Cryptocurrencies and the blockchain have been on everyone’s lips since the introduction of bitcoin in 2009. Though bitcoin has traditionally held the position as the most mainstream cryptocurrency, both for private and corporate use, other currencies are rapidly emerging as strong competition.
To find out which currencies are taking the lead, we profiled the top performers on the public blockchain, including bitcoin, litecoin, dash, monero, and ethereum, and measured emerging trends, main uses, and what makes each currency unique in different countries.
Rivals to bitcoin
Bitcoin will always be known as the first major cryptocurrency, and has steadily been growing in popularity since its inception 9 years ago. Thousands of bitcoin users all over the world have accepted the currency as payment for work, done online surveys in exchange for bitcoin, earned bitcoin through gambling, and even mined the currency.
But bitcoin isn’t the only currency on the blockchain making digital waves. Intense market interest in bitcoin has shed a light on cryptocurrencies as a whole, leading to growing interest from investors and a shift in awareness to other cryptocurrencies delivering better gains.
The growth of ethereum
Interestingly, ether users seem to believe that bitcoin will start declining - almost 45% of people surveyed in Coindesk’s the State of Blockchain report feel negatively towards the cryptocurrency. Users of bitcoin are also worried about the value of the currency - it could continue to go up, but more believe that ethereum will increase even more compared to bitcoin. Regardless, the growth of ethereum is shifting the value of other currencies.
The price of ethereum:
- was trading at under $8.00 in January 2017
- surged on 12 June 2017 to $407.10 - a record high equalling more than a 5,000% gain this year
Several factors fuelled the recent surge in ethereum’s prices, including the fact that cryptocurrency uses “smart contracts and enterprising applications”, which is a computer program that issues a contractual agreement when specific requirements are met. This has translated to noteworthy interest from financial institutions and other companies.
The State of Blockchain report also found that the growing interest in ethereum stems from its use as an investment vehicle, making it popular among businesses owners, start-ups, and those simply looking to turn one ether into two - recently ethereum overtook bitcoin and made history by becoming the most secure public blockchain in all existence.
So how are other, less formidable currencies outgrowing bitcoin if it’s so mainstream? Here’s a look at the growth of the top cryptocurrencies.
Introduced in 2011, litecoin’s all-time high was in November 2013 when it was valued at $53.15. But in the last 90 days, the prices for Litecoin have grown more than 1,000%. As we know, litecoin isn’t the only currency that experienced a surge in value. Dash, previously known as darkcoin and XCoin, is the third largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin and ethereum, and has a market cap of $1,492,319,037. With key innovations, like the Darksend system, and a generous number of businesses that accept the currency as a form of payment, Dash remains one of the most popular cryptocurrencies to date.
Cryptocurrencies are particularly popular in countries where conventional banking methods don’t work, where cryptocurrencies are banned, and where technological innovation is more than welcomed. The table below shows the top searches on Google for the terms “bitcoin” and blockchain”, showing where the most interest lies regarding cryptocurrencies.
Top Countries Searching for Bitcoin:
Countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Estonia, and those mentioned below, not only hold the top spots for searching these terms online, but also for pioneering the growth of the cryptocurrencies and the creation of new currencies themselves.
- Ghana Dot Com is an IT solutions company that has Africa’s first bitcoin mining operation, in Ghana. The company has led top digital innovations in the country, and helped those who have trouble accessing banks, with help from the currencies’ low operational expenses, digital mobility, and the ease of exchange
- The tech-friendly government has been open to using blockchain currencies for healthcare, banking, and even governance
- They’ve introduced an e-Residency program – this gives citizens and businesses in Estonia digital authentication
- It’s of the first countries to introduce blockchain-based e-voting
- One of the biggest banking groups in the Middle East, Emirates Islamic Bank, is officially integrating blockchain into its paper cheques. This new way merges digital with paper, and is pointing to a fresh area of innovation
- In March 2016, the Ministry of Economy passed an initiative, which was based on crowdfunding laws, to allow “mini-bonds” to be issued on a blockchain
- In May this year, the French Prime Minister’s cabinet met to analyse national strategies, and discussed issues regarding blockchain in length, like legal and social issues or regulations
- The nEthereum Foundation, party run by the ethereum founder, is based in Switzerland and leads top research about ethereum and future innovations
- Ethereum’s founder, Vitalik Buterin, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin about developments that give more credibility to Ethereum
- Bitcoin is accepted as payment for services provided by the Resident’s Registration Office
- Ethereum is all the rage in South Korea - the three biggest exchanges handle two times the amount of ether/volume of Coinbase’s GDAX and Kraken combined
- Korea Exchange, the countries securities exchange operator, recently launched a platform powered by blockchain where start-ups are certified to trade shares on the open market
- Recently, government in Singapore coordinated a test to digitise a national currency by using the ethereum blockchain
- Transactions of $1.7 billion of cryptocurrency flowed through Japan two years ago, and is projected to reach $9 billion by 2020
- Japan’s cabinet has declared bitcoin a legal payment method and currency
While new data from a few weeks doesn’t necessarily translate to new market trends, what it does mean is a possible transfer of influence and visibility from bitcoin to other currencies like ethereum – after all, more than 83% of ether purchases were bought using bitcoin a year ago.
While no one can predict the timeline of up and coming currencies, what we do know is that cryptocurrencies are one of the few safe places for your money. While the value of cryptocurrencies is not fixed – they will thrive as long as they are in demand, and as long as the users and creators stay committed to improving the currency.
*All data accurate at the time of writing. Numbers are subject to change due to market shifts