Each cryptocurrency has its own technological properties, appeal to buyers, and unique backstories. They are typically ranked by market capitalization because the value of a cryptocurrency reflects investor appetite. But behind the tokens, blockchains, and prices, there are more complex stories about each cryptocurrency. Nasdaq Inc. selected the top ten of the largest and most popular cryptocurrencies and the key facts behind them.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Created in 2009 by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakomoto, Bitcoin is the first blockchain-based cryptocurrency, since then attracted millions of investors, becoming the largest cryptocurrency by market cap.
Bitcoin is scarce by design: only 21 million Bitcoin will ever be minted. The crypto’s pathfinder blockchain has become a template for other cryptocurrencies in building decentralized consensus mechanisms.
2. Ethereum (ETH)
Created in 2014 by Russian-Canadian programmer Vitalik Buterin and an English computer scientist Gavin Wood, the Ethereum currency is built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, which operates smart contracts.
While Bitcoin is primarily viewed as a store of value by investors, Ether provides an environment for smart contracts in decentralized applications. Most decentralized finance (DeFi) projects are built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ether’s supply is unconstrained, which means that the total number of ETH minted is still undecided, but will be determined by Ethereum’s community. The network is scheduled to transition from a proof-of-work mechanism to a proof-of-stake mechanism in the near future.
3. Stellar (XLM)
Stellar is an open-source blockchain founded in 2014 by Jed McCaleb, a cryptocurrency evangelist who previously co-founded Ripple Labs and the infamous Mt. Gox Exchange. Its native currency is Lumen.
Stellar’s designed to provide cheap transactions in underdeveloped markets. The blockchain ditched a standard mining model for transaction validations, relying instead on the so-called “federated byzantine agreement” algorithm.
4. Binance Coin (BNB)
Binance coin is the invention of Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange. The BNB token’s goal is to facilitate transactions on the Binance network, allowing users to pay their trading fees and access other products and services, such as Binance’s decentralized exchange.
BNB holders obtain lower trading fees on Binance than those paying in other cryptocurrencies. Built on a proof-of-stake consensus model, BNB’s popularity has grown beyond its utility on the Binance exchange, attracting speculators and day traders.
5. Cardano (ADA)
Founded in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson, a computer scientist and co-founder of Ethereum, who left the project over disagreements with its other founders, Cardano’s cryptocurrency (ADA) is secured by a proof-of-stake protocol named Ouroboros, which runs both permissioned and permissionless blockchains.
Switzerland-based not-for-profit group, The Cardano Foundation, supervises the development of the project. The group has carried out extensive research and experimentation, writing over 90 papers on blockchain technology. Much of this academic work underlies Cardano’s technology.
6. Dogecoin (DOGE)
Dogecoin began in 2013 as a joke and an ironic take on the growth of so-called “altcoins” (cryptos that aren’t Bitcoin). The token’s mascot appropriates the doge internet meme.
With an unconstrained supply, Dogecoin could inflate infinitely. The cryptocurrency attracted millions of new investors in 2021, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk, NBA owner Mark Cuban, and other celebrities began tweeting about the before unknown coin.
7. XRP (XRP)
XRP is the native currency of the Ripple blockchain. It was designed to serve as a currency of exchange within a remittance network used by financial institutions. The supply of XRP coins is finite: only 100 billion tokens will ever be minted. The RippleNet payments network is used by leading global banks and payment providers, such as Bank of America and American Express.
However, in 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued XRP’s parent company and two of its executives, founder and executive chairman Chris Larsen and CEO Brad Garlinghouse. The SEC alleged that XRP token sales were unregistered securities offerings.
8. Litecoin (LTC)
Created in 2011 by Charlie Lee, a former Coinbase and Google engineer, Litecoin was designed to be a faster version of Bitcoin. New blocks are created every 2.5 minutes, which is 4x faster than Bitcoin’s 10-minute block intervals. Litecoin’s faster transaction throughput makes it a more agile cryptocurrency.
Litecoin’s supply is also four times larger than Bitcoin’s: a maximum of 84 million Litecoin tokens will be mined. Similar to Bitcoin, Litecoin is built on a proof-of-work consensus mechanism with a different hashing algorithm, which makes mining easier for individual investors.
9. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin Cash launched in 2017 as a fork of the Bitcoin blockchain. It features larger block sizes to facilitate more transactions and improve scalability. Bitcoin Cash uses the same proof-of-work consensus mechanism as Bitcoin, and it also has capped its supply at 21 million tokens.
Bitcoin Cash users tend to believe its currency should be used as a medium of exchange, while Bitcoin backers see the crypto as a store of value. In 2018, Bitcoin Cash also suffered a hard fork after a dispute over block size; as a result, Bitcoin SV spun off from it.
10. Chainlink (LINK)
Chainlink is a decentralized oracle network that links smart contracts (similar to Ethereum blockchains) with off-chain informational sources, such as data providers and APIs.
LINK, the Chainlink token, incentivize smart contract providers and investors to use this data.
Chainlink does not have its own blockchain; its protocol can use a plurality of blockchains at the time instead.
This top does not overview so-called ‘stablecoins,’ cryptocurrencies pegged to traditional currencies to prevent volatility. On the one hand, these are still cryptocurrencies; on the other – they seem to confirm the authority of fiat currencies.