Top 10 Cryptocurrencies: A Brief Intro

Top 10 Cryptocurrencies: A Brief Intro

By ChangeNOW | ChangeNOW Crypto Blog | 24 Nov 2021


If you’re new to crypto or you would simply like to refresh your knowledge about the Top 10 cryptocurrencies, this article is for you. Since the featured list changes constantly, it provides an accurate picture of the current state of the crypto market. Here’re the Top 10 cryptos as of early November 2021:

  • Bitcoin — the first-ever cryptocurrency that has never given up its leading position.
  • Ethereum, Binance Coin, and Solana — three decentralized computing environments that power decentralized finance and other domains of the crypto economy.
  • Tether and USD Coin — stablecoins, dollar-pegged cryptocurrencies that always cost about $1 each and are chosen by investors who seek to maintain volatility-resistant stability.
  • Cardano and Polkadot — platforms built by former Ethereum co-founders to advance blockchain’s use cases.
  • Ripple — a system facilitating cross-border payments for banks.
  • Dogecoin — a meme cryptocurrency that went beyond being simply a joke.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Bitcoin (BTC)

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Price: $65,078

Market cap: $1.22T

Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a pseudonymous programmer (or a group of programmers) Satoshi Nakamoto who remains unknown to this date. The developer was aiming to introduce a brand new concept of money: electronic peer-to-peer cash that people would truly own unlike regular fiat money.

As envisioned by Nakamoto, cryptocurrency would become a form of money beyond the control of any bank or government, so that no one cannot suspend a transaction or freeze a wallet. He accomplished this by building cryptocurrency on the blockchain, a decentralized database and a value exchange protocol that is run by thousands of nodes worldwide, and no one single node is in full control of the network.

Besides the immutability, transparency, and security of such a system, there’s one more important concept. It’s Bitcoin scarcity: the protocol says there will ever exist no more than 21 million BTC. With this rule, Nakamoto wanted to protect cryptocurrency from inflation — while governments can print trillions of dollars at their will, no one can “print” extra Bitcoin: new coins are mined according to a pre-set rule known to everyone. This makes the system more predictable than national economies.

Today, the main Bitcoin use cases include long-term investment (HODLing), trading, and paying for goods and services online.

2. Ethereum (ETH)

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Price: $4,728

Market cap: $558B

The second-largest cryptocurrency Ethereum was launched by a Russian-Canadian programmer Vitalik Buterin in 2015. He realized that Bitcoin’s functionality could be greatly expanded by incorporating smart contracts: self-executing contracts written in code that would drive trustless economic relations between parties who previously didn’t know each other. After his proposal was rejected, Vitalik decided to launch his own platform — Ethereum.

In this network, developers and entrepreneurs can run decentralized applications — apps that look like regular ones but their backend runs on the blockchain. These apps have their inner economy that is based on their native tokens; Ether (ETH), Ethereum’s main cryptocurrency, fuels all transactions on this blockchain.

Among such decentralized applications, there are borrowing and lending services that make the DeFi economy (MakerDAO, Compound), decentralized exchanges for Ethereum-based tokens (Uniswap), games (Axie Infinity, Decentraland), and NFT marketplaces (Opensea, Rarible).

Openness to developers, good decentralization, and a clear roadmap have helped Ethereum gain trust among thousands of crypto users. Its current transition to Ethereum 2.0 will make the network faster, cheaper, and a few dozen times more efficient.

3. Binance Coin (BNB)

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Price: $625

Market cap: $104.3B

Binance Coin fuels the huge Binance ecosystem, including one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, a public blockchain for building decentralized applications (Binance Smart Chain — BSC), another blockchain (Binance Chain), and a dozen other products. Binance has attracted millions of users due to its user-friendly interface, openness to new projects, and low fees.

Binance Coin (BNB) allows users to pay for all transactions and trades in the Binance exchange and BSC. Following the rise of these services, BNB shot to the top of the Top 10 cryptocurrency list as well.

4. Cardano (ADA)

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Price: $2.08

Market cap: $69.2B

Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson pointed out some critical flaws of the second-largest cryptocurrency during his time at the company in 2015: it ran on an inefficient Proof of Work consensus, was vulnerable to security attacks and centralization risks, and had a low throughput and unpredictable fee structure.

So Cardano was born: a cryptocurrency whose blockchain’s security would be scientifically proven and in which a Proof of Stake system would allow low fees and high scalability.

