Bitcoin For Dummies
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The world of digital currencies is teeming with eager developers who feel they can create the "next bitcoin." Over the years, a few thousand altcoins have been released, and most have disappeared into obscurity because they were nothing more than pump-and-dump schemes to make a quick profit.

But there are a few altcoins besides bitcoin in existence that are of some importance, even though they will not dethrone bitcoin any time soon. Here are eight digital currencies that have different twists.

Litecoin: the silver to Bitcoin's gold

Perhaps the most widely known altcoin is Litecoin, which uses an entirely different algorithm (Scrypt) from bitcoin's (SHA-256). Litecoin was the first altcoin to use the Scrypt algorithm, which gave bitcoin miners a reason to hold onto their outdated GPU hardware and generate income by pointing their hardware to mine Litecoin instead.

Litecoin has managed to stay relevant for an extended period of time, simply because it was the first of its kind to try and do something new. That initial ideology led to the creation of a significant Litecoin community, which has remained loyal and faithful throughout the years.

The only additional advantage to Litecoin, besides utilizing GPU for mining, is that the mining time between blocks is five minutes, compared to ten minutes for bitcoin.

Most of Litecoin's success can also be attributed to all the crypto-currency exchanges listing Litecoin trading pairs, and effectively creating secondary trading markets. In fact, Litecoin can be traded on pretty much all crypto-currency exchanges in existence today, although only a handful of exchanges offer a Litecoin/fiat currency trading option. Various payment processors have added Litecoin to their repertoire of coins as well, giving the community a way to spend LTC in most places where bitcoin is accepted as well.

Many of the altcoins available today are based on Litecoin's Scrypt algorithm.

Dogecoin: such wow, much fun, very coin

When Dogecoin was launched, it seemed to be a "meme" coin, as it was presented in a very cartoonish way. With no hard coin supply cap, and taking a page from Litecoin's book by using the Scrypt algorithm, no one expected Dogecoin to become a major crypto-currency.

Lo and behold, the third largest crypto-currency community in the world will gladly tell you otherwise. Dogecoin prides itself upon being a community crypto-currency, which resulted in various community efforts to raise funds for good causes.

Two achievements of raising funds with Dogecoin have included getting the Jamaican bobsled team to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and raising funds for Josh Wise to participate in the number 98 car in Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR May 2014 race.

Dash: formerly known as Darkcoin

Bitcoin in itself does not offer anonymity per se, but rather pseudonymity, as users can mask their identities with a wallet address. This lack of anonymity has allowed various altcoin developers to come up with potential solutions to this problem, and features have been developed that may, or may not, make their way to bitcoin software in the future.

Darkcoin, or Dash as it is called these days, is one of the frontrunners on the topic of developing anonymity features. Evan Duffield, the main Dash developer, has come up with several creative solutions to create fully autonomous and anonymous transactions over the Dash network. Dash continues to be one of the more popular anonymity altcoins.

Ripple: a different type of crypto-currency with potential

Nearly every crypto-currency you will ever encounter embraces the ideology of decentralizing life as we know it. Ripple is slightly different, as it was created and is maintained by Ripple Labs. Based on market capitalization, Ripple is one of the largest crypto-currencies in existence today.

Ripple is getting quite a lot of media attention at the time of writing. Its protocol has been implemented by Fidor Bank and other payment networks as settlement infrastructure technology. According to some banks, Ripple's technology of distributed ledgers has a number of advantages over bitcoin's blockchain technology, including security and price.

Peercoin: introducing proof-of-stake

Bitcoin and Litecoin have one thing in common: New coins can only be generated through the mining process. Peercoin was one of the first "bitcoin clones" to offer a new system to generate coins, called proof-of-stake. The way proof-of-stake works is by having an amount of coins sitting in your wallet for a certain period, without spending them.

Once these coins reach a certain age — a period during which they have not been moved — they generate a small interest percentage. The whole principle works in the same way as a bank's savings account, but in a completely decentralized manner, with the user being in full control of their funds at all times.

Allowing the generation of additional Peercoins through proof-of-stake also provides an additional layer of network stability, as the numbers of miners may decline over time, but there will always be users staking their PPC. Additionally, Peercoin developers have implemented a steady inflation rate of 1 percent per year, with no hard coin supply cap put in place.

StartCOIN: crowdfunding

StartCOIN is all about crowdfunding and is reward-based. The coin rewards users who pledge, share, and hold StartCOIN on a dedicated website titled StartJOIN.

Crowdfunding has gained popularity, which StartCOIN has taken advantage of by allowing communities to fund ideas, concepts, and projects. Those who pledge or gain funding via the website then are also rewarded with StartCOINs as an additional incentive.

NXT: using proof-of-stake for transaction consensus

Unlike bitcoin's consensus through mining, NXT uses proof-of-stake to reach a transaction consensus. Additionally, NXT is one of the very few crypto-currencies that has no mining process — all coins were distributed during the launch of this altcoin. Having a steady supply of coins, available at any given time, created a new ecosystem in the world of crypto-currency.

What makes NXT truly interesting is the fact that any user can create their own crypto-currency within the NXT ecosystem. All newly created coins are backed by NXT currency and can be distributed in a variety of ways.

In more recent times, NXT has gradually introduced new features such as smart contracts, an arbitrary messaging service, and a proper decentralized peer-to-peer exchange platform called MultiGateWay.

CasinoCoin: Branding for Casino Users

One coin that is now starting to see the benefit of having a good name behind it is CasinoCoin. Given the name, it should be obvious that it is related to the casino marketplace.

CasinoCoin has positioned itself using the same technology as Litecoin (the Scrypt algorithm), but by having a brand name, it allows the public to understand immediately the affiliation of the coin and where its target user is.

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