Top 10 Cryptocurrency guide

So where did Bitcoin and the digital currencies that follow originate from? Our guide to each coin gives you a little history and weighs up some pro's and con's for each coin.

Bitcoin

The undisputed king of crypto, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be created, by Satoshi Nakamoto who mined the genesis block back in January 2009.

BTC became initially popular as a way to buy drugs and hacked credit card numbers on black markets such as Silk Road. Later on, it became a vehicle for speculation after the price spiked in 2013 from $13 to $770. The price topped out during a massive late 2017 bubble at almost $20,000, before increased regulation, and the introduction of the futures market saw it crash. HARD.

As the first crypto, BTC has a few drawbacks - transactions are slow and relatively expensive and the network requires a vast amount of electricity to power. BTC also faces 'scalability issues' as it can only handle about 7 transactions per second. This makes widespread adoption as a currency much more difficult when you consider Visa processes 24,000 transactions per second. However, many argue that BTC doesn't need to function as a day to day currency, but should instead be thought of as a digital version of gold - a store of value. BTC tends to lead the price movement for 'altcoins' both up and down. The total maximum number of Bitcoins is 21 million.

  • Pro's

    Greater Liquidity Relative to Other Cryptocurrencies
    Most well-known cryptocurrency
    Accepted widely

  • Con's

    Volatile
    Exposure to Bitcoin-Specific Scams and Fraud
    Potential to Be Replaced by Superior Cryptocurrency
    Slow
    Scalability issues and can only handle 7 transactions per second


Ethereum

Often the second most popular crypto, Ethereum is a marked improvement on Bitcoin in many ways, including much faster block times and cheaper fees.

It was invented by Vitalik Buterin in 2013 and released in 2015. Vitalik wanted to improve on Bitcoin by including a scripting language on which decentralized applications (DApps) could be built. Many other projects have subsequently been greatly inspired by Ethereum and seek to further improve on it. Ethereum is also the basis for almost 150,000 other generic blockchain tokens, which use the ERC-20 standard. Companies often use an ERC-20 token to raise money before moving to their own blockchains, such as VeChain, Tron and EOS. 

Unlike BTC, there is no upper limit on the amount of Ethereum that can be created. There are currently around 104 million in circulation.

  • Pro's

    Open-source availability.
    Developers can run decentralized code and create new products or even a new cryptocurrency on top of Ethereum.
    Smart contract executions on the blockchain remove third-parties and middle-men

  • Con's

    Slow when there’s a lot of traffic
    Ethereum code lacks documentation
    Constant updates keep developers busy
    Founder Vitalik Buterin seems unsure about Ethereum’s future

Stellar XLM

 

Created by one of the co-founders of Ripple, Jed McCaleb, Stellar (the currency itself is called Stellar Lumens or XLM) is actually pretty similar to XRP in terms of code - to the point where some argue there's no point having both.

The real difference is the target market - if XRP is aimed at making the lives of the big banks easier, Stellar aims to be used for payments by everyday people, enabling those in the less developed world to interact with the global economy. Stellar is a much smaller outfit than Ripple with fewer big partnerships. There is an unlimited number theoretically but at present only about 20 billion in circulation. Unfortunately, the top 100 holders control 94.5% of the circulating tokens.

  • Pro's

    Confirmation speed is 5 seconds
    Partnership with IBM
    Low transaction costs
    Decentralized

  • Con's

    High competition (with Ripple and SWIFT)
    Users must have at least 20 XLM coins in their wallet for it to work.
    Small team compared to Ripple -Banks and financial institutions fear decentralized nature of Stellar


Tether

The most well known 'stablecoin', each and every Tether is supposedly backed by one US dollar, making it a safe haven during crypto bloodbaths. It massively increased its market cap towards the end of 2018 as investors jumped out of the market, up from ninth place to number five in terms of market cap.

Unfortunately, there are grave doubts over whether it really is backed by enough dollars as the people behind it never seem to want to undergo a comprehensive third-party audit. As a result, it has crashed to 85 cents at times, and it faces competitions from dozens of new stablecoin competitors such as True USD and Gemini Dollar.

  • Pro's

    Safe haven during periods of volatility
    Supposedly backed by USD
    Convenient

  • Con's

    Not anonymous
    Widespread doubt over fiat backing
    Frequently loses peg with the dollar


Bitcoin Cash

The Bitcoin hard fork was the talk of mid-2017 - would the new rival BCH take over from the original BTC? What happened was that the Bitcoin community couldn't agree on improvements - one group wanted to increase the block size limit to make the currency cheaper and easier to use, while the others wanted to stick with the original design and were happy with BTC being a store of value.

