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A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Many cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology—a distributed ledger enforced by a disparate network of computers. A defining feature of cryptocurrencies is that they are generally not issued by any central authority, rendering them theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.

Cryptocurrency Trading For Beginners

Before you choose a broker and trial different platforms, there are a few straightforward things to get your head around first. Understanding and accepting these three things will give you the best chance of succeeding when you step into the crypto trading arena.

  • Find out what’s growing – Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin top the list for tradability and ease of use. However, there are also Zcash, Das, Ripple, Monero and several more to keep an eye on. Do your homework and find out what’s on the up and focus your attention there.
  • Embrace volatility – Cryptocurrencies are famously volatile. The price of Bitcoin, for example, went from $3,000 down to $2,000 and then leapt up to nearly $5,000, all within three months in 2017. Whilst this means risk is high, it also means the potential for profit is great too. It’s always sensible to check the volatility of the exchange you decide to go with.
  • Understand blockchain – You don’t need to understand the technical complexities, but a basic understanding will help you respond to news and announcements that may help you predict future price movements. It is essentially a continuously growing list of secure records (blocks). Cryptography secures the interactions and then stores them publicly. They serve as a public ledger, cutting out intermediaries such as banks

The 10 Most Important Cryptocurrencies

1. Bitcoin (BTC)

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It is a decentralized digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.

  • Ledger start: 3 January 2009 (11 years ago)
  • Supply limit: ₿21,000,000
  • Initial release: 0.1.0 / 9 January 2009 (11 years ago)
  • Founder: Satoshi Nakamoto
  • Symbols: BTC, ฿, ₿ISO 4217 codes: BTC, XBT

2. Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum is an open source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality. It supports a modified version of Nakamoto consensus via transaction-based state transitions.

  • Initial release date: July 30, 2015
  • Initial release: 30 July 2015; 4 years ago
  • Platform: x86-64, ARM
  • Software used: EVM 1 Bytecode
  • Original authors: Vitalik Buterin, Gavin Wood
  • Written in: C++, Go, Python, Solidity

3. Ripple (XRP)

Ripple is a real-time gross settlement system, currency exchange and remittance network created by Ripple Labs Inc., a US-based technology company.

  • Developed by: Ripple Labs
  • Founder: Chris Larsen
  • Written in: C++

4. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

Bitcoin Cash is a cryptocurrency that is a fork of Bitcoin. Bitcoin Cash is a spin-off or altcoin that was created in 2017. In 2018 Bitcoin Cash subsequently split into two cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin Cash, and Bitcoin SV. Bitcoin Cash is sometimes also referred to as Bcash.

  • Split height: #478559 / 1 August 2017 (2 years ago)
  • Split ratio: 1:1
  • Block reward: 12.5 BCH
  • Ledger start: 3 January 2009 (11 years ago)
  • Supply limit: 21,000,000 BCH
  • Latest release: 0.19.10 / 25 July 2019 (7 months ago)

5. Litecoin (LTC)

Litecoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency and open-source software project released under the MIT/X11 license. Creation and transfer of coins is based on an open source cryptographic protocol and is not managed by any central authority. Litecoin was an early bitcoin spinoff or altcoin, starting in October 2011.

  • Symbol: Ł
  • Project fork of: Bitcoin
  • Supply limit: 84,000,000 LTC
  • Circulating supply: 62,424,175 LTC (26 June 2019)
  • Initial release: 0.1.0 / 7 October 2011; 8 years ago
  • Hash function: scrypt

6. Ethereum Classic (ETC)

Ethereum Classic is an open source, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract functionality. It supports a modified version of Nakamoto consensus via transaction-based state transitions executed on a public Ethereum Virtual Machine.

  • Software used: EVM 61 Bytecode
  • Developer(s): Open-Source Software Development
  • Original author(s): Vitalik Buterin, Gavin Wood
  • Initial release date: July 30, 2015
  • Total users: 1,655,049
  • Stable release: Agharta / 11 January 2020; 2 months ago

7. Monero (XMR)

Monero is an open-source cryptocurrency created in April 2024 that focuses on fungibility, privacy and decentralization. Monero uses an obfuscated public ledger, meaning anybody can broadcast or send transactions, but no outside observer can tell the source, amount or destination.

  • Initial release date: 2024
  • Hash function: CryptoNight
  • Previous names: BitMonero
  • Original author(s): Nicolas van Saberhagen
  • Latest release: / 5 December 2019 (3 months ago)
  • Programming language: C++

8. Dash (DASH)

Dash is an open source cryptocurrency. It is an altcoin that was forked from the Bitcoin protocol. It is also a decentralized autonomous organization run by a subset of its users, which are called “masternodes”. The currency permits transactions that can be untraceable.

  • Written in: C++
  • ISO 4217 code: DRK

9. NEO (NEO)

NEO is an open-source blockchain decentralized application platform founded in 2024 by Da HongFei and Erik Zhang. Since its rebranding to NEO from Antshares in 2017, the project’s vision is to realise a “smart economy” by utilizing blockchain technology and smart contracts to issue and manage digitized assets.

  • Written in: C#
  • Original author(s): Da Hongfei, Erik Zhang
  • License: MIT

10. Zcash (ZEC)

Zcash is a cryptocurrency aimed at using cryptography to provide enhanced privacy for its users compared to other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Like Bitcoin, Zcash has a fixed total supply of 21 million units.

  • Supply limit: 21,000,000
  • Circulating supply: 9,196,819
  • Initial release date: October 28, 2016
  • Ticker symbol: ZEC
  • Latest release: 2.1.1-1 / 6 February 2020; 59 days ago
  • Block reward: 12.5 ZEC

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