Comparing Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Other Cryptos
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware that we’re in the middle of a cryptocurrency explosion. In one year, the value of all currencies increased a staggering 1,466% – and newer coins like Ethereum have even joined Bitcoin in gaining some mainstream acceptance.
And while people like Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan and famed value investor Howard Marks have been extremely critical of cryptocurrencies as of late, many other investors are continuing to ride the wave. As we’ve noted in the past, the possible effects of the blockchain cannot be understated, and it could even change the backbone of how financial markets work.
However, even with the excitement and action that comes with the space, a major problem still exists for the layman: it’s really challenging to decipher the differences between cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Ripple, and Dash.
For this reason, we worked with social trading network eToro to come up with an infographic that breaks down the major differences between these coins all in one place.
A Description of Major Coins
Here are descriptions of the major cryptocurrencies, which make up 84% of the coin universe.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, and was released as open-source software in 2009. Using a new distributed ledger known as the blockchain, the Bitcoin protocol allows for users to make peer-to-peer transactions using digital currency while avoiding the “double spending” problem.
No central authority or server verifies transactions, and instead the legitimacy of a payment is determined by the decentralized network itself.
Bottom Line: Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency with the most liquidity and significant network effects. It also has brand name recognition around the world, with an eight-year track record.
Litecoin was launched in 2011 as an early alternative to Bitcoin. Around this time, increasingly specialized and expensive hardware was needed to mine bitcoins, making it hard for regular people to get in on the action. Litecoin’s algorithm was an attempt to even the playing field so that anyone with a regular computer could take part in the network.
Bottom Line: Other altcoins have taken away some of Litecoin’s market share, but it still has an early mover advantage and some strong network effects.
Ripple is considerably different from Bitcoin. That’s because Ripple is essentially a global settlement network for other currencies such as USD, Bitcoin, EUR, GBP, or any other units of value (i.e. frequent flier miles, commodities).
To make any such a settlement, however, a tiny fee must be paid in XRP (Ripple’s native tokens) – and these are what trade on cryptocurrency markets.
Bottom Line: Ripple runs on many of the same principles of Bitcoin, but for a different purpose: to serve as the middleman for all global FX transactions. If it can successfully capture that market, the potential is high.
Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications.
In the Ethereum blockchain, instead of mining for bitcoin, miners work to earn ether, a type of crypto token that fuels the network. Beyond a tradeable cryptocurrency, ether is also used by application developers to pay for transaction fees and services on the Ethereum network.
Bottom Line: Ethereum serves a different purpose than other cryptocurrencies, but it has quickly grown to displace all but Bitcoin in value. Some experts are so bullish on Ethereum that they even see it becoming the world’s top cryptocurrency in just a short span of time – but only time will tell.
In 2016, the Ethereum community faced a difficult decision: The DAO, a venture capital firm built on top of the Ethereum platform, had $50 million in ether stolen from it through a security vulnerability.
The majority of the Ethereum community decided to help The DAO by “hard forking” the currency, and then changing the blockchain to return the stolen proceeds back to The DAO. The minority thought this idea violated the key foundation of immutability that the blockchain was designed around, and kept the original Ethereum blockchain the way it was. Hence, the “Classic” label.
Bottom Line: As time goes on, Ethereum Classic has been carving out a separate identity from its bigger sibling. With similar capabilities and a different set of principles, Ethereum Classic could still have upside.
Dash is an attempt to improve on Bitcoin in two main areas: speed of transactions, and anonymity. To do this, it has a two-tier architecture with miners and also “masternodes” that help the network perform advanced functions such as near-instant transactions and coin-mixing to provide additional privacy.
Bottom Line: The innovations behind Dash are interesting, and could help to make the coin more consumer-friendly than other alternatives.
Bonus: Bitcoin Cash
Although not included in the graphic, we also wanted to add a quick word on Bitcoin Cash. This new currency “hard forked” from Bitcoin about a month ago, as a result of miner disagreements about the future of Bitcoin. Here’s a detailed summary of the announcement.
Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World
Cryptocurrency regulations are essential for the future of digital finance, making it more attractive for businesses, banks, and investors worldwide.
Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World
Following the unprecedented cryptocurrency boom in 2017, investors and governments alike could no longer ignore the growth of decentralized finance.
The world has become increasingly fascinated with cryptocurrencies and the ways they are enabling greater access, such as being able to send funds to remote places or securing capital for small businesses.
To aid this, cryptocurrency regulations are being slowly introduced into global financial markets. Regulations help to monitor these emerging digital currencies, and to allow for clearer guidelines and a measure of security.
