By Philip Rivers

With Bitcoin experiencing dangerous, and yet unparalleled parabolic activity lately, interest has perked up in alternatives to bitcoin.  In fact, the number of times google has seen searches for alternatives to bitcoin is up 10 fold in just two weeks, when bitcoin was the center of so many family Thanksgiving dinners. With that said, here are 6 alternatives to bitcoin that you should be aware of, all of which cost far less than a single bitcoin:

1) Litecoin (LTC)

Litecoin is a decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that was released on October 7th, 2011 and went live on October 13th, 2011. You can almost consider it the silver to bitcoin’s gold. These are just a few of the things you might hear being tossed around when talking about Litecoin. At a first glance, Litecoin doesn’t garner much respect as a top 10 market cap cryptocurrency. However, once you get into the weeds, Litecoin presents an extremely useful and interesting application of the original Bitcoin blockchain.

Litecoin was founded by former Google employee Charlie Lee. It was one of the first forks of the Bitcoin core client. It was proposed as a solution to some of the bottlenecks and scalability issues with Bitcoin, most notably the number of transactions that could be processed within a given time.

The edge Litecoin has over Bitcoin is that the payment transaction costs are extremely low, and it is capable of facilitating payments around 4x as fast.

Litecoin originally started gathering attention during its explosive growth in November 2013, where it saw a near 15x spike in price. This jump in price, however, was short-lived and Litecoin hovered around the $4 per LTC range for about two years. It wasn’t until May 2017 that it started to pick up steam again during a time where generally all cryptocurrencies experienced massive growth.

Litecoin has also been relatively innovative, adopting new technologies such as Segregated Witness and carrying out the first Lightning Network transaction that sent 0.00000001 LTC from Zurich, Switzerland to San Francisco, USA in under a single second.

2) Ethereum (ETH)

Launched in 2015, Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables Smart Contracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built and run without any downtime, fraud, control or interference from a third party. During 2014, Ethereum had launched a pre-sale for ether which had received an overwhelming response. The applications on Ethereum are run on its platform-specific cryptographic token, ether.

Ether is like a vehicle for moving around on the Ethereum platform, and is sought by mostly developers looking to develop and run applications inside Ethereum. According to Ethereum, it can be used to “codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything.” Following the attack on the DAO in 2016, Ethereum was split into Ethereum (ETH) and Ethereum Classic (ETC). Ethereum (ETH) has a market capitalization of $41.4 billion, second after Bitcoin among all cryptocurrencies.

3) Zcash (ZEC)

Zcash, a decentralized and open-source cryptocurrency launched in the latter part of 2016, looks promising. “If Bitcoin is like http for money, Zcash is https,” is how Zcash defines itself. Zcash offers privacy and selective transparency of transactions.

Thus, like https, Zcash claims to provide extra security or privacy where all transactions are recorded and published on a blockchain, but details such as the sender, recipient, and amount remain private.

Zcash offers its users the choice of ‘shielded’ transactions, which allow for content to be encrypted using advanced cryptographic technique or zero-knowledge proof construction called a zk-SNARK developed by its team.

4) Dash

Dash (originally known as Darkcoin) is a more secretive version of Bitcoin. Dash offers more anonymity as it works on a decentralized mastercode network that makes transactions almost untraceably. Launched in January 2014, Dash experienced an increasing fan following in a short span of time. This cryptocurrency was created and developed by Evan Duffield and can be mined using a CPU or GPU.

In March 2015, ‘Darkcoin’ was rebranded to Dash, which stands for Digital Cash and operates under the ticker – DASH. The rebranding didn’t change any of its technological features such as Darksend, InstantX.

5) Ripple (XRP)

Ripple is a real-time global settlement network that offers instant, certain and low-cost international payments. Ripple “enables banks to settle cross-border payments in real time, with end-to-end transparency, and at lower costs.”

Released in 2012, Ripple currency has a market capitalization of $1.26 billion. Ripple’s consensus ledger — its method of conformation — doesn’t need mining, a feature that deviates from bitcoin and 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.”

6) Monero (XMR)

Monero is a secure, private and untraceable currency. This open source cryptocurrency was launched in April 2014 and soon spiked great interest among the cryptography community and enthusiasts.

The development of this cryptocurrency is completely donation-based and community-driven. Monero has been launched with a strong focus on decentralization and scalability, and enables complete privacy by using a special technique called ‘ring signatures.’

With this technique, there appears a group of cryptographic signatures including at least one real participant – but since they all appear valid, the real one cannot be isolated.

The Bottom Line

Bitcoin continues to lead the pack of cryptocurrencies, in terms of market capitalization, user base and popularity. Nevertheless, virtual currencies such as Ethereum and Ripple which are being used more for enterprise solutions are becoming popular, while some altcoins are being endorsed for superior or advanced features vis-à-vis Bitcoins. These are viable alternatives to bitcoin.

Going by the current trend, cryptocurrencies are here to stay but how many of them will emerge leaders amid the growing competition within the space will only be revealed with time.

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