This page provides a beginner-friendly summary of some noteworthy cryptocurrencies. These descriptions go into very little technical detail. They do not indicate how far along these projects are, nor the challenges they realistically face. Please do additional research before forming an opinion about any of these altcoins.
0x is an open, permissionless protocol allowing for ERC-20 tokens to be traded on the Ethereum blockchain. It offers a cheaper and faster solution than possible on the Ethereum blockchain directly, and is often used to help build DEXs. Users place their orders off-chain, which removes the need to pay fees. Only the actual transfers of value occur on-chain. Relayers broadcast all the off-chain orders of the 0x network to the rest of the network to match buyers with sellers. 0x is already being used by a number of blockchain projects.
Ark aims to create an ecosystem of linked blockchains using a technology called SmartBridge -- which allows existing blockchains to interface with one another. This altcoin uses a Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus system originally developed by Bitshares. It features 8 second block times, making transactions nearly instantaneous. Several founders are the key developers behind Lisk.
Augur is a decentralized prediction market built on top of Ethereum. A prediction market allows for the forecasting the outcomes of arbitrary future events (such as who will win an election, or if an earthquake will hit a given city, etc). Reputation is an important part of Augur’s success. By having a mechanism that incentives honest reporting by coin holders, Augur is able to operate with significantly lower fees than a centralized betting platform. Vitalik Buterin is an advisor.
A controversial hard fork of Bitcoin created in August 2017 as a reaction to SegWit being adopted. Bitcoin Cash attempts to solve scalability issues using larger block sizes in order to reduce transaction fees. It is derogatorily referred to as "bcash".
Blocknet aims to be the "Internet of Blockchains". What if the features of one blockchain could function as services accessible to users of every other cryptocurrency? Blocknet is a general-purpose infrastructure for inter-blockchain services, similar to Ark.
Cardano aims to solve a number of issues that Ethereum reportedly has. It has a multi-tiered architecture, where one layer is focused on transactions and accounts and the other layer is for smart contracts. This allows for easier upgrades and enhanced flexibility. It plans to feature on-chain governance, including a treasury where the community can then vote on how to fund the competition. It uses a Proof of Stake system called Ouroboros.
Civic is a decentralized identity ecosystem, where a user or company can request to verify the identity of another in a safe and cost-effective way that isn't tied directly to their personal information. For example, a user can use Civic to verify with a company that they are a US citizen without providing said documents to that company directly. Vinny Lingham is the CEO.
Short for "Digital Cash", this project aims to be a user-friendly payment system. It offers instant transactions (InstantSend), private transactions (PrivateSend) and operates a self-governing and self-funding model that enables the Dash network to pay individuals and businesses to perform work that adds value to the network. Dash's decentralized governance and budgeting system makes it a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Dash uses a Proof-of-stake consensus mechanism and utilizes a two-tier network. Certain network functions, such as creating new blocks, are handled by the miners. The second tier of the Dash network consists of "masternodes" which perform PrivateSend, InstantSend, and governance functions.
Short for "Decentralized Credit", Decred is a digital currency that uses a community-based governance model to determine the future of its blockchain protocol. The people who own Decred have a say in how it evolves. It uses a hybrid proof-of-work and proof-of-stake mining system to decentralize the decision-making process. Includes decisions such as whether or not the development team should work on a specific feature, turn on/off existing features, and how to best spend development funds.
Originally created as a joke referencing the Shiba Inu dog meme, Dogecoin has gone on to reach heights of a 1 billion dollar market cap. It has become a popular coin to tip people over the internet. Dogecoin is a fork of Litecoin.
A smart contract platform comparable to Ethereum, notable for its year-long ICO. It offers significantly higher throughput (transactions per second), but only achieves this by being far less decentralized.
Ethereum is a smart contract platform which allows decentralized applications to be written on the blockchain using a scripting language. In addition to simple wallet-to-wallet transactions, programs known as "contracts" can also send and receive funds based on programmable logic. This can be used to achieve many purposes, ranging from the creation of new tokens (ICOs), games like CryptoKitties, and replacing trusted third parties found in traditional finance. Ethereum was first proposed in a whitepaper by Vitalik Buterin in late 2013.
ETC refers to the original Ethereum blockchain. A hard fork created what we now call Ethereum on Jul 20th, 2016 due to a major hack known as the DAO incident. The DAO was a smart contract that was intended to work as a venture fund where contributors would get to vote on what projects/proposals get funded. 240 million dollars were raised. Somebody found an exploit in the code and managed to get around 3 million Ether out of the contract. A hard fork was made to return the ETH funds to the original DAO investors.
