A cryptocurrency is a fully decentralized, secure, digital currency whose creation is controlled by cryptography. Cryptocurrencies are not issued by central banks and their value does not depend on bank policies. Unlike regular currencies where new money can be introduced in the money supply through Quantitative Easing (QE), cryptocurrency prices are purely based on supply and demand. Bitcoin, created in 2009, was the first cryptocurrency. There currently are over 800 alternative cryptocurrencies, called Altcoins, such as Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin.
Bitcoin: This digital system based on the blockchain was conceived in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, with its identity unknown to this day. Currently occupies the first position in the ranking of market capitalization and has various forks, representing the variation of existing cryptocurrency, but acting as an independent entity, emerged since 2017. Forks such as Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Cash, with the total number of forks currently exceeding ten. Unlike other cryptocurrencies such as Ripple or Ethereum, the production of Bitcoin will continue to reach 21 million Bitcoin.
But while cryptocurrencies are more used for payment, its use as a means of speculation and a store of value dwarfs the payment aspects. Cryptocurrencies gave birth to an incredibly dynamic, fast-growing market for investors and speculators. Exchanges like Okcoin, poloniex or shapeshift enables the trade of hundreds of cryptocurrencies. Their daily trade volume exceeds that of major European stock exchanges.
Before we take a closer look at some of these alternatives to bitcoin, let’s step back and briefly examine what we mean by terms like cryptocurrency and altcoin. A cryptocurrency, broadly defined, is virtual or digital money which takes the form of tokens or “coins.” While some cryptocurrencies have ventured into the physical world with credit cards or other projects, the large majority remain entirely intangible. The “crypto” in cryptocurrencies refers to complicated cryptography which allows for a particular digital token to be generated, stored, and transacted securely and, typically, anonymously. Alongside this important “crypto” feature of these currencies is a common commitment to decentralization; cryptocurrencies are typically developed as code by teams who build in mechanisms for issuance (often, although not always, through a process called “mining”) and other controls. Cryptocurrencies are almost always designed to be free from government manipulation and control, although as they have grown more popular this foundational aspect of the industry has come under fire.
Ripple is a real-time global settlement network that offers instant, certain and low-cost international payments. Launched in 2012, ripple “enables banks to settle cross-border payments in real time, with end-to-end transparency, and at lower costs.” Ripple’s consensus ledger (its method of conformation) is unique in that it doesn’t require mining. In this way, ripple sets itself apart from bitcoin and many other altcoins. Since Ripple’s structure doesn't require mining, it reduces the usage of computing power, and minimizes network latency. Ripple believes that “distributing value is a powerful way to incentivize certain behaviors” and thus currently plans to distribute XRP primarily “through business development deals, incentives to liquidity providers who offer tighter spreads for payments, and selling XRP to institutional buyers interested in investing in XRP.” So far, ripple has seen success with this model; it remains one of the most enticing digital currencies among traditional financial institutions looking for ways to revolutionize cross-border payments.
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Just figure out, what coin do you want to buy and seek for a stable wallet version. As a rule, each coin has its official wallet client. Note that each wallet has its unique address or a tag with a private key that is required to restore your wallet if lost. CoinSwitch never asks your private keys. Store them in a safe place and never show anyone. Once private keys are stolen, your cryptocurrency wallet with all the coins will be lost forever.
The term altcoin has various similar definitions. Stephanie Yang of The Wall Street Journal defined altcoins as "alternative digital currencies," while Paul Vigna, also of The Wall Street Journal, described altcoins as alternative versions of bitcoin. Aaron Hankins of the MarketWatch refers to any cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin as altcoins.