Survey of the cryptocurrency landscape

How do you judge the “size” of a cryptocurrency? Not by the price per coin - the coin is an arbitrary unit. Nor by number of coins - again, the coin is arbitrary. Instead by market capitalization. “Market cap” is usually applied to companies, not cryptocurrencies. The market cap of a company is its share price multipled by its number of shares. The market cap of a company is the amount in USD it would cost to buy all of its shares. Applied to a cryptocurrency, the market cap, a value in USD, is calculated as $/coin * number of coins. The market capitalization of Bitcoin is the amount in USD you would have to pay to buy all Bitcoins. Right now, that’s about $75B. Many sites like CoinMarketCap track the “market cap” of big cryptos.

CoinMarketCap lists 1200 different cryptocurrencies. The total market cap across all cryptos is $164B. Their market cap follows a strong power law; Bitcoin has almost half the entire market cap.

Here I’ll look at the top 10.

Crypto Market cap Year Notes
Bitcoin $75B 2009 The original cryptocurrency. Proof-of-work.
Ethereum $32B 2014 Scripting. Forked in 2016 due to “The DAO” bug. Will use proof-of-stake in future.
Bitcoin Cash $10B 2017 Fork of Bitcoin. Larger block size limit.
Ripple $8B 2012 Tokens represent other assets, e.g. fiat currency. Formal relationship to banks.
Litecoin $4B 2011 Bitcoin, with some attempts to increase latency and throughput.
NEM $2.7B 2015 Proof-of-importance.
Dash $2.7B 2014 An associated DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization).
IOTA $2B 2016 Uses a Markle DAG instead of a Merkle list.
Monero $1.9B 2014 Uses “CryptoNote”, which somehow is more anonymous.
Ethereum Classic $1.8B 2016 The “non-fork” of Ethereum blockchain; accepts “The DAO” thefts.
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