A token built on the Ethereum blockchain intended to create a marketplace for unused computer power. It aims to become an open source on-demand decentralized supercomputer network. With Golem, anyone will be able to rent their unused computing resources. Simultaneously, Golem will enable any user to buy computing time from other users to complete computationally demanding task.
ICON aims to connect different industries. ICON’s platform is best thought of as a blockchain of blockchains. Independently-governed blockchains, that can function by their own rules, can operate on the ICON platform to work with each other.
IOTA deviates from most cryptocurrencies in that it does not use a traditional blockchain. Instead it runs on a system called "The Tangle", which leverages a data structure called a directed acyclic graph (DAG) to create its distributed ledger protocol. This allows for free transactions of any size, without the need for miners or blocks. It is named after "Internet of Things", a buzzword envisioning a future where lots of small objects all around us are connected to the internet.
Komodo began as a Zcash fork, and aims to provide anonymity through zero knowledge proofs and security through a Delayed Proof of Work (dPoW) protocol. It has gone on to form a complete ecosystem with advanced functionalities like decentralized trading, atomic swaps and ICOs.
An early fork of Bitcoin. It differs from Bitcoin in that it has a faster block time (2.5 vs 10 minutes), a larger maximum supply of coins and a different hashing algorithm (Scrypt, instead of SHA-256). The Script algorithm is memory-intensive rather than CPU intensive, which discourages the development of ASIC mining hardware.
NEM is a business focused cryptocurrency that is not meant to be used as a currency. It features a "Smart Asset System" which allows users to create custom blockchain solutions. It focuses on flexible business solutions. Written in Java from the ground up, NEM uses unique methods of Proof of Importance (POI) and Delegated Harvesting to award coins (which uses far less power than traditional mining). It's a fully traceable, not private cryptocurrency.
Often referred to as the "Chinese Ethereum", NEO is a smart contract platform.
OmiseGo aims to "Unbank the banked" by providing an array of payment services for individuals and businesses across Asia. It is a decentralized exchange and transaction platform centered in Southeast Asia. Notably, it already has a partnership with McDonald’s Thailand. It's the first Ethereum-based project to exceed USD $1 billion marketcap. Designed by the creator of Lightning Network and Plasma, Joseph Poon. Vitalik Buterin is a lead advisor.
Ripple is a real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) used by a number of traditional banks, although the degree to which banks are using their products is disputed. Some argue that it is not a cryptocurrency at all, given that it is highly centralized and is controlled/pre-mined by the company that created it.
Siacoin is a decentralized cloud storage platform. It stores your data by splitting apart and encrypting data before distributing it across their network. People can rent out their unused harddrive space to earn money. Data is completely private: No one device has an entire file and all the files are copied on numerous devices (so if a harddrive fails your files won’t be lost). Unlike centralized options like Dropbox, the market determines the price.
Steem can be thought of as a decentralized version of Reddit where you can earn cryptocurrency when your content gets upvoted. It was cofounded by Daniel Larimer, who also founded Bitshares and EOS.
Stellar is an open-source, distributed payments infrastructure. It aims to facilitate multi-currency and asset transactions quickly, and very cheaply by using their native token (called Lumens) as a bridge. Cofounded by Jed McCaleb, who was founder of Mt. Gox and co-founder of Ripple.
A stablecoin claimed by its creators to be backed by one dollar for each token issued. Its value is meant to be pegged to a dollar. It shares ownership with the Bitfinex exchange, and is based on the Omni Layer Protocol.
Tezos is a smart contract platform, like Ethereum, which aims to offer some standout features such as: on-chain governance, formal verification of contracts and proof-of-stake consensus.
A decentralized protocol that aims to be a content distribution platform for the entertainment industry. The project envisions an ecosystem in which creators have the power to freely publish, store, and own their content. The network incentives users to build their own decentralized entertainment applications on top of it. Tron faced criticism for plagiarism in early 2018, because their whitepaper features open source code from Filecoin and IFPS whitepapers with no citation.
Platform aiming to help manage supply chains, and improve the logistics of importing/exporting/warehousing small goods in China (and potentially elsewhere). It plans to use RFID chips along with the blockchains to help transparently track products along their supply routes.
Intended to be a version of Bitcoin that is more secure, faster, and support cross-chain transactions. It uses zk-SNARK for its privacy, which is later being adopted by Ethereum. It is controversially run by a private company, and 20% of its coins will ultimately be transferred to founders as rewards. Due to its anonymity, Zcash is a fungible token.