
Also known as the Petromoneda, this is the official altcoin of the Venezuelan government. Supposedly backed by the country’s oil and mineral reserves, it was launched in 2018 as an alternative to their plummeting currency, the bolivar, and as a way to circumvent American financial sanctions and access the international financial system. The US has banned its citizens from purchasing or owning Petro, as doing so would violate the currently imposed sanctions against Venezuela.