Gareth Johnson
Gareth Johnson
Updated on November 15, 2023

The crypto market is constantly evolving, with new currencies appearing on a daily basis. Numerous startups, companies, and crypto enthusiasts are constantly developing new coins and tokens, enriching the market with new projects having different use cases. Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are the most popular cryptos on the market, but this doesn’t mean they are the only ones worth paying attention to.

Among the thousands of cryptocurrencies available, there are numerous assets that offer specific advantages and use cases that are handy for different businesses. Some are more oriented toward facilitating quick and reliable payment processes, while others are focused on smart contract functionalities. In any case, digital currencies are surely overcoming the limitations of classic fiat money by using advanced blockchain technology to move funds and data all over the world in a matter of minutes or even seconds, which is much faster than bank transfers.

Since the start of cryptocurrencies with the global launch of Bitcoin in 2009, programmers from all parts of the world have been dedicated to creating new digital assets that offer functionalities to satisfy all financial and technological needs of users.

These are some of the most popular cryptos on the market.

Bitcoin half buried in sand

Bitcoin (BTC) – The First and Most Popular Crypto in the World

When you talk about cryptocurrency, you simply can’t ignore Bitcoin as the first and absolutely most popular cryptocurrency by all measurements—from market cap to daily trading volumes. BTC largely shapes the whole crypto market because when its price goes up or down, usually the rest of the market’s prices also fluctuate.

BTC was launched in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, after the publishing of the BTC whitepaper, and it was a truly revolutionary technological asset because it offered users the first decentralized digital cash in the world. This was a pretty big thing in 2009 when cryptocurrencies didn’t exist on the level that they do today. Bitcoin soon started gaining popularity among crypto enthusiasts, but also among startups and investors that saw huge potential in the first digital coin. 

In 2010, the first Bitcoin exchange platforms were launched and its popularity grew rapidly, along with its price that jumped from just a few dollars during the first years, to a couple of thousand dollars per coin in the late 2010s, all the way to several tens of thousands of USD in 2020.

Some of the Most Popular Altcoins

The great thing about altcoins is that their creation is motivated by the sheer richness of the market. Developer teams are constantly striving to create cryptocurrencies that will stand out from the rest with their technological features and capabilities. This makes the market very competitive because altcoins are struggling against each other to be the best in various aspects and to achieve widespread popularity and acceptance.

Developers usually aim to attract startups and corporations to their crypto project(s) and convince them to use it as a platform for conducting business. The more business projects a cryptocurrency attracts, the more it will become popular and trusted by users, increasing market cap and adoption rate in the process. This means that the top altcoins on the market really have a reason for being so popular and that reason is the quality and value their networks offer.

No guide can cover all of the hundreds of different altcoin utilities that are worth your while, but these are definitely some of the most popular altcoins on the market that have a huge market cap and investment potential.

Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum coin against ethernet coins

The leading altcoin on the market is Ethereum (ETH). Its popularity is often measured with that of Bitcoin, but the truth is that these two currencies aren’t actual competitors because they offer entirely different features to users. They are more of a complementary crypto pair because Bitcoin is focused on digital cash features for payment transactions and storing value, while ETH is focused on providing developers a programming ecosystem.

The Ethereum network was launched in 2015 by programmer and cryptography enthusiast Vitalik Buterin as an open-source, decentralized crypto platform with its own currency, Ether. The network does provide classic digital cash functions through transactions, but it also offers much more. Transactions on the ETH network can be used to facilitate smart contracts that power decentralized applications (DApps), which can be used in all sorts of industries from IT, healthcare, education to logistics and finance. 

Ethereum has its own programming language Solidity and the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) which can be used to create smart contracts and DApps. These processes are facilitated by Ethereum transactions and are highly secure and reliable. Some of the most well-known examples of decentralized ETH apps that don’t use the technology of big data companies are Uniswap, a decentralized crypto exchange, Pool Together, a no-loss lottery system, and Foundation, an educational and culture-oriented web platform.

The ETH blockchain is also highly suitable for building crypto tokens on it, known as ERC-20 tokens, which are basically cryptocurrencies that utilize the Ethereum blockchain. Some of the most popular ERC-20 tokens include the highly popular Binance Coin (BNB) and stablecoins like Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC). There are also various popular Ethereum forks such as Ethereum Classic.

Litecoin (LTC)

Litecoin is digital cash-oriented crypto that was launched a couple of years after BTC, back in 2011 by a developer team headed by Charlie Lee, a crypto enthusiast that formerly worked for Google. Its blockchain utilizes open-source code and is basically a decentralized payment network that works globally, enabling users to facilitate payments quickly and safely.

There is no central authority of the government agency that has control of the LTC protocol, which makes crypto an attractive payment solution for individuals and companies that wish to avoid all the hassle of classic bank transfers. 

Litecoin uses a proof-of-work algorithm similar to BTC to confirm transactions and make sure no double spending is happening. However, the LTC proof-of-work mechanism doesn’t require as much power as Bitcoin transaction confirmations and this is why the computing power of CPUs is sufficient for keeping the network working. As opposed to the large power consumption of GPUs that are used to confirm BTC transfers.

Another difference from BTC is that the Litecoin blockchain generates blocks much faster, which means that transactions effectively take less time.

