Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware that we’re in the middle of a cryptocurrency explosion. In one year, the value of all currencies increased a staggering 1,466% – and newer coins like Ethereum have even joined Bitcoin in gaining some mainstream acceptance.
And while people like Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan and famed value investor Howard Marks have been extremely critical of cryptocurrencies as of late, many other investors are continuing to ride the wave. The possible effects of the blockchain cannot be understated, and it could even change the backbone of how financial markets work.
However, even with the excitement and action that comes with the space, a major problem still exists for the layman: it’s really challenging to decipher the differences between cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Ripple, and Dash.
An infographic that breaks down the major differences between these coins all in one place.
A DESCRIPTION OF MAJOR COINS
Here are descriptions of the major cryptocurrencies, which make up 84% of the coin universe.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, and was released as open-source software in 2009. Using a new distributed ledger known as the blockchain, the Bitcoin protocol allows for users to make peer-to-peer transactions using digital currency while avoiding the “double spending” problem.
No central authority or server verifies transactions, and instead the legitimacy of a payment is determined by the decentralized network itself.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency with the most liquidity and significant network effects. It also has brand name recognition around the world, with an eight-year track record.
Litecoin was launched in 2011 as an early alternative to Bitcoin. Around this time, increasingly specialized and expensive hardware was needed to mine bitcoins, making it hard for regular people to get in on the action. Litecoin’s algorithm was an attempt to even the playing field so that anyone with a regular computer could take part in the network.
Other altcoins have taken away some of Litecoin’s market share, but it still has an early mover advantage and some strong network effects.
Ripple is considerably different from Bitcoin. That’s because Ripple is essentially a global settlement network for other currencies such as USD, Bitcoin, EUR, GBP, or any other units of value (i.e. frequent flier miles, commodities).
To make any such a settlement, however, a tiny fee must be paid in XRP (Ripple’s native tokens) – and these are what trade on cryptocurrency markets.
Ripple runs on many of the same principles of Bitcoin, but for a different purpose: to serve as the middleman for all global FX transactions. If it can successfully capture that market, the potential is high.
Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications.
In the Ethereum blockchain, instead of mining for bitcoin, miners work to earn ether, a type of crypto token that fuels the network. Beyond a tradeable cryptocurrency, ether is also used by application developers to pay for transaction fees and services on the Ethereum network.
Ethereum serves a different purpose than other cryptocurrencies, but it has quickly grown to displace all but Bitcoin in value. Some experts are so bullish on Ethereum that they even see it becoming the world’s top cryptocurrency in just a short span of time – but only time will tell.
In 2016, the Ethereum community faced a difficult decision: The DAO, a venture capital firm built on top of the Ethereum platform, had 50 million $ in ether stolen from it through a security vulnerability.
The majority of the Ethereum community decided to help The DAO by “hard forking” the currency, and then changing the blockchain to return the stolen proceeds back to The DAO. The minority thought this idea violated the key foundation of immutability that the blockchain was designed around, and kept the original Ethereum blockchain the way it was. Hence, the “Classic” label.
As time goes on, Ethereum Classic has been carving out a separate identity from its bigger sibling. With similar capabilities and a different set of principles, Ethereum Classic could still have upside.
Dash is an attempt to improve on Bitcoin in two main areas: speed of transactions, and anonymity. To do this, it has a two-tier architecture with miners and also “masternodes” that help the network perform advanced functions such as near-instant transactions and coin-mixing to provide additional privacy.
The innovations behind Dash are interesting, and could help to make the coin more consumer-friendly than other alternatives.
BONUS: BITCOIN CASH
Bitcoin Cash. This new currency “hard forked” from Bitcoin about a month ago, as a result of miner disagreements about the future of Bitcoin.
Here’s a detailed summary of the announcement.
What You Need to Know
Bitcoin Cash’s sudden announcement on Saturday that they’ll go ahead with a fork on August 1 caught a lot of people, including myself, by surprise. In this article, I’m going to explain what Bitcoin Cash (aka BCC) is, how it affects you and how you should prepare for August 1.
What is Bitcoin Cash
Here is the project announcement on Bitcointalk.
Here is the project website.
From the project website’s FAQ: What is Bitcoin Cash?
Bitcoin Cash is peer-to-peer electronic cash for the Internet. It is fully decentralized, with no central bank and requires no trusted third parties to operate.
The prominent use of “peer-to-peer electronic cash” is purposeful here. Bitcoin Cash is seeking to be a cryptocurrency that’s focused on transaction capacity.
Why is this fork a surprise?
Many people (including myself) thought that this fork would only trigger if BIP148 were able to split the network. In other words, many people thought Bitcoin Cash (and its client Bitcoin ABC) was just a credible threat to prevent a contentious user-activated soft fork (UASF). Bitmain actually stated that the Segwit2x (aka New York Agreement) would be preferable.