The group agitating for change invented Bitcoin Cash, which is pretty much the same thing just with an increased block size. The great thing for hodlers about a hard fork is that if you own one, you get given an equal number of the new coin for nothing.

Bitcoin Cash subsequently split into two further cryptos called Bitcoin Cash ABC (which everyone just calls Bitcoin Cash) and Bitcoin Cash SV (which everyone calls Bitcoin SV). Current predictions suggest that at this rate entire top 10 will be full of slightly altered Bitcoin forks by 2020.

  • Pro's

    Block size is greater than BTC
    Listed in Major exchange
    High network speed and low fees
    BCH mining more convenient for solo minings due to its difficulty adjustment algorithm

  • Con's

    Low adoption of BCH
    Affected by the fork wars
    Centralised
    Massive blockchain

EOS

EOS is the native currency of EOS.IO, a blockchain protocol that aims to become a decentralized operating system supporting Dapps and smart contracts and providing services such as user authentication, cloud storage, and server hosting.

Its supporters claim it's an 'Ethereum Killer" and it hopes to offer more than 50,000 transactions per second (so far it has been shown to do a few thousand, which is impressive). It was developed by a private company called block.one which raised a staggering $4 billion during its ICO, by selling off almost one billion coins.

  • Pro's

    Convenient to Developers
    Self sufficient reward mode and fee elimination
    Anyone who holds EOS token can participate in voting process regarding governance
    EOS platform is fast (millions of transactions per second theoretically)

  • Con's

    Suspected to be centralized
    ETH copycat – Competition from ETH, NEO, RChain and more
    Users cannot audit the network without running a full-node


Bitcoin SV

Litecoin is one of the earliest 'altcoins' - it's basically a rebadged version of Bitcoin with a faster block generation time (2.5mins as opposed to 10mins), it incorporates the 'scrypt' algorithm which makes the transaction confirmation process more CPU intensive on devices designed to mine Bitcoin.

Litecoin was dreamed up by a former Google and Coinbase employee Charlie Lee in 2011. If that doesn't already prove his intelligence, Lee was also clever enough to sell off his LTC holdings at the All-Time High. Now that’s smart. 

  • Pro's

    ‘Original’ Satoshi protocol
    Blocksize increased to 128MB

  • Con's

    Lower adoption because of BTC and the original BCH A
    Centralized ( four Bitcoin SV nodes control 75% of its hash rate)
    vulnerable to attack -Weaker than decentralized crypto networks
    Unnecessary


Litecoin

The great Bitcoin splintering continued in late 2018 when the guys behind Bitcoin Cash SV decided it would be even better to increase the block size to 128MB, rather than Bitcoin Cash's 32MB. They totally forked it and started an unprofitable mining war to 'win' market share, which was financed by selling off loads of other cryptos, tanking the entire market and making the rest of us much poorer. (There are a bunch of other forks too including Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Private, along with Bitcoin XT, Bitcoin Classic and Bitcoin Unlimited.)

All you need to know is that Bitcoin believers hate Bitcoin Cash adherents with a passion for pretending to be Bitcoin, while Bitcoin Cash fans hate Bitcoin SV adherents for screwing them over the way they screwed over Bitcoin.   

  • Pro's

    ‘Faster than Bitcoin -Cheaper transactions than BTC
    More useful for everyday transactions due to lower value.
    Mining of Litecoin cheaper than Bitcoin.’Original’ Satoshi protocol
    Blocksize increased to 128MB

  • Con's

    It’s not Bitcoin -Not managed by a central authority, meaning if coins are stolen or lost they cannot be recovered
    Controversy over founder selling out at the all time high

TRON

During it's early days TRON was roundly mocked as a 'shitcoin'. It faced accusations of plagiarising their white paper, and much hatred was directed towards publicity hungry founder Justin Sun who seemed to think that receiving a package from FedEX means TRON has 'formed a partnership with a global organisation'.

But TRON remains one of the most traded coins and is undoubtedly popular, especially with smaller investors from poorer countries thanks to its low cost (but high circulation) and CONSTANT rumors about a possible hook up with Alibaba based on the fact Sun knows Jack Ma. It has also won many fans with its plans to 'decentralize the internet'and revolutionise content distribution by paying content providers directly via the blockchain. To that end, TRON bought up pirating software BitTorrent and plans to pay seeders. There are 

  • Pro's

    Price Volatility
    High market supply of 100 Billion
    TRON doesn’t have a product to support its sky high valuation.
    Justin Sun is a shameless self promoter

  • Con's

    It’s not Bitcoin -Not managed by a central authority, meaning if coins are stolen or lost they cannot be recovered
    Controversy over founder selling out at the all time high

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