Ripple (XRP)

Ripple cryptocurrency physical coin on top of white tablet

Many companies need to transfer large amounts of money daily to foreign contractors and production chains to run their business smoothly. Before cryptos were invented, such transactions had to go through extensive paperwork and bank bureaucracy in order to get processed on time. When there are several intermediary banks, an international transaction can even take days and if such a transaction includes large quantities of money, it can take even longer because you might have to provide documentation about the source of the money.

Ripple is great for enterprise transactions and cross-border payments because the XRP digital payment protocol allows transactions regardless of currency, enabling users to convert various currencies in a matter of seconds. Its network has a tremendous processing ability of 1,500 transactions per second, making it a huge financial asset that can be used in various ways. Let’s say that a company has 1000 employees working remotely all over the globe. Well, using XRP they can get their salaries paid in their local currency in a single second.

Stellar Lumens (XLM)

Stellar Lumens are somewhat similar to Ripple since they too were invented to provide companies and enterprises with a means for fast and reliable cross-border transactions. This is no surprise, since Jed McCaleb, one of the founding members of the Ripple team is also the lead developer of Stellar Lumens. XLM is the native currency of the Stellar platform and its state-of-the-art blockchain which is great for connecting financial institutions around the world and giving them a lightning-fast money transfer method. 

The classic bank transfers which take days are a thing of the past with Stellar Lumens and one of the best things about this cryptocurrency, apart from its high transfer speed is that it enables cross-currency transactions, which means you can facilitate international money transactions regardless of currency. The Stellar network does the currency conversion automatically.

ZCash (ZEC)

ZEC is built on the original Bitcoin blockchain protocol, taking all the best features of BTC. It was created by a developer team that gathered mathematicians, cryptologists, and scientists to create a digital currency focused on private cash transfers. The privacy of senders and receivers is fully protected and the transaction is secure because the transaction protocol is based on the BTC blockchain, which was forked in order to provide increased privacy to users. 

Apart from keeping the identity of users private, ZEC also keeps the sum of sent funds private, so no one except the implicated parties can see the exact amount of ZCash that is sent.

Monero (XMR)

Monero is another digital currency with a special focus on privacy. It was launched in 2014 by a group of crypto enthusiasts that felt all crypto transactions should be fully private, with no information about the implicated parties disclosed to big data companies, government agencies, or banks. This is why they made XMR; an untraceable crypto that uses a network protocol that doesn’t allow anyone to trace the funds to their source or final destination.

The technology behind the Monero blockchain is called ring signatures and it is crucial for retaining user privacy at all times. Several transaction signatures appear on the network for every transfer and all of them appear as valid signatures. The catch is that only one of these signatures is the real one but it can’t be located by any third party because it is impossible to isolate the true signature from the fake ones. Thanks to this technique, Monero offers full privacy to users.

Because of its tight security and privacy, Monero can be linked in some instances to people who are engaged in illegal activities, but this abuse of XMR by some malicious individuals doesn’t mean this crypto should be dismissed as something bad.

Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

Finger pressing computer key with Bitcoin cash logo

The Bitcoin blockchain is the first and most popular blockchain in the crypto world. As the community around BTC grew during the 2010s so did different opinions on the direction BTC should go in. That’s how in 2017 Bitcoin Cash was launched as a hard fork of the BTC blockchain.

Hard forks are events when part of the community or developers around a certain cryptocurrency want to implement some considerable changes in the blockchain network. When parts of the community disagree on the direction a crypto is going in, a hard fork usually happens, creating two blockchains: the old one and a new one. This new blockchain is based on the original blockchain’s code, but it has various modifications implemented, which differentiate it from the original network.

The main disagreement that led to the creation of BCH was the issue of BTC blockchain block size. Each BTC block can contain 1MB of data, which was deemed as insufficient by a part of the community that wanted to increase the block capacity. Bitcoin Cash has a block capacity of 8MB which means that each block can contain considerably more data than a BTC block. Transactions are faster, but BCH never managed to achieve the popularity or market capitalization of the original Bitcoin.


NEO is often considered as an Ethereum competitor ecosystem from China. The developer behind NEO is Erik Zhang, a crypto enthusiast programmer who wanted to create a  versatile crypto network that would enable users to create smart contracts, develop decentralized applications and transfer money quickly and safely. 

The NEO blockchain is very user-friendly and its technology can be integrated with various programming languages that enable users to conduct smart contracts and power DApps using coding skills they already have, without the need for learning new programming languages.

Cardano (ADA)

Cardano was launched in 2017 by one of the founders of Ethereum, Charles Hoskinson who left the ETH developer team because of a disagreement with the rest of the team regarding the future of Ethereum. Hoskinson wanted to turn ETH into a for-profit project, while the rest of the team wanted it to stay an open-source ecosystem available to everyone, as an alternative to the technology of big data companies. 

Hoskinson gathered a team of experienced engineers, crypto enthusiasts, and mathematicians that did some of the most extensive research in crypto history before they launched Cardano. Over 90 scientific research papers about blockchain technology are the basis behind ADA, which aims to provide users with the smart contract and DApp functionalities similar to ETH, but based on a proof-of-stake algorithm, rather than the ETH proof-of-work algorithm.

A Few Ending Words…

These are some of the most popular currencies on the crypto market. Of course, there are many more altcoins that have a huge market cap and a potentially even brighter future and this is why you should learn to constantly follow crypto news, to stay in the loop with the most popular currencies on the market.

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