Cryptocurrencies have seen a surge of interest in recent weeks. The value of Bitcoin has reached new highs, as has Ethereum, and many others. While no one can predict how things will turn out in the coming weeks, cryptocurrencies seem, in the long run, to have a bright future.
There are thousands of crypto currencies out there, some worth just a few cents. Bitcoin’s main rival is Ethereum, which experienced spectacular growth in early January. Polkadot, Cardano, Litecoin, Uniswap and even Chainlink are other major players in the cryptocurrency world. A brief overview.
Bitcoin is the star of cryptocurrency, the first to gain the attention of the general public. Created in 2008, it celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2018. Its inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, remains a mystery. It is not known whether it is a person or a group of people. This unknown corresponds to the philosophy behind Bitcoin, namely to provide a fully decentralized currency, without control of states, a company or a person.
Bitcoin, like other cryptocurrencies, is based on blockchain technology. It is a technology for storing and transmitting information, operating without a central control body. When two users exchange crypto currency, only two of them have access to the transaction, which is a definite advantage in terms of security.
A blockchain can be compared to an account book, public and permanently accessible, since all the transactions carried out since the very first one are listed there.
The number of Bitcoin in circulation is limited. In the end, around 2140, the creation of Bitcoin will be stopped, and there will then be 21 million units.
Ethereum and its currency, Ether, is one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, behind Bitcoin.
Ethereum was founded in 2013 by then-19-year-old Russian-Canadian computer scientist Vitalik Buterin. Launched on July 30, 2015,Ethereum, the platform that supports Ether, has seen a sharp increase in value since.
The strength ofEthereum, which is otherwise comparable to Bitcoin, lies in its blockchain, the technology on which it is based. This can be used as a basis for a multiplicity of applications, unlike that of Bitcoin intended only for transactions.
Ethereum thus makes it possible to carry out “smart contracts”, or intelligent contracts, that is to say contracts that are executed automatically when the conditions are met. Some believe it could be even more revolutionary than artificial intelligence, radically changing and improving the way all transactions take place.
The Ethereum blockchain could no more and no less replace notaries, lawyers or others by playing the role of “trusted third party” during a transaction, and by setting up flawless contracts in a few seconds, much more efficient than a human.
Based on Bitcoin technology, Litecoin is one of the most famous cryptocurrencies. Created in 2011 by Charles Lee, a former Google employee, who started with the source code of Bitcoin (open source), to develop his own code, Litecoin is a cryptocurrency distributed under a free license.
The blockchain on which is based Litecoin has thus been improved compared to that of Bitcoin. In particular, this has made it possible to speed up the verification process and therefore increase the speed of transactions, which is currently higher than that of its competitors. And the transaction fees are much lower than those of Bitcoin. Litecoin is thus particularly intended for daily transactions.
Like Bitcoin and most cryptocurrencies, Litecoin will be produced in a limited number. The issue rate follows a geometric series that halves every 840,000 blocks, and will eventually reach 84 million Litecoins.
Launched in 2017, Polkadot is one of the cryptocurrencies that has experienced the strongest growth in recent months. Created in particular by a former co-founder of Ethereum, Gavin Wood, it offers to connect different blockchains between them, in a secure environment.
For example, a private blockchain containing data from a school could transmit proof of verification of diplomas to a public blockchain, without disclosing the information it holds.
The smallest unit of account in the Polkadot network is the Planck (Planck length, in physics, is the smallest possible distance in the physical Universe).
The Polkadot project is open source, which means anyone who wants to make a contribution can do so.
Along with Polkadot, Chainlink is the cryptocurrency that has experienced the strongest craze in recent months. Like Ethereum, it offers companies the opportunity to develop smart contracts, but it has added the ability to include data in those contracts that are not on a blockchain.
Nicknamed “the real Bitcoin” by its followers, Bitcoin Cash was born on August 1, 2017 from a schism (“hard fork”) with Bitcoin. While it is based on the same blockchain, it has long claimed less expensive transactions than Bitcoin. But if it seemed to compete with Bitcoin for a while, it seems that it has now lost the battle, to the chagrin of its zealots.
Running on the Ethereum blockchain, Uniswap is the token from the decentralized exchange platform of the same name. It is particularly popular because it is centered on decentralized finance (DeFi) technology and is easy to use.
Created at the end of 2018, Uniswap is still young, but benefits from the enthusiasm of many investors, which propelled its token to the gates of the top 10.
Designed by IT engineers Billy Marks and Jackson Palmer in 2013, Dogecoin has benefited from ‘a strong outpouring of sympathy, building around her a loyal community – the forum dedicated to her on Reddit brings together 781,000 subscribers.
Initially, despite the fact that it was quite functional, it had been imagined as a funny cryptocurrency, with its logo representing a Shiba dog, but also allowing instant transactions and without bank charges.
Dogecoin has been talked about a lot at the beginning of the year 2021, since it was the subject of a massive investment following the call of the WallStreetBets group, which had made itself known a few days before by exploding the GameStop share price in order to counter the investment funds which had bet down on the price of this American video game chain.
Within 24 hours, the value of Dogecoin had exploded, multiplied by more than 800%.
Ripple has the specificity of having the support of banks: UBS, UniCredit or Santander already use its blockchain, which allows funds to be transferred free of charge.
Rejected by “geeks” and “cypherpunks”, who defend individual freedoms and crypto currencies as a solution to get out of the rut of financial institutions and states, the Ripple is currently in turmoil, because in the sights of the gendarmes American Finance for legal matters.
Its value has fallen sharply, and many uncertainties remain.
Founded by former Ethereum CEO Charles Hoskinson, Cardano and its cryptocurrency ADA is a blockchain comparable to Ethereum. Its blockchain, based on a mathematical algorithm called Ourobros, is supposed to make transactions highly secure, fast and reliable. It also allows the development of smart contracts.
Many projects can afford great ambitions, such as Stellar, AAVE, Monero, SushiSwap, Maker …
It is important to stress that cryptocurrencies are a high risk investment, and that among these projects many will end up being abandoned, while others will prevail.