Cardano boasts of a strong roadmap, and in 2021, the coin skyrocketed since it has implemented a few robust milestones of its plan. The network was enriched with smart contracts functionality, the possibility to run dApps, launch new tokens, and mint NFTs. Cardano’s enthusiastic community supports the rapid coin’s growth.

5. Solana (SOL)

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Price: $238.05

Market cap: $72.3B

Solana is somewhat similar to Ethereum and Cardano — it is also a network for running dApps that seeks to become home to the developing sectors of the crypto economy such as DeFi and others. Solana’s killer feature is that it was built on a PoS protocol that shows outstanding numbers compared to its competitors, offering at least 2,000 transactions per second (unlike 15–20 in Ethereum and ~250 in Cardano), fees of less than a dollar, and a block time of the whopping 400 milliseconds.

Solana was launched in 2020, started 2021 at $1.79, and went all the way up to blazing $215, meaning it has made 126X this year so far. With Solana’s ambitions to bring 1 billion users into crypto, this number may grow even more.

6. Tether (USDT)

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Price: $1.00

Market cap: $73.8B

Let’s say you are trading Bitcoin. After it has significantly grown in value, you would like to take profit and sell your BTC — but for what asset? Other cryptocurrencies are also volatile, and you are never safe from losing money without a stablecoin.

Stablecoins like Tether solve this problem. This asset’s price is pegged to the US Dollar, meaning that 1 Tether (USDT) always costs $1. This token exists on Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Tron, and other blockchains. Whenever you feel like you want to stay where you are in terms of value in your trading, you can exchange your cryptocurrency for Tether. Traders do this both when they want to lock in profits and prevent their portfolio from losing value in case a given asset is plummeting.

7. Ripple (XRP)

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Price: $1.21

Market cap: $56.9B

Ripple is not a typical cryptocurrency in the way that it works directly with banks, which some perceive even as a violation of the philosophy of cryptocurrency. However, XRP has been in the Top 10 for quite a while so far, which proves its value. Ripple powers cross-border fiat payments, allowing banks to get rid of multiple intermediaries, reduce wire transfer times, and cut fees.

XRP has grown fivefold during 2021, which is a great result, though it may not look as brilliant compared to some other cryptocurrencies. One of the limitations for Ripple’s growth may be its continuing legal proceedings with the SEC. This is a reason why many consider it undervalued. If (and when) this issue is resolved, we may see the further growth of XRP.

8. Polkadot (DOT)

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Price: $47.8

Market cap: $47.2B

Polkadot focuses on blockchain interoperability: the central topic in building Web 3.0, decentralized internet that wins the hearts and minds of today’s crypto enthusiasts. Its core idea is uniting different blockchains: for instance, Bitcoin and Ethereum networks still cannot exchange value and data, whereas making such cross-chain swaps possible would provide another incentive to cryptocurrency adoption.

Polkadot has another important use case: businesses can use the platform to build customizable blockchains that would interoperate through the Polkadot mainnet. This is one of the interoperability aspects that is viewed as the future of crypto. The topic’s relevance is supported by the DOT price dynamic: the coin has grown more than sixfold in the last 10 months.

9. Dogecoin (DOGE)

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Price: $0.26

Market cap: $35B

Dogecoin has been the first one in a large cohort of doge meme coins popular today. Launched just as a joke, it didn’t pursue the goal to enter the Top 10. Although the “DOGE for $1” slogan was more of a joke to many, it doesn’t seem anything unrealistic anymore.

DOGE is a fork of Litecoin, so the coins are in some way similar: Dogecoin works on the PoW consensus, with its block time of around 1 minute, and fees being less than $1. An incredibly enthusiastic community of DOGE has driven its growth, but until today, the coin remains quite a volatile and pretty risky investment.

10. USD Coin (USDC)

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Price: $1

Market cap: $34.4B

Why should there be another stablecoin, if there is Tether? USDT is widely used by crypto enthusiasts, but it has a serious shortcoming: it lacks transparency. Audits are not frequent enough, and there are doubts if USDT tokens are really backed 1:1 to assets from the fiat world as stated.

Meanwhile, USD Coin is a stablecoin offering more transparency. It is fully backed 1:1 by US Dollars, and the Grant Thornton LLP accounting firm verifies that in its monthly audits. Ethereum is not the only chain USDC is running on: the token is also available on Stellar and Solana.

Final Word

These were the 10 biggest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. Although there are projects worth tens and hundreds of billions of dollars on this list, it keeps changing almost every month. Keep abreast of our most up-to-date reviews of the top coins and learn what the deal with Solana is or how Polkadot is revolutionizing blockchain interoperability.

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