Have you heard of the term “altcoin” but not exactly sure what that means? In this article we’re breaking down everything you need to know about altcoins, from the different types of altcoins and how they work, to how you can get your hands on them (buy altcoins). The crypto industry can often feel a little daunting, so we’re here to clear the air and help you establish a strong foundation of insight, knowledge and know how.
Starting at the beginning, what are altcoins? Altcoins are all cryptocurrencies except for Bitcoin. Not too complicated, is it? Circling back to the early days of the crypto industry when there were only a few cryptocurrencies on the scene, any new coin that was introduced was referred to as an “alternative coin” (labelling it as an alternative cryptocurrency to Bitcoin), which was then shortened to altcoin. So when someone refers to an altcoin, know that they are talking about any cryptocurrency that is not the original (Bitcoin). Altcoins are still decentralized networks, with most of them utilizing blockchain technology.
At the time of writing, CoinMarketCap reports that there are over 9,400 altcoins in the cryptocurrency industry. This number is increasing by the day, however it’s worth mentioning that these 9,400+ altcoins only make up 50% of the entire cryptocurrency market’s value. Bitcoin is still the most dominant cryptocurrency, with Ethereum the next bigger cryptocurrency. Ethereum is currently responsible for holding roughly 14.5% of the entire market’s value. As Ethereum is also an altcoin, this makes the “altcoin industry” worth $1 trillion. In general terms, one would rather just say the crypto industry.
With an industry worth over $1 trillion, there is bound to be a wide range of variation. This is just the case with the crypto industry. There are a number of categories that have been created over the years, allowing for various altcoins to provide a new service to the industry. You can also expect to see tons of innovation in the altcoin space, as each new altcoin needs to either improve on the last one, or provide a different use case.
Each cryptocurrency is designed to solve a problem, either faced within the blockchain industry or outside of it, however, many of these have created a niche altcoin market. An example of this is altcoins focused primarily on providing anonymous transactions, these altcoins then fall into the Privacy category. We’ve detailed seven of the main categories below to give you an indication of the vast innovation and use case potential within the space.
First and foremost, these cryptocurrencies’ primary aim is to provide a medium of exchange within the digital currency realm. Focusing on payment functionality, these digital currencies are akin to Bitcoin and often were created as a “better” version of BTC (through hark forks on the network). Some examples of this include Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH).
Protocol focused altcoins are designed to allow developers to work on their blockchain network to create decentralized apps (dapps), smart contracts, and in some cases other cryptocurrencies. They provide space for innovation within the blockchain industry, and empower developers to learn and grow their blockchain understanding. Examples of protocol focused cryptocurrencies include Ethereum (ETH), Tron (TRON) and Neo (NEO).
As mentioned above, privacy focused cryptocurrencies provide users the opportunity to send private transactions that are entirely encrypted. While these networks often garner a bad name due to them being used for illicit activities, they are in essence not far from what Satoshi Nakamoto originally intended for Bitcoin. Each network uses slightly different protocols, however they all provide the means to send secure, anonymous transactions. Examples of privacy focused cryptocurrencies include Monero (XMR), Zcash (ZEC) and Dash (DASH).
You’ve likely heard of stablecoins before. They are the digital currencies that are pegged to a fiat currency. Providing a stable market inside of what has become known as a highly volatile market (cryptocurrencies as a whole), stablecoins offer a hedge against market dips as well as an entry point for users who want to get a feel for the crypto industry. Examples of stablecoins include USD Coin (USDC) and Tether (USDT) which are both pegged to the US dollar, trading at a 1:1 ratio (i.e. 1 USDT will always be worth $1). Stablecoins also include cryptocurrencies pegged to the value of commodities such as gold and oil.
NFTs (non fungible tokens) have had their fair share of mainstream media attention recently, especially after one NFT broke records when sold for millions of dollars. NFTs are actually unique crypto assets that cannot be used in the same way that other digital currencies can be. Each NFT holds unique characteristics that represent a one of a kind product, whether it be a piece of digital art, physical art, a house, or even a luxury handbag. These altcoins cannot be recreated, and hold all their transaction history (previous ownership) on a transparent blockchain. They also cannot be “spent” in the same way as other cryptocurrencies in that one an NFT is created, it has that purpose attached to it for life (unlike BTC which can be spent interchangeably).
CBDCs (central bank digital currencies) are similar to stablecoins but are created and maintained by financial institutions like banks. These currencies’ value is pegged to the local currency, and allow countries to test the efficiency of digital currencies without the volatility. Many countries are in the development phase of CBDCs, however China is leading the pack having recently launched their testing phase.
Utility tokens are blockchain tokens that are unique to a particular platform. Many cryptocurrency projects have created utility tokens as a means of crowdfunding prior to their launch, while other projects create utility tokens to be used within the platform for goods and services. Typically, utility tokens have been ERC-20 tokens, and might allow a user access to a new level of a game or to a subscription of some sorts.
Now that you know what altcoins are, for users looking to “invest” in the altcoin market, you can simply use your Tap app where you will have access to Ethereum, Litecoin, XTP, and Huobi Tokens. If you are looking for more specific altcoins, it's worth doing some research to find out where you can buy them and what kind of wallet you might need. Remember that not all crypto wallets are compatible, so you cannot store an altcoin like Monero in your Bitcoin wallet, or Tron in your Ethereum wallet. Tap allows you to buy, store and send your tokens directly from your phone.