Created in 2009, Bitcoin is the original, and today the largest, most established and valuable blockchain network available. It is also the safest CryptoCurrency network to use for those entering the market due to its high usage and security measures put in place to protect it. Bitcoin exchanges allow traders to buy and sell bitcoins using different types of CryptoCurrencies.
Due to the high level of security, and it being so popular, one of its downsides is that it only has the capacity to process about seven transactions per second in its current form. With no middleman, the Bitcoin blockchain is used to track ownership of digital currency (bitcoins). With only 21 million Bitcoins available to the market, there remain close to 3.6 million Bitcoins not yet in circulation.
In 2018, it is estimated that approximately 1,500 Bitcoins, an average of 122 blocks, are mined per day, with every block containing 12.5 Bitcoins until the next halving which is due to occur in 2020.
What is a Bitcoin halving? It is a fixed event and will occur after every 210,000 blocks are mined or confirmed by the system and results in the bitcoin mining reward being halved. There have already been two Bitcoin halvings since Bitcoin’s formation in 2009.
Ethereum, another CryptoCurrency which works on a distributed public blockchain network, is viewed by some as being the next biggest competitor to Bitcoin. Based on the principle of the blockchain, Ethereum is an advancement on Bitcoin, but with a purpose that does not compete with Bitcoin. Certainly faster, Ethereum can process chunks of code called ‘smart contracts’ on a decentralised Ethereum blockchain or network instead of using a dedicated server or mining rig. Ethereum also has its own virtual money currency called Ether.
The difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin is that Bitcoin is a currency while Ethereum is not just limited to being a currency, it is also a ledger technology which companies are using to build new programs. Think of the Ethereum network as working similar to that of a global computer and not just being limited to being used as a currency.
The Ethereum blockchain focuses on running the programming code of any decentralized application. Together with its own built-in programming language, Ethereum allows developers to write computer programs, called smart contracts, that run on the blockchain.
Using a more advanced principle of the blockchain, Ethereum miners work to earn Ether, which is a form of crypto token that runs within the network as its central cryptocurrency for the operation of public distributed ledger transactions. Ether can be used to buy gas (a unit of computation used in transactions) and to deploy smart contracts.
Today, most initial coin offerings (ICOs) have been based on Ethereum smart contracts.
Essentially, a smart contract is a protocol which runs on top of a blockchain and contains a set of rules to which users agree to interact with each other. When all the pre-defined rules are met, the agreement is automatically applied and the Smart contract is digitally enabled on the Ethereum blockchain. Containing code functions, smart contracts can interact with other contracts, make decisions, store data, and send Ether to other users. Currently, the market cap of Ether (ETH) is more than Litecoin, although it's far behind Bitcoin (BTC).
Litecoin is an ‘alt-coin’ and similar in design to Bitcoin, but with a few minor modifications. Litecoin’s sole purpose is to be used as a currency but it is faster than Bitcoin. Like Bitcoin and Ethereum, Litecoin is peer-to-peer and completely open source. Since it is a digital currency in its truest sense, Litecoin’s transactions are processed as much as four times faster, and its mining process is designed so there is no need for a second layer for application development on Litecoin.
Like Bitcoin, there is a limited supply of just 84 million Litecoins, compared to 21 million Bitcoin. Currently, there are 52,679,982 Litecoin in circulation compared to 16,530,563 Bitcoin in circulation. Verified and as safe as any cryptocurrency available, Litecoin makes use of a comparatively new algorithm known as Scrypt, as opposed to that of Bitcoin’s longstanding SHA-256 algorithm, which allows it a greater level of parallel processing.
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