So naturally, when BIP91 (first part of Segwit2x) locked-in and activated ahead of BIP148, which is scheduled for August 1, most assumed this would prevent the so-called user-activated hard fork (UAHF) from triggering.
But, it looks like Bitcoin Cash supporters had other ideas.
Why should I care?
You should care because Bitcoin Cash is a permanent fork of Bitcoin.
From the FAQ: Is Bitcoin Cash different from ‘Bitcoin’?
Yes. Bitcoin Cash is the continuation of the Bitcoin project as peer-to-peer digital cash. It is a fork of the Bitcoin blockchain ledger, with upgraded consensus rules that allow it to grow and scale.
This means that if you own Bitcoin (that is, you control your own private keys) prior to the fork on 1/August/2017 12:20 UTC, you will have the same amount of Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash after the fork.
Lest you think these BCC isn’t worth anything, BCC futures are currently trading at about 475$ on ViaBTC.
What do I need to know?
First, you should know that many exchanges, including Coinbase, are simply not prepared for this event.
From the FAQ: If I own Bitcoin, do I automatically own Bitcoin Cash too?
Yes. Because Bitcoin Cash is a fork of the ledger, that means you own the same amount of Bitcoin Cash as you did Bitcoin at the time of the forking block. However, if your Bitcoins are stored by a third party such as an exchange, then you must inquire with them about your cash.
Note that last sentence. Exchanges or third-party bitcoin storage providers may or may not give you your Bitcoin Cash. It’s likely that third party services will try to do the right thing, but there’s no way to know if they can get everything set up in time to be able to give you the Bitcoin Cash you’re entitled to.
Second, all hard forks present two risks: replay and wipeout attacks. Wipeout is not a as much risk since this is a permanent fork (there are scenarios where one chain’s miners may attack the other, but this isn’t in play yet). Replay protection is provided as part of the Bitcoin Cash release as explained in the FAQ:
From the FAQ: How is transaction replay being handled between the new and the old blockchain?
Bitcoin Cash transactions use a new flag SIGHASH_FORKID, which is non standard to the legacy blockchain. This prevents Bitcoin Cash transactions from being replayed on the Bitcoin blockchain and vice versa.
Rest assured that as long as you control your own private keys, you should be able to use those keys to create transactions on either chain safely.
I thought Bitcoin solved scaling! Why is this happening?
After the scaling drama of the past few years, we finally made progress when BIP91 locked in on Thursday. Though Segwit increases transaction capacity, it’s not done so in a way that everyone is happy with.
BCC looks like an appeal to the segment of the Bitcoin users that don’t like Segwit. Since Segwit is getting activated on Bitcoin, this fork gives many of these people a place to go.
From the FAQ: Why was a fork necessary to create Bitcoin Cash?
The legacy Bitcoin code had a maximum limit of 1MB of data per block, or about 3 transactions per second. Although technically simple to raise this limit, the community could not reach a consensus, even after years of debate.
So what features does Bitcoin Cash have?
Bitcoin Cash offers three new features.
➢ First, it offers a much larger block size of 8MB.
➢ Second, it offers replay and wipeout protection. The transaction signature is slightly different and the forking block has to be greater than 1MB.
➢ Third, it offers a way to adjust the proof-of-work difficulty quicker than the normal 2016 block difficulty adjustment interval found in Bitcoin.
From the project announcement on Bitcointalk:
“REQ-7 Difficulty adjustement in case of hashrate drop
In case the MTP of the tip of the chain is 12h or more after the MTP 6 block before the tip, the proof of work target is increased by a quarter, or 25%, which corresponds to a difficulty reduction of 20% .
RATIONALE: The hashrate supporting the chain is dependent on market price and hard to predict. In order to make sure the chain remains viable no matter what difficulty needs to adjust down in case of abrupt hashrate drop.”
In other words, the difficulty will adjust pretty quickly should there be a low hash rate.
What does this mean for Bitcoin?
This is the hardest thing to answer. It may mean nothing, it may mean a lot. Some obvious things that we’ll now need to think about are:
➢ Who will mine Bitcoin Cash?
➢ Who will have the larger hash rate? Both coins will use double-sha256 as the proof-of-work.
➢ What will the price ratio be?
➢ What will the volumes on both coins be like?
➢ How will hash rate react to price? How will price react to hash rate?
➢ How will this affect the 2x HF part of Segwit2x?
➢ What chain will coins that operate on top of Bitcoin like Omni and CounterParty choose?
Unfortunately, the Bitcoin Cash announcement brings more questions than answers. One thing is for certain: if you want to maximize your holdings, it’s in your best interest to get your Bitcoin off third-party services and control your own private keys before 1st August.