The Regulatory Landscape
Today’s graphic from ComplyAdvantage maps out major regulatory cryptocurrency and exchange landscapes around the world, showing how sentiments towards digital currencies are evolving.
To do this, ComplyAdvantage measured cryptocurrency regulatory environments using their own Light-to-Tight scale, based on the following criteria:
- Cryptocurrencies and exchanges status? (Ban = 3 points, Regulated = 2 points, Grey Area = 1 point)
- Cryptocurrency considered legal tender? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)
- Planned legislation to increase crypto regulation? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)
Which jurisdictions have the strictest and most relaxed regulations for cryptocurrencies?
Regulations by Region
Global attitudes towards the rise of cryptocurrencies have shifted greatly over the past few years. While the term cryptocurrency is a bit of a misnomer, some countries do consider digital currencies legal tender, with many viewing cryptocurrencies as commodities.
Below is a table of the major countries that are pursuing cryptocurrency regulations:
|Country||Cryptocurrencies||Exchanges||Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)|
|Australia||Legal; treated as property||Legal, must register with AUSTRAC||Regulated|
|Switzerland||Legal; generally accepted as payment||Legal, regulated by SFTA||Regulated|
|Malta||Not legal tender||Legal, regulated under the VFA Act||Regulated|
|Estonia||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the Financial Intelligence Unit||Regulated|
|Gibraltar||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the GFSC||Regulated|
|Luxembourg||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the CSSF||Regulated|
|Canada||Not legal tender; some retailers accept as payment||Legal, regulation varies by province; final federal regulations expected late 2019||Regulated|
|Mexico||Legal, accepted as payment in some contexts||Grey area; first crypto exchange in opened mid 2019||Regulated|
|Lithuania||Not legal tender||Legal, must register with the Lithuanian Finance Ministry||Grey area|
|United States||Not legal tender; some retailers accept as payment||Legal, regulation varies by state; SEC expected to publish updated crypto regulations late 2019||Grey area|
|UK||Not legal tender; considered assets||Legal, registration requirements with FCA||Grey area|
|Russia||Not legal tender||Grey area; regulations to be determined by the end of 2019||Grey area|
|Japan||Legal; treated as property||Legal, must register with the Financial Services Agency||Grey area|
|Nigeria||Legal||Grey area; regulations upcoming from Central Bank of Nigeria||Grey area|
|Singapore||Not legal tender||Legal, no registration required||Grey area|
|South Korea||Not legal tender||Legal and regulated, must register with FSS||Banned|
|India||Not legal tender; digital rupee may be in the works||Effectively illegal, but global and federal regulations being considered||Banned|
|China||Bitcoin considered property; all other cryptocurrencies banned||Illegal, but a global regulatory framework being considered||Banned|
Japan has one of the most progressive regulatory climates for cryptocurrencies, widely considering bitcoin as legal tender and passing a law in mid-2017 recognizing cryptocurrencies as legal property. In late 2018, Japan also approved self-regulation for the crypto industry.
By contrast, China currently has one of the most restrictive environments in the world for cryptocurrency. China banned bitcoin transactions in 2013, as well as ICOs and crypto exchanges in 2017─though many have found workarounds through sites not yet firewalled.
Cryptocurrency and exchange regulations in the EU are determined by individual member states, and are considered legal across the bloc.
Digital currency offers great promise, through its ability to reach people and businesses in remote and marginalized regions.
—Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Switzerland has one of the most open climates for cryptocurrencies and exchanges in Europe. In 2016, the city of Zug, known as “Crypto Valley”, started accepting bitcoin as payment for city fees. Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his goal in 2018 to make Switzerland the world’s first “crypto-nation”.
Both Canada and the U.S. take a similar approach to cryptocurrency legislation at the federal level, as both countries view cryptocurrencies as securities. However, provincial and state regulations differ widely in their taxation requirements of profits from crypto investments.
Regulations throughout Latin and South America run the full legislative spectrum.
- Bolivia: unilateral ban on cryptocurrencies and exchanges
- Ecuador: the first country to launch its own token; ban on all cryptocurrencies aside from its government-issued SDE token (Sistema de Dinero Electrónico = electronic money system)
- Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile: cryptocurrencies widely accepted as payment
- Venezuela: cryptocurrencies widely accepted; this makes sense, considering the economic crisis and subsequent freefall of the bolívar
The Importance of Cryptocurrency Regulations
Cryptocurrency’s journey is the story of a technology rapidly outpacing the laws that govern it.
Governments around the world are keenly aware of this problem. Members of the G20 published a request in June 2019 for a global regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies to be implemented to better manage the benefits and challenges that cryptocurrencies bring.
