Almost everyone has heard of Bitcoin, and many have heard of Ethereum and Litecoin too, but what about all the lesser-known, yet still hugely impactful altcoins -- like Monero, QTUM, and Ripple?

In fact, there are hundreds (if not thousands!) of unique and exciting cryptocurrencies out there, so the least we could do is make a list of 20 of them. If you're a budding cryptocurrency investor researching the next coin to back, then this is the article for you -- here are 20 of the most powerful cryptocurrencies, as measured by market cap.

 
 

Bitcoin (BTC)

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Bitcoin is the classic cryptocurrency.

The first of its kind, Bitcoin is a simple, yet powerful cryptocurrency that allows international transactions to take place in minutes. It was developed by an anonymous individual under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, and is currently maintained by the Bitcoin core team. Released in 2009, Bitcoin was to become the basis for thousands of other cryptocurrencies

 

Released: 3 January 2009

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: Bitcoin Core, Electrum, Green Address, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Gdax, and others


Ethereum (ETH)

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Ethereum isn’t really a cryptocurrency -- it’s a platform for running smart, fail-proof applications on the same blockchain technology which had originally been developed for Bitcoin. However, anyone who wants to run one of these applications, or “smart contracts” as they’re called, has to pay a fee in a currency called Ether. This is where Ethereum derives its value from: miners create a currency called Ether, and then sell it to developers. Ethereum was created by the Ethereum Foundation, who maintain it to this day.

 

Released: 30 July 2015

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Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Exodus, Jaxx, Mist, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Gdax, and others


Ripple (XRP)

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Ripple is similar to Ethereum in the sense that it’s not really a cryptocurrency. Instead, it’s kind of like an online ledger for storing transactions, which might involve anything from fiat currency to frequent flyer miles. The cryptocurrency aspect of Ripple is just a financial incentive for miners to use their computing power to verify the ledger. Based out of San Francisco, Ripple is maintained by a company of the same name.

 

 

Released: 2012

Website

Whitepaper

Team

Wallets: Rippex, Ledger (hardware), and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Bittrex, and others


Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

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Bitcoin Cash is a fork of Bitcoin, which means that it’s practically the same cryptocurrency, running on the same blockchain, but instead following a different set of technical specifications. Despite running on the same network, units of Bitcoin Cash can be distinguished from units of Bitcoin, so the two cryptocurrencies can be traded separately. It is yet to be decided what the future of Bitcoin Cash will be.

 

Released: 1 August 2017

Website

Whitepaper: See Bitcoin

Wallets: Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin ABC, Bitcoin XT, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Bitfinex, and others


Litecoin (LTC)

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Litecoin definitely is its own cryptocurrency, and as you can imagine: it’s a much lighter version of Bitcoin. Transactions supposedly take place faster and also cost less. Instead of taking minutes, transactions take seconds, and instead of costing dollars, the transactions cost cents. The adoption of Litecoin is worse than you would expect for a currency with so many theoretical benefits to Bitcoin. Litecoin was developed by a former Google employee, Charlie Lee, and is maintained by the Litecoin development team

 

Released: 7 October 2011

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Exodus, Jaxx, Mist, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Gdax, and others


NEM (XEM)

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NEM is a cryptocurrency and blockchain platform designed to improve on the classic cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Litecoin. It features less resource intensive technology, doesn't require you to download the whole blockchain, and a few extras like a messaging platform and "mosaics", which are like custom currencies on the same platform. It's currently being tested internationally as a platform for private companies and financial institutions to make use of blockchain technology. The developers of NEM go by pseudonyms, meaning that their real identities are unknown.

 

Released: 7 October 2011

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: NEM, Jaxx, Mist, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Bittrex, BTC 38, and others


IOTA (IOT)

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IOTA is a unique cryptocurrency in that it doesn't make use of standard blockchain technology; instead, IOTA uses a directed acyclic graph, where transactions aren't grouped together into blocks but instead approved one by one, making sure that there is no conflict with the previous two transactions. IOTA is being developed by the IOTA team, some of whom have real identities available online.

 

Released: 11 June 2016

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets:, IOTA wallet and others

Exchanges: Bitfinex, Coinspot, Bit520, and others


Dash (DASH)

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DASH is a cryptocurrency that offers all the features of Bitcoin, plus more. This includes instant transactions (which don't need a long time to be verified by the network), private transactions (which make transactions completely anonymous), and a decentralised governance system, which means that there is no single party in charge of DASH. This makes DASH a decentralised autonomous organisation, or DAO, which makes decisions for its future based on the desires of users. DASH has an entire team available for your scrutiny at dash.org.

 

Released: 18 January 2014

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Dash Core and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Kraken, Bittrex, and others


Ethereum Classic (ETC)

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Ethereum Classic is very much like Ethereum, because just like Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic is a fork of the the Ethereum network. Ethereum Classic was created as the result of disagreement about whether or not to reverse a number of transactions after a venture capital fund called The DAO had near 50 million USD of Ethereum stolen from it. What is now "Ethereum" ruled to reverse those transactions, while "Ethereum Classic" believed that the blockchain should remain untampered. Ethereum Classic is being maintained and developed by two separate teams, who are both slowly adding new functionality to the platform.

 

Released: 30 July 2015

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Exodus, Jaxx, Mist, and others

Exchanges: Poloniex,Bitfinex, Okcoin, and others


NEO (NEO)

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Formerly Antshares, NEO is like the Chinese version of Ethereum. It's a smart contract platform with a cryptocurrency built into it. One of NEO's missions is to build a "Smart Economy", which they believe is comprised of digital assets, digital identities, and smart contracts. With this, they hope to take the "Internet of Information" from just that into an "Internet of Value". NEO is currently maintained by a group of primarily Chinese developers.

