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What are Altcoins?

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Various of altcoins in NZ

So you’ve heard about Bitcoin, and maybe you know some of the things that are unique about Bitcoin as a currency. But are you aware that Bitcoin is not the only digital currency out there?

….Welcome to the world of alt-coins!

Before we get in to alt-coins though, let’s take a quick retrospective to understand how and why alt-coins came about.

The first digital currency, Bitcoin, was a ground-breaking development. For decades, people had been trying to establish a system for an electronic currency. However there were technical challenges that no one had been able to solve, particularly around how a system could ensure that each digital coin couldn’t exist (and be spent!) in two places at once. 

This all changed in 2008 with the publication of a paper that set out the details of a peer-to-peer payments network called “Bitcoin”. Bitcoin was the first real solution that had ever been proposed for a digital currency that would work in the real world.

Cryptocurrency coins falling with a bitcoin logo in front of a trading graph

While Bitcoin was truly revolutionary, it was very much the “first generation” of digital currencies. And when you think of your first computer or first mobile phone, we know that technology can improve significantly with each iteration. Bitcoin, as the original digital currency, has some big drawbacks – most notably it is very slow, costly and energy inefficient.

But that isn’t true for all digital currencies. Many newer currencies have built on foundations that Bitcoin set and gone on to solve for Bitcoin’s limitations, or to develop entirely new ways of doing things.

Various altcoins cryptocurrency logos infront of a trading graph with a world map behind

What are some promising altcoins?

As at 23 January 2018, there are 1474 different cryptocurrencies out there, and more are being added every week! While that’s probably too many to learn about all of them, here are a few of the more popular altcoins:

  • Ethereum – more than just a currency, Ethereum is a platform that enables other currencies and applications to be built on top of it. While the Bitcoin network simply records transactions, Ethereum goes beyond this and enables smart contracts, ie contracts that will automatically execute when certain conditions are met, no human oversight needed!
  • Ripple – unlike most cryptocurrencies, which shy away from centralised control and formal institutions, Ripple is a semi-centralised currency that aims to work with banks around the world to make international transactions cheaper and faster.
  • IOTA – with a uniquely different infrastructure from any other cryptocurrency, IOTA enables super fast payments with no transaction fees. That’s right, zero fees. Because of its ability to process micro payments at high speeds and no cost, IOTA has the potential to open up whole new economies that we’ve never seen before.
  • Litecoin – commonly known as “the silver to Bitcoin’s gold”, Litecoin is very similar to Bitcoin, but faster, cheaper and more energy efficient.

Stay tuned for our in-depth series on alt-coins. And if you want to purchase these, or other cryptocurrencies, the easiest and cheapest way to buy is right here at Easy Crypto.

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