Cryptocurrency market experts have already started looking at promising Bitcoin alternatives - Bitcoin Cash, Zcash, Monero, Ripple, and Ethereum.
Investors trying to keep up with the mainstream have spent most of the past year figuring out how not to waste their luck and fall into the gold mine of bitcoin - a digital currency that has grown to $ 15,000 in recent months. But for now, traders hope to capitalize on the volatility of cryptocurrencies; experts in this field have long been eyeing other promising alternatives. Here are a few crypto-assets that analysts say deserve special attention in the new year. We also recommend reading Top 5 most successful ICOs of the year.
But remember: investing, of course, sounds tempting, but the risks are inevitable. As with other high volatility assets, it's worth thinking twice before getting involved with cryptocurrency if you can't accept the prospect of losing everything.
Bitcoin Cash is the "little brother" of the classic bitcoin, and it functions in much the same way. It's just one type of digital money that can be used to pay for goods and services in the real world - like a cup of coffee. It was developed last year after several Bitcoin Core developers decided they were unhappy with the direction the main project was taking.
It's all about the cost and speed of processing bitcoin transactions. The rise in Bitcoin's popularity limited the platform's bandwidth, which meant that over time if you wanted to buy or sell something over the network, you would have to pay even higher fees to complete a transaction. The bitcoin code has undergone certain changes to reduce fees and speed up the processing process. So, Bitcoin Cash appeared.
According to Ryan Selkis, a bitcoin investor and founder of CoinDesk, if Bitcoin Cash eventually becomes a more influential and promising digital currency, standard bitcoin (and its sky-high price) will be in trouble.
"We need to take a long position in Bitcoin Cash as a hedge," he writes in a recent blog post.
Anonymity was one of the main advantages of Bitcoin. After all, every bitcoin wallet or account is labeled with a random string of letters and numbers, without mentioning the owner's real name. But soon, law enforcement agencies and academics demonstrated that by analyzing the history of public transactions of a particular bitcoin wallet, the owner could be relatively accurately identified. It's like tracking down your cell phone's location points or your web browsing history - you have to dig a little deeper to find out who you are.
"The anonymity that bitcoin offers is quite fragile and unreliable," says Jim Harper, executive vice president of the Institute for Competitive Entrepreneurship, a think tank in Washington DC.
Zcash tried to solve this problem by encrypting information about the wallet, like bitcoin, and information about individual transactions - it is hidden so that casual witnesses cannot understand who is paying how much and to whom.
Monero is a bit like Zcash, but it went even further and mixed the online addresses of senders and recipients with other possible senders and recipients in protecting user information. In theory, this makes it difficult to identify the real sender or recipient of money in any transaction. It is only known that this is one of the people listed in the transaction, but it is rather difficult to say who. Thus, Monero's privacy lies in its opacity.
Monero has recently made the headlines as a criminal currency. It is not surprising, given that everything that happens outside the law is carefully hidden from the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies. However, this currency is also gaining popularity among those who seek to protect themselves from prying eyes or do not trust banks.
Created in 2012, Ripple is different from other crypto assets. For example, it does not function on a network of unconnected computers, as in bitcoin. Still, it is subordinate to a Californian company that seeks to change the principle of international payments.
Today, if you need to send money to another country, prepare to wait a few days. But Ripple promises to complete the transaction within four seconds. According to its official website, workers living in Japan are already using the platform to send money home to Thailand.
"I told people about Ripple when he wasn't even $ 1 billion and described it as a small company that solves big problems," says Lou Kerner, a venture capitalist at investment firm Crypto Oracle. - "An avalanche of calls fell on me, and the currency's capitalization soared to $ 40 billion."
Ripple hit the $ 40 billion market mark in August 2013.
Ethereum is probably the second most important crypto asset after bitcoin. It allows users to carry out money transactions among themselves and gain access to the entire amount of distributed computing power of the platform.
According to industry analysts, by leveraging ether and having access to computing power, Ethereum users will theoretically be able to take advantage of an even wider range of applications than Bitcoin proponents. While Bitcoin can undermine traditional financial institutions' foundations and wrest transactions from the hands of large banks and governments, ether can be said to bring about a similar revolution in applications and online services.
Experts call this concept a "distributed application" because the software behind such an application is also blockchain-based and decentralized.
There are many more virtual currencies that we have ignored in this article - Litecoin, NEO, IOTA, etc. Almost all of them are now on the rise and differ from each other only slightly. Any of them can become the star of 2018. However, analysts never tire of reminding potential investors of the risks associated with supporting new technologies.
"I have no idea when buying cryptocurrencies will stop being a good idea. In 2017," writes Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, in a blog post.
Investing in cryptocurrencies can be a disaster for investors who have rushed into the industry without looking back, Kerner says. But the technology itself outweighs all the risks of price fluctuations.