Regulation for both cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges is essential for the future of digital finance─bringing legitimacy to the digital financial market, and making it more attractive for new businesses, established banks, and investors worldwide to more easily conduct business within this emerging ecosystem.
Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks
Bitcoin forks play a key role in Bitcoin’s evolution as a blockchain. While some have sparked controversy, most Bitcoin forks have been a sign of growth.
Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks
The emergence of Bitcoin took the world by storm through its simplicity and innovation. Yet, plenty of confusion remains around the term itself.
The Bitcoin blockchain—not to be confused with the bitcoin cryptocurrency—involves a vast global network of computers operating on the same distributed database to process massive volumes of data every second.
These transactions tell the network how to alter this distributed database in real-time, which makes it crucial for everyone to agree on how these changes should be applied. When the community can’t come to a mutual agreement on what changes, or when such rule changes should take effect, it results in a blockchain fork.
Today’s unique subway-style map by Bitcoin Magazine shows the dramatic and major forks that have occurred for Bitcoin. But what exactly is a Blockchain fork?
Types of Blockchain Forks
Forks are common practice in the software industry and happen for one of two reasons:
- Split consensus within the community
These forks are generally disregarded by the community because they are temporary, except in extreme cases. The longer of the two chains is used to continue building the blockchain.
- Changes to the underlying rules of the blockchain
A permanent fork which requires an upgrade to the current software in order to continue participating in the network.
There are four major types of forks that can occur:
1. Soft Forks
Soft forks are like gradual software upgrades—bug fixes, security checks, and new features—for those that upgrade right away.
These forks are “backwards compatible” with the older software; users who haven’t upgraded still have access to the network but may not be able to use all functionality in the current version.
2. Hard Forks
Hard forks are like a new OS release—upgrading is mandatory to continue using the software. Because of this, hard forks aren’t compatible with older versions of the network.
Hard forks are a permanent division of the blockchain. As long as enough people support both chains, however, they will both continue to exist.
The three types of hard forks are:
Scheduled upgrades to the network, giving users a chance to prepare. These forks typically involve abandoning the old chain.
Caused by disagreements in the community, forming a new chain. This usually involves major changes to the code.
- Spin-off Coins
Changes to Bitcoin’s code that create new coins. Litecoin is an example of this—key changes included reducing mining time from 10 minutes to 2.5 minutes, and increasing the coin supply from 21 million to 84 million.
3. Codebase Forks
Codebase forks copy the Bitcoin code, allowing developers to make minor tweaks without having to develop the entire blockchain code from scratch. Codebase forks can create a new cryptocurrency or cause unintentional blockchain forks.
4. Blockchain Forks
Blockchain forks involve branching or splitting a blockchain’s whole transaction history. Outcomes range from “orphan” blocks to new cryptocurrencies.
Splitting off the Bitcoin network to form a new currency is much like a religious schism—while most of the characteristics and history are preserved, a fork causes the new network to develop a distinct identity.
Summarizing Major Bitcoin Forks
Descriptions of major forks that have occurred in the Bitcoin blockchain:
- Bitcoin / Bitcoin Core
The first iteration of Bitcoin was launched by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Future generations of Bitcoin (aka Bitcoin 0.1.0) were renamed Bitcoin Core, or Bitcore, as other blockchains and codebases formed.
A codebase fork of Bitcoin. Developers released a hard fork protocol called Segwit2x, with the intention of having all Bitcoin users eventually migrate to the Segwit2x protocol. However, it failed to gain traction and is now considered defunct.
- Bitcoin ABC
Also a codebase fork of Bitcoin, Bitcoin ABC was intentionally designed to be incompatible with all Bitcoin iterations at some point. ABC branched off to form Bitcoin Cash in 2017.
- Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, Other Fork Coins
After the successful yet contentious launch of Bitcoin Cash, other fork coins began to emerge. Unlike the disagreement surrounding Bitcoin Cash, most were simply regarded as a way to create new coins.
Some of the above forks were largely driven by ideology (BTC1), some because of mixed consensus on which direction to take a hard fork (Bitcoin ABC), while others were mainly profit-driven (Bitcoin Clashic)—or a mix of all three.
Where’s the Next Fork in the Road?
Forks are considered an inevitability in the blockchain community. Many believe that forks help ensure that everyone involved—developers, miners, and investors—all have a say when disagreements occur.
Bitcoin has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Crypto investors should be aware that Bitcoin, as both a protocol and a currency, is complex and always evolving. Even among experts, there is disagreement on what constitutes a soft or hard fork, and how certain geopolitical events have played a role in Bitcoin’s evolution.
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