An altcoin is simply any cryptocurrency that isn’t Bitcoin. The name “altcoin” is short for “alternative coin”, and is a commonly used term in the cryptocurrency space.
Bitcoin was the first successful blockchain project and cryptocurrency. It quickly received widespread adoption and continues to be the most well-known digital asset. However, there are now thousands of other digital assets that have been created since Bitcoin’s release in 2009. These are typically referred to as altcoins.
Why were Altcoins Created?
The majority of altcoins were created with the intention of improving upon the design of Bitcoin in some way. For example, Litecoin was designed to offer faster transaction times than Bitcoin. Ethereum introduced intelligent contracts and enabled the development of decentralized applications (dApps).
Other altcoins seek to provide anonymity or improved privacy features, while others focus on increasing the total supply of their respective tokens. Today, there are literally thousands of different altcoins available on a variety of exchanges.
Many altcoins are clones or forks of Bitcoin with slight changes to the codebase. These are often referred to as “Bitcoins on steroids”. Some examples include Dogecoin, which removed the block size limit from Bitcoin’s code and added a fun canine-themed mascot, and Namecoin which seeks to add a decentralized DNS system on top of the Bitcoin network.
There are also numerous projects that have nothing whatsoever to do with Bitcoin but still use blockchain technology such as Ripple, Tron, and Cardano. These assets are often referred to as platform coins or utility tokens because they power entire ecosystems likely to see widespread adoption in the future. While not all platform coins currently have their own main nets operational (Cardano and Tron being notable exceptions), they all have ambitious roadmaps that aim to change the world as we know it.
In conclusion, an altcoin is simply any cryptocurrency that isn’t Bitcoin. The first altcoins were created with the intention of improving upon the design of Bitcoin in some way. Today, there are literally thousands of different altcoins available on various exchanges with various aspects compared to bitcoin such as speed, security, and anonymity.