So, you’ve decided to branch out a bit and invest in a cryptocurrency other than the tried-and-true Bitcoin. Maybe you just want to support some new and interesting tech, or you see the potential for a low-price, low-volume coin to skyrocket.
Which one do you go for? There are at least 1,600 different Bitcoin alternatives listed on CoinMarketCap. Sure, none has come close to the Bitcoin’s price yet, but there are still some worthy of your attention.
How do you go about selecting the top three best investments? It’s a bit of a challenge – and pretty subjective – to pick the top three Bitcoin contenders. What metric do you want to use? Market capitalization is an easy one, but that’s a tad boring. Maybe you’re interested in staying within the Bitcoin coding family. Or you’re interested in true cryptocurrency like Bitcoin as opposed to platform coins or other utility tokens. You could also just want a simple, flat answer – which three coins should I buy?
Here’s how you should go about choosing them:
This is an easy metric to explore. At its core, this is all about comparing two numbers and deciding which one is larger. Simple, right? And powerful, to boot.
Millions of investors the world over have already kind of done your investment homework for you, voting with their dollars for the top cryptocurrencies. It’s like the old “Ask the Audience” feature on the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” game show but on a vastly larger scale.
So, without further ado, here are the top three cryptocurrencies by market capitalization after Bitcoin, as of July 2018:
- Ethereum – Ethereum comes in at second place, overall behind Bitcoin with a market cap of about $47 billion. Ethereum is not a pure cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Rather, it is a platform coin for building other cryptocurrencies. The enthusiasm behind Ethereum revolves around its promise to create the next, decentralized version of the internet.
- Ripple – Ripple’s market cap is about $19 billion. Ripple is a specialized cryptocurrency designed for transferring foreign currencies between banks quickly and with as little slippage as possible. While this so-called Ripple protocol isn’t necessarily linked to the Ripple token, the token’s potentially huge market share has attracted many eager investors.
- Bitcoin Cash – With a market cap of about $13 billion, Bitcoin Cash is just a tenth the size of its more famous cousin. Bitcoin Cash is a fork of the original Bitcoin project that keeps more of the original code. Although it cannot directly trace its lineage back to the original Bitcoin genesis block, its supporters maintain that it is the purest possible interpretation of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision. As the entity known as Nakamoto has never revealed him/her/itself, it’s unknown exactly where Nakamoto stands on this issue.
If simple market capitalization isn’t your preferred metric for picking a top three, maybe it’s worth exploring variations on the original Bitcoin code, known as forks. There are more than 30 to choose from, but beware – Bitcoin’s developers made its name and code open source, and so it’s possible for anyone to slap “Bitcoin” in front of a project, whether that project is a true fork or not.
- Bitcoin Cash – Bitcoin Cash is undoubtedly the largest and most popular fork of Bitcoin. As previously mentioned, it holds a pretty good claim to being the “real” Bitcoin.
- Bitcoin Dark – You won’t find this coin by this name on any exchanges, at least not anymore. The Komodo platform, which is really a fork of privacy coin Monero, absorbed the project that was Bitcoin Dark. Still, Bitcoin Dark serves as the Komodo coin’s nostalgic name, and it did grow out of the original Bitcoin Dark project. It’s definitely worth a look if you subscribe to the more privacy-focused goals of the original Bitcoin.
- Bitcoin Gold – Bitcoin Gold is a bit of an odd duck. Its developers founded it to defeat the increasing centralization of Bitcoin mining. Bitcoin Gold’s mining difficulty and algorithms favor small-scale miners as opposed to the expensive and power-hungry application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which form the backbone of all regular Bitcoin mining today.
The crypto world is full of variety, so maybe it’s a good idea to look at some of the fringe tokens operating out there. These tokens are not pure cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, nor are they pure platform coins, like Ethereum.
These cryptos are all in the top 20 on CoinMarketCap and represent departures from the standards laid down by Bitcoin. Be careful here – these coins have, in some cases, earned plenty of enemies by virtue of their success, and it’s not entirely clear what the future holds for any of them.
- Tron – An easy way to start a crypto slap-fight on the internet is to mention Tron. Tron began life as an entertainment platform and has grown into a supposed competitor with Ethereum. It is not a pure platform coin, however, as sharing content is still its main function. Controversial founder Justin Sun recently – and personally – bought the skeleton of the old BitTorrent, and a Tron/BitTorrent hybrid is reportedly in the works.
- IOTA – IOTA uses a completely different form of blockchain technology known as Tangle, and it’s debatable whether it’s really a blockchain at all. IOTA seeks to be the engine driving the so-called Internet of Things, whereby machines can easily communicate with one another and their environments. IOTA also claims to be quantum resistant, meaning that its algorithms can resist the as-yet-unborn next generation of quantum computers.
- Tether – Tether is a stable coin, meaning that its value really shouldn’t deviate much from $1. In fact, Tether’s whole purpose for existing is to be an asset-backed safe harbor in the crypto world. Tether acts like an anchor for cryptocurrency traders who want to “cash out” without incurring the fees and taxes associated with really cashing out for fiat currency. In a perfect world, the value of Tether never moves from $1 and every Tether token means a real U.S. dollar in Tether’s accounts. Plenty of controversy swirls around whether there really is a vast horde of U.S. dollars behind Tether, and the front man’s well-known legal problems complicate matters further.
Hopefully, you now see the issue. There’s really no correct answer, and there is no magic Big Three outside of Bitcoin. Still, it’s useful to know your options and look at a few different metrics for measuring the top three cryptocurrencies outside of Bitcoin to make a better investment decision.