In the decade since the dawn of Bitcoin’s genesis block, thousands of alternative cryptocurrencies — altcoins — have spawned in the wake of the blockchain breakthrough.
All coins and tokens external to Bitcoin are considered to be altcoins. Given blockchain’s open-source nature, altcoins, along with their respective platforms, can be created by anyone with an internet connection and come in a growing variety.
Top Altcoins to Know
- Ethereum (ETH)
- Tether (USDT)
- USD Coin (USDC)
- Binance (BNB)
- Binance Coin (BUSD)
- Ripple (XRP)
- Cardano (ADA)
- Solana (SOL)
- Dogecoin (DOGE)
- Dai (DAI)
Statista’s database counts more than 10,000 cryptocurrencies in the market today. Of the $978 billion market cap, more than 40 percent is portioned to Bitcoin, as of the time of writing. Ethereum follows, making up 18 percent in market capitalization, while altcoins fill out the remaining share.
Altcoins: What Are They Exactly?
Traditionally speaking — altcoins are created to fulfill demands that develop from perceived gaps in the market, unaddressed by Bitcoin. Each digital asset is created for a specific purpose, some of which overlap.
Here are six major types:
- Utility tokens: These provide services within a network, like purchase services, pay network fees or redeem rewards.
- Payment tokens: These are used as currency to exchange value.
- Security tokens: These are tokenized assets offered on stock markets that are held by an entity and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Stablecoins: A stablecoin’s value is pegged to an external reserve asset, like fiat currencies or precious metals, in order to offer relative price stability.
- Memecoins: Crypto inspired by viral internet trends, memecoins are often created to exploit short-term gains.
- Governance tokens: These utility tokens grant users voting rights within a decentralized blockchain.
Altcoins can be made from scratch, or, more commonly, forked from an existing code. Forks occur when a blockchain splits from its original chain in order to create a new network that follows a parallel software protocol, with parentage most often linked to Bitcoin or Ethereum. Generally, forks occur when developers disagree on a platform’s direction. They may modify the source code to initiate a separate chain.
Altcoins attract investors in the crypto space for a variety of reasons.
They are the “better mousetrap” to Bitcoin, meaning that they exist on upgraded versions of their former blockchain networks. Altcoins are a result of ingenuity that answer software bugs, inefficiencies and vulnerabilities previously unresolved.
Altcoins provide more utility and have a better chance at survival in the long run due to their versatility. Their ability to perform different functions in the crypto economy provide adaptability unmatched by Bitcoin, better preparing them for future developments in the market.
Finally, altcoins are far more accessible given low competition and room for growth at this stage in tokenomics.
With that being said, altcoins are considered a riskier investment. Despite relative resilience to price fluctuation, altcoins suffer from thin liquidity, high market saturation alongside a smaller market cap, a lack of credibility and susceptibility to scams.
Midway through 2022 — another year defined by high volatility and a $2 trillion loss — we’re highlighting the 20 market-favored altcoins that have come out on top.
The following rankings are pulled from price-tracking website CoinMarketCap, a market standard in the cryptocurrency space. Its algorithm determines prime performers by multiplying the number of coins in circulation with the live market price of a single coin.
Major players should enjoy the view while it lasts — tomorrow is not promised in crypto.
Terms to Know
- DAO: decentralized autonomous organization, or an entity structure in which token holders participate in management and decision-making in lieu of a central authority
- DeFi: decentralized finance
- DApps: decentralized applications, or software that can run entirely on a blockchain
- NFTs: digital assets known as non-fungible tokens
- ERC-20: a token standard built into Ethereum that allows dApps to create their own coins or tokenized assets using smart contracts
- Smart contracts: a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code
- PoW: proof of work, a consensus mechanism that verifies a transaction only after a certain amount of computational effort has been expended
- PoS: proof of stake, a consensus mechanism that designates a class of its users to validate transactions as a way to forgo computational power required in a PoW model
Top Altcoins of 2022
Developers’ blockchain of choice, Ethereum is a decentralized global software platform powered by blockchain technology that introduced smart contract functionality at the heart of DeFi. Programmer and crypto forefather Vitalik Buterin founded Ethereum, which went live in 2015.
Essentially, Ethereum allows for computer programs to automate transactions between two parties, killing off the need for an intermediary or transaction costs while increasing reliability. It acts as a layer 1 or base network that allows anyone in the general public to build off of. Currently, it supports 2,970 dApps, with over 48,000 daily active users.
Given Ethereum’s integral position to the infrastructure of DeFi as we know it, many consider it a pillar of the crypto space rather than an altcoin.
Stablecoin vanguard, Tether is a first-generation centralized coin fixed to the valuation of the U.S. dollar, guaranteeing a 1-to-1 fiat currency match. Developers Brock Pierce, Reeve Collins and Craig Sellars created the stablecoin, formerly known as Realcoin, in 2014 to provide investors a course into the crypto market without having to endure its famously high volatility.
Tether works across popular blockchains — like Ethereum and Bitcoin — and has since expanded to support multinational currencies, including the euro, Mexican peso, British pound and offshore Chinese yuan. Its native coin, the USDT, holds a consistent record high in trading volume of any coin in crypto, besting Bitcoin.
Although Tether claims that all transactions are fully backed by its reserves, a New York attorney general found the company to have “recklessly and unlawfully covered up massive financial losses to keep their scheme going” in an $18.5 million settlement in February 2021. Tether has since increased transparency across its site while reorienting to U.S. Treasury versus commercial paper holdings. U.S. Treasury Bills make up more than half of Tether’s reserves, 55 percent, while commercial paper sits at 28 percent. Tether plans to eventually reduce that number to zero, per an official statement in June.
The $40 billion demise of algorithmic stablecoin Terra offered a chance to disprove rumors and allegations when the crash triggered a Tether run, causing large groups of investors to withdraw their coins based on fears of insolvency. The company redeemed $16.3 billion, shrinking the USDT supply by 20 percent.
CEX vs. DEX: What’s the Difference?
All platforms selling cryptocurrency are either one of the two — centralized or decentralized. Centralized cryptocurrency exchanges, or CEX, like Bitcoin or stablecoin frontrunner Tether, move through a central authority — similar to an issuing bank — that must approve transactions and maintain the blockchain ledger. Decentralized exchanges, or DEX, eliminate intermediaries using a trustless, encrypted ledger that is validating by a consensus mechanism and distributed to everyone in the chain. Another major aspect to consider is ownership. Token holders in a decentralized system hold full ownership of their digital assets, while this is not the case in centralized systems.
USD Coin (USDC)
Akin to Tether, USD Coin is a stablecoin pegged 1-to-1 to the U.S. dollar. The impetus for USD Coin, formed by peer-to-peer payment services company Circle and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, was to create a currency for the next major era of the internet — one that will facilitate an open, inclusive and evenly distributed global economy.
USD Coin is regarded as one of the most transparent coins. Its reserve is held entirely in cash and short-dated U.S. government obligations marked three-months or less, which can be tracked in their monthly, independent reports. In a one-year overview, USDC held 16 percent of market shares in February 2021. By the end of February 2022, that number nearly doubled to 30 percent.
Read More: 20 Popular Altcoins to Know in 2022