With Bitcoin halving right around the corner, the crypto community expects a significant upside in the markets. All eyes are on the current BTC live price waiting for it to start growing any day now. Consequently, we are seeing a rise in volumes and a considerable increase in interest from mainstream investors.
That said, the market offers much more than just Bitcoin. There are thousands of coins and tokens out there that might have better upside potential. Moreover, different types of cryptocurrencies provide different benefits. If you are interested in learning about the vast crypto landscape, you are in the right place.
This article will introduce you to different crypto categories, and their characteristics and provide some examples. This should demystify the daunting crypto industry and allow you to have a better overall understanding of the market.
Cryptocurrency coins are digital assets that are nested on a native blockchain. This means that they act as the main currency on this blockchain. Coins are integral to the security of the blockchain, as they are used as an incentive to the transaction validators that confirm transactions.
For example, in a proof-of-work (PoW) blockchain, miners use specialized equipment to create new coins and confirm transactions. In a proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain, validators need to hold large amounts of coins to ensure the security of the chain.
In both types of networks, users will pay transaction fees with the native coin of the network.
Bitcoin is the first cryptographical digital asset or cryptocurrency released to the public. It runs on its own PoW blockchain, the Bitcoin network. Here, miners confirm blocks and mint new coins by completing complex mathematical puzzles.
Users settle transaction fees in BTC and pay the miners who manage to solve the puzzle. Over time, Bitcoin has become the most secure payment network thanks to its high adoption and decentralization. This has allowed it to remain at the top of the market by usage and market cap.
Ethereum is the #2 cryptocurrency by market cap. It revolutionized the blockchain technology by introducing smart contracts. These pieces of software allow developers to deploy decentralized applications and tokens on the Ethereum network.
As a result, Ethereum has been pivotal to the rise of the decentralized finance (DeFi) industry. Moreover, the versatility of smart contracts allowed the use cases for blockchain technology to rise exponentially. Currently, the ETH crypto serves as the gas currency on the chain that is secured by PoS consensus.
Altcoins usually refer to any coin that is not Bitcoin or Ethereum. Interestingly, the crypto community regarded ETH as an altcoin at its inception. Its success, however, managed to bring it above that status.
BNB coin is the native cryptocurrency of the Binance ecosystem. Since its release in 2017, this cryptocurrency has undergone many redesigns and increased in use cases exponentially.
Initially, BNB ran on the Ethereum blockchain, as an ERC20 token. At that time, it provided limited utility, as a rebate token on the Binance exchange. However, it soon migrated to its own blockchain, warranting the “altcoin” moniker. After the release of the BNB chain in 2019, BNB gained more traction as a gas token.
The crypto community considers Litecoin to be the first successful altcoin released to the public. Charlie Lee created LTC to be a lighter version of BTC, with faster transactions and smaller fees.
Tokens are cryptocurrencies created on a “host” smart contract-capable network like Ethereum. They usually have some additional utility such as governance or staking incentives within their protocol.
Chainlink is a blockchain company that provides oracle services to the blockchain industry. Oracles are indispensable for price discovery in DeFi. The LINK token runs on Ethereum and is used to pay data operators for their services.
Uniswap is the most successful decentralized exchange in the world. It went live on Ethereum in November 2018. The UNI token came much later, in December 2020, when the exchange airdropped 400 UNI to any user that previously interacted with the protocol.
This marketing stunt propelled Uniswap to the forefront of the crypto industry, allowing UNI holders to participate in the governance of the dApp.
Stablecoins are an essential piece of the blockchain puzzle. The value of these cryptocurrencies is pegged to fiat currencies (e.g. the US Dollar). They achieve this by backing every stablecoin in circulation with an equal amount of fiat in their reserves.
USDT is the first widely used stablecoin and has been around since October 2014. Initially, on the Bitcoin Omni blockchain, this cryptocurrency has spread its wings on every major blockchain. It’s now the most widely accepted stablecoin in the industry, present on nearly all centralized exchanges.
USD Coin (USDC)
Circle created USDC in 2018, with the goal of providing the public with a fully-backed, regulated stablecoin. This tokenized US Dollar is popular in the DeFi industry, and boasts a market cap of $25b at the time of writing.
5. Meme Coins
Memecoins are whimsical cryptocurrencies that try not to take themselves too seriously. They provide little value than their potential for high volatility and skyrocketing profits.
Dogecoin is the original meme coin and saw the light of day as early as December 2013. Billy Markus and Robert Palmer took the popular Shiba Inu “Doge” meme branding and based a crypto altcoin on it. The lighthearted approach resulted in immediate success, and DOGE has remained in the top 10 cryptos by market cap ever since. The best way to buy DOGE is through a trusted exchange.
Shiba Inu (SHIB)
Shiba Inu is a Dogecoin copycat that came in the market at the most opportune time possible. It came out in August 2020, as the crypto market was preparing for a historic bull run. SHIB confirmed that there was a high demand for memes in the industry. Maybe more so than Dogecoin, it opened the door to thousands of meme coins in the industry.
Ways to Use Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that have opened a new way to look at the financial world. They require no intermediaries and offer full custodianship to their holders. They are also incredibly useful in various situations:
- Cross-border money transfers with crypto are both cheap and fast.
- You can tip your favorite content creators on Reddit or Twitch with meme coins
- You can use them to buy goods and services at the thousands of stores that accept them.
- It’s possible to use them to access advanced financial instruments in DeFi.
In short, cryptocurrencies are versatile financial assets, and provide much more utility than speculation for profit. With all of the knowledge shared in this article, you should have a good idea of what type of cryptocurrency you want to invest in. As you might have noticed, there’s a whole industry beyond Bitcoin that warrants your attention.