The value of cryptocurrency market surpassed $2 trillion on April 5, 2021 with Bitcoin (BTC) the largest digital currency accounting for over 50% of the cryptocurrency market capitalization. When most people think of cryptocurrency, they think of Bitcoin. But Bitcoin isn’t the only digital currency making waves in the market. Here are ten of the most popular cryptocurrencies with information about why and when they were created, their current market cap, and current volume.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
About: Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency originally described in a 2008 whitepaper by a person, or group of people, using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer online currency, meaning that all transactions happen directly between equal, independent network participants, without the need for any intermediary to permit or facilitate them.
Why It Was Created: Bitcoin was created on January 12, 2009, to allow “online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution,” according to Nakamoto. Third parties incur significant costs for conducting financial services and transactions; these costs are then passed on to end users and can restrict transactions below a certain size. Banks, card associations (like Visa), and other large incumbents’ own today’s electronic payments system and impose a lot of fees—Visa alone generated over 13B USD in revenue in 2015. Bypassing these players was certainly a motivating factor for creating Bitcoin.
- Start Date: January 2009
- Whitepaper - Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System
2. Ethereum (ETH)
About: Ethereum is a decentralized open-source blockchain system that features its own cryptocurrency, Ether. ETH works as a platform for numerous other cryptocurrencies, as well as for the execution of decentralized smart contracts.
Why It Was Created: Ethereum’s goal is to become a global platform for decentralized applications, allowing users from all over the world to write and run software that is resistant to censorship, downtime, and fraud. Ethereum’s principal innovation was designing a platform that allowed it to execute smart contracts using the blockchain, which further reinforces the already existing benefits of smart contract technology.
- Start Date: July 2015
- Ethereum whitepaper by Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum
3. Binance Coin (BNB)
About: Binance Coin is an exchange-based token created and issued by the cryptocurrency exchange Binance. Initially created on the Ethereum blockchain as an ERC-20 token in July 2017, BNB was migrated over to Binance Chain in February 2019 and became its native coin.
Why It Was Created: BNB was initially created as part of the Binance exchange through its initial coin offering (ICO). BNB was designed to be used to pay discounted fees on the Binance platform and function as the native token powering the Binance Chain.
- Start Date: July 2017
- Binance whitepaper
4. Tether (USDT)
About: By leveraging Blockchain technology, Tether allows you to store, send, and receive digital tokens pegged to dollars, euros, and offshore Chinese yuan person to person, globally, instantly, and securely for a fraction of the cost of any alternative.
Why It Was Created: Tether constitutes the first Bitcoin-based fiat-pegged cryptocurrency in existence today. Tethers are fully reserved in a one-to -one ratio, completely independent of market forces, pricing, or liquidity constraints. Tether has a simple and reliable Proof-of-Reserve implementation and undergoes regular professional audits. In regard to Tether (USDT), it is pegged to the price of USD. Being backed by USD means that for every Tether (USDT) issued, there is an equivalent amount of USD kept in a reserve. Tether’s one-to-one ratio to USD is not perfect, but it tracks pretty closely, decreasing volatility risk. Tether Limited, the issuer of the coin, holds fiat in amounts that they believe to be the amount of Tether (USDT) in circulation.
- Start Date: July 2014
- Whitepaper - Tether: Fiat currencies on the Bitcoin blockchain
5. Cardano (ADA)
About: The ADA token is designed to ensure that owners can participate in the operation of the network. Because of this, those who hold the cryptocurrency have the right to vote on any proposed changes to the software. The team behind the layered blockchain say that there have already been some compelling use cases for its technology, which aims to allow decentralized apps and smart contracts to be developed with modularity. Cardano is one of the biggest blockchains to successfully use a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, which is less energy intensive than the proof-of-work algorithm relied upon by Bitcoin.
Why It Was Created: Cardano’s goal is to allow “changemakers, innovators, and visionaries” to bring about positive global change. The open-source project also aims to “redistribute power from unaccountable structures to the margins to individuals” — helping to create a society that is more secure, transparent, and fair.
- Start Date: September 2017
- Whitepaper: Why we are building Cardano
6. Polkadot (DOT)
About: Polkadot is an open-source sharding multichain protocol that facilitates the cross-chain transfer of any data or asset types, not just tokens, thereby making a wide range of blockchains interoperable with each other. This interoperability seeks to establish a fully decentralized and private web, controlled by its users, and simplify the creation of new applications, institutions, and services.
