Bitcoin’s surge may be ending. The cryptocurrency took the spotlight last year, skyrocketing into mainstream consciousness with a massive price rise.
Whilst it still holds the highest value, the price of a single Bitcoin halved at the beginning of 2018 and there's no telling where it will go next. In the meantime, here are the alternative cryptocurrencies rising in its shadow and promising something different.
Okay, so the first alternative is not that far removed from Bitcoin itself. When Bitcoin’s market value soared last year, everyone wanted in and started investing.
This created a backlog of transactions because miners couldn’t add enough blocks in time. Bitcoin Cash split off from the original back in August 2017 to solve the problem. Known as a ‘Hard Fork’, Bitcoin Cash works the same, except its blocks were increased from 1mb to 2mb of data to help speed up transactions and keep fees down.
Since Bitcoin dipped, however, the price of Bitcoin Cash has gone the same way.
Market cap: £14.8 billion
Ripple, also known as XRP, is the latest bitcoin rival to enjoy success after a value surge at the end of 2017, turned it into the second most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalisation.
Unlike the highly decentralised Bitcoin, Ripple has links to financial institutions; it was launched in 2012 for legitimate banks to make global money transfers. It’s harder to get than other cryptocurrencies as you have to pay for it with Bitcoin or Ethereum, but it is a lot cheaper, at just under a pound. For now.
Market cap: £28.8 billion
Ethereum was created by teenaged hacker Vitalik Buterin back in 2014 and quickly rose to cryptocurrency fame. Ethereum’s coins are referred to as Ether, and just like Bitcoin you can trade your real-world cash for some virtual coins.
It has been used by investors to buy into ICOs. Ether operates on a blockchain, like Bitcoin, but the technology is more sophisticated. The latest Casper updates to Ethereum may lead to it being created without mining, a process which uses a huge amount of energy.
Market cap: £58.7 billion
Litecoin is yet another clone that forked from Bitcoin in 2011.
These are the Bitcoin alternatives to watch in 2018
It was intended to be the silver to Bitcoin’s gold; holding strong in a separate market, not valued against Bitcoin. Transactions can be made much faster using Litecoin, taking around two and a half minutes, and more coins can be mined. But it is yet to gain the popularity of Bitcoin.
Market cap: £9.32 billion
Percentage change (since January 2017): +5150.77 per cent
In the world of unpredictable market values, Stellar is another cryptocurrency that’s enjoyed a surge recently.
It is an offshoot of Ripple, created by co-founder Jed McCaleb.
Bitcoin is hardly the only cryptocurrency investment
It’s open-source, and works a little like PayPal; anchoring your money to the network and storing it in a wallet. Unlike Bitcoin, it calls itself a global financial network; attempting to rival centralised banking.
Market cap: £5.1 billion
If the prospect of buying and selling cryptocurrency strikes fear (or boredom) into your heart, you could trade virtual cats instead. CrytpoKitties is one of the world’s first games to be built on blockchain technology – specifically Ethereum. Technically a ‘cryptocollectible’ rather than a currency, you can buy, trade and sell some digital kitties if you’ve got Ether to burn.
The kitties are sold at an auction, and you can breed two together to make CryptoKitty babies. Sure, they serve no real purpose, but they are darn cute.
Wired: 'Serious Money' Betting on XRP & Other Cryptocurrencies
Welcome to 2018.
Even more so than Bitcoin, Monero is designed to give its users absolute anonymity. Launched in April 2014, the cryptocurrency is based on a public ledger but goes a step further than Bitcoin by obscuring the sender, recipient and amount of every transaction sent over the network.
In February, it transpired that the websites of more than 4,000 government authorities in the UK and US had been infected with code that mined the cryptocurrency.
Market cap: £2.63 billion
This article has been updated with more information and aa stats were correct at time of writing, according to Coinmarketcap.