 

Released: September 2015

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Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: NEON and others

Exchanges: Bittrex and others


Monero (XMR)

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Monero, originally BitMonero, is a unique cryptocurrency in that it uses CryptoNote technology, as opposed to the traditional blockchain technology. This means that transactions records don't feature the amount in question, sending addresses, or receiving addresses, which is why Monero is prized for its privacy. Monero has 30 core developers, and a community development project.

 

Released: 18 April 2014

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Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Monero GUI, MyMonero and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Bittrex, HitBTC, and others


Stratis (STRAT)

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Stratis is another blockchain platform whose use isn't solely as a cryptocurrency. The goal of Stratis is to make blockchain technology accessible to the world's financial organizations, especially by allowing developers to create blockchain apps using programming languages and frameworks they already know, like Microsoft's .NET or C#. The blockchain itself closely follows that of Bitcoin. Stratis has a large development and management team, which can be found on their website.

 

Released: August 2016

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Stratis wallet and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, Bittrex, HitBTC, and others


Qtum (QTUM)

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Qtum is something of a cross between Bitcoin and Ethereum. It's a blockchain-based platform for executing smart contracts, as is Ethereum, but it takes an equal amount of inspiration from the tried-and-tested methods of Bitcoin. For example, Qtum uses the UTXO transaction model, where the money you can spend is literally the amount of money you've received minus the amount you've spent, while Ethereum uses its own transaction model where the money you can spend is defined by a more superficial balance. Qtum is managed by a team of developers hailing from both the Bitcoin and Ethereum projects.

 

Released: 16 March 2017

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: Mist, Parity, and others

Exchanges: CoinOne, Bittrex, HitBTC, and others


BitConnect (BCC)

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BitConnect is a bit of a mysterious cryptocurrency; it's like Bitcoin but offers advantages to miners, who can use a variety of different computer resources to mine BitConnect. Supposedly, your investments in BitConnect are used as an investment, and you receive interest for taking on an investment. Unfortunately, there is little known about the BitConnect development team, and so there is controversy over the trustworthiness of this project.

 

Released: 15 November 2016

Website

Wallets: BitConnect Coin wallet and others

Exchanges: Huobi, OKCoin, and others


Waves (WAVES)

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Waves is designed to be a simplistic blockchain technology, which offers people an easy way to trade money and invest. The two main features of Waves are its proprietary decentralized exchange, and its ease of use for creating your own tokens. This makes Waves a feasible platform on which real world businesses can create and issue their own tokens. The project is maintained by the Waves team.

 

Released: April 2016

Website

Whitepaper

Team

Wallets: Waves wallet and others

Exchanges: Bittrex, Tidex, YoBit, and others


EOS (EOS)

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EOS is another ledger-like, decentralised platform. What sets EOS apart from similar technologies, like Ethereum or Waves, are its elimination of transaction fees and scalability (supposedly being able to support millions of transactions a second). Other than that, there's not much more to it! The project is being maintained by block.one, a transparent team of developers and thinkers which can be found at www.block.one

 

Released: 26 June 2017

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: Exodus, Jaxx, Ethereum wallet, and others

Exchanges: Bitfinex, Kraken, HitBTC, and others


ZCash (ZEC)

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ZCash is a cryptocurrency designed to provide privacy and anonymity. However, unlike many other such currencies (like Monero, which we mentioned earlier), ZCash has the very unique feature of "selective disclosure", which allows only certain parties to see transactions in a fully transparent way. This would allow ZCash to exist even in a regulated world of cryptocurrencies, as selective disclosure would allow users to prove compliance with tax or money laundering regulations. 

 

Released: 28 October 2016

Team

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: Jaxx, Zcash client, and others

Exchanges:Poloniex,Bitfinex, Bittrex, and others


BitShares (BTS)

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BitShares, or BitShares 2.0, are again more than just a cryptocurrency. BitShares is something of a blockchain trading platform, allowing users to trade the native currency, BitShares, along with BitAssets, which are market-pegged smart currencies whose prices change together with those of fiat currencies or commodities, like the US dollar or gold. The blockchain technology that BitShares uses is supposedly highly lightweight, offering fast transactions at a low cost.

 

Released: 13 October 2015

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: BitShares 2 and others

Exchanges: Poloniex, ChBTC, Bittrex, and others


Omisego (OMG)

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Omisego is another blockchain technology taking great inspiration from Ethereum -- in fact, it's built onto the Ethereum blockchain. The goal of Omisego is to build a singular small wallet, or a platform on which developers can build their own smart wallets, that will allow users to seamlessly and effortlessly spend cryptocurrencies in the real world. Their proprietary token, OMG, is what ties the whole network together. Omisego has a transparent team of full time works and advisers.

 

Released: 23 June 2017

Website

Team

Whitepaper

Wallets: MyEtherWallet, Jaxx, Mist, and others

Exchanges: Bitfinex, Bittrex, YoBit, and others


Tether (USDT)

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Tether is a cryptocurrency which "combine[s] the best of both worlds", offering all of the benefits of a cryptocurrency -- the fast, easy, and pseudonymous transactions -- along with the benefits of a traditional currency -- stability. They achieve this by offering the possibility to purchase a single Tether for a single US dollar at any time. However, there is controversy as to whether this really 'tethers' the price of the cryptocurrency to the dollar, or whether it just caps it at the price of a dollar. Unfortunately, not much information is known about the Tether team.

 

Released: May 2015

Website

Whitepaper

Wallets: Tether wallet and others

Exchanges: Kraken,Bittrex and others