Why It Was Created: Created in 2016, Polkadot’s native DOT token serves three clear purposes: governing networks, operating networks, and creating parachains (parallel chains) by bonding. The main goal of the project is to create a platform that allows different blockchains to interact with each other, but the project developers do not intend to stop there. The vision of the project is to create a fully decentralized Internet 3.0 based on Web3.
- Start Date: May 2020
- Whitepaper - Polkadot: Vision for a hetergeneous multi-chain framework
7. Ripple (XRP)
About: XRP is a digital asset built for payments. It is the native digital as set on the XRP Ledger—an open-source, permissionless, and decentralized blockchain technology that can settle transactions in three to five seconds. XRP can be sent directly without needing a central intermediary, making it a convenient instrument in bridging two different currencies quickly and efficiently. It’s important to understand the difference between XRP, Ripple, and RippleNet. XRP is the currency that runs on a digital payment platform called RippleNet, which is on top of a distributed ledger database called XRP Ledger. While RippleNet is run by a company called Ripple, the XRP Ledger is open-source and not based on blockchain, but rather the previously mentioned distributed ledger database. The RippleNet payment platform is a real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system that aims to enable instant monetary transactions globally. While XRP is the cryptocurrency native to the XRP Ledger, you can use any currency to transact on the platform.
Why It Was Created: XRP was created by Ripple to be a speedy, less costly, and more scalable alternative to both other digital assets and existing monetary payment platforms like SWIFT. Governments favor XRP's transparency and the fact that Ripple has established, real-world, viable partnerships versus focusing its efforts on the mere chase of investors. Ripple also aims for XRP to integrate with banks, governments, and the current financial system, placing it at a competitive advantage over those in opposition. Ripple has signed over 300 banking and financial partner institutions all over the world, including Bank of America, HSBC, Accenture, MoneyGram, and the National Bank of Egypt, just to name a few.
- Start Date: 2012, Stable release: May 15, 2018
- Whitepaper: Ripple Labs Inc: The Ripple Protocol Consensus
About: Uniswap is a fully decentralized crypto exchange meaning it isn’t owned or operated by a single entity and it uses a relatively new type of trading model called an automated liquidity protocol. This works by incentivizing people trading on the exchange to become liquidity providers (LPs). Uniswap users pool their money together to create a fund that is used to execute all trades that take place on the platform. Each token listed has its own pool that users can contribute to, and the prices for each token are worked out using a math algorithm run by a computer—with this system, a buyer or seller does not have to wait for an opposite party to appear to complete a trade. Instead, they can execute any trade instantly at a known price provided there is enough liquidity in the pool to facilitate it.
Why It Was Created: Uniswap is a protocol for creating liquidity and trading ERC-20 tokens on Ethereum. It eliminates trusted intermediaries and unnecessary forms of rent extraction, allowing for fast, efficient trading. Decentralization, censorship resistance, and security are prioritized. Uniswap is open-source software licensed under GPL.
- Start Date: November 2018
- Whitepaper: Uniswap v2 Core
9. Litecoin (LTC)
About: Litecoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency was created based on the Bitcoin protocol, but it differs in terms of the hashing algorithm used, hard cap, block transaction times and a few other factors.
Why it Was Created: Litecoin was created on October 7, 2011. The intention behind Litecoin was to create a "lite version of Bitcoin," and its developers have always stated that Litecoin can be seen as the "silver" to Bitcoin's "gold." Litecoin differs from Bitcoin in its prioritization of transaction confirmation speed, which is about 2.5 minutes per block. However, Litecoin users may have to wait up to around 30 minutes for their transaction to be processed because of network congestion.
- Start Date: October 2011
10. Chainlink (LINK)
About: Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that aims to connect smart contracts with real-world data. LINK, the cryptocurrency native to the Chainlink decentralized oracle network, is used to pay node operators. Since the Chainlink network has a reputation system, node providers that have a large amount of LINK can be rewarded with larger contracts, while a failure to deliver accurate information results in a deduction of tokens.
Why It Was Created: Chainlink is a platform that aims to bridge the gap between blockchain technology-based smart contracts (made widespread by Ethereum), and real-world applications. Since blockchains cannot access data outside their network, oracles (a defi instrument) are needed to function as data feeds in smart contracts. In Chainlink's case, the oracles are connected to the Ethereum network. Participants on the Chainlink network are incentivized (through rewards) to provide smart contracts with access to external data feeds like API information.
- Start Date: September 2017
- Whitepaper: ChainLink A Decentralized Oracle Network
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