In a word, yes. Bitcoin was the initial cryptocurrency, and is still the biggest, nevertheless in the eight years since it was created pretenders to the throne have come along. All of them have a similar basic underpinnings: they normally use a “blockchain”, a shared public record of transactions, to produce and track a whole new kind of digital token – one that can just be made and shared based on the agreed-upon rules of the network, whatever they may be. Nevertheless the flourishing ecosystem has provided a huge amount of variation in addition to that.
Some cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin or Dogecoin, fulfil the same purpose as bitcoin – creating a new digital currency – with tweaks to some of the details (making transactions faster, for instance, or ensuring a fundamental amount of inflation). Others, such as Ethereum or Bat, take the same principle but use it to your specific purpose: cloud computing or digital advertising when it comes to the two.
Precisely what is a bitcoin? Can I hold one? – A bitcoin doesn’t really exist being a concrete physical – as well as digital – object. If I have .5 bitcoins relaxing in my digital wallet, that doesn’t mean you will find a corresponding other half sitting someplace else.
Whatever you really have whenever you own a bitcoin is the collective agreement of each other computer on the bitcoin network that your bitcoin was legitimately developed by a bitcoin “miner”, and after that passed on to you personally through several legitimate transactions. If you wish to actually own some bitcoin, there are exactly two options: either be a miner (that involves investing a lot of cash in computers and power bills – probably greater than the value of the bitcoin you’ll can make, unless you’re very smart), or just buy some bitcoin from somebody else using conventional money, typically by way of a bitcoin exchange including Coinbase or Bitfinex.
Most of the quirks in the currency come down for the collective agreement about what constitutes “legitimacy”. For instance, because the first bitcoin was created in 2009, the total number in existence has been growing slowly, at a declining rate, making sure at some time around 2140, the 21 millionth bitcoin is going to be mined, with no more is ever going to be created.
Should you disagree using that collective agreement, well, there’s nothing stopping you against splitting using the wider network and creating your personal version of bitcoin. This is what’s known as a “fork”, and it’s already happened many times before (that’s what competitors like Litecoin and Dogecoin are). The difficulty is persuading other people to adhere to you. A currency used by just one person isn’t a great deal of currency.
So what can I actually do with cryptocurrencies? – Theoretically, just about anything that you can do using a computer could, somehow, be rebuilt on the Cryptocurrency Trading Design. Constructing a cryptocurrency involves rkabxo a global network of computers right into a decentralised platform for data storage and processing – in effect, a huge hive-mind PC (that this no longer seems like it offers much related to “currencies” is part of the reason some instead suggest the name “decentralised apps” to pay for this sector).
We’ve already seen proposals for YouTube clones, collectible card games and digital advertising exchanges built on the top of cryptocurrencies: “x but on the blockchain” will be the new startup pitch du jour, since “Uber for x” and “x but on the iPhone” are passé. There’s already Dentacoin (Yelp for Dentists but on the blockchain), Matchpool (Tinder but on the blockchain) and even Cryptokitties (Tamagotchis but on the blockchain).
In practice, however, possible uses are rather more limited. Bitcoin bring a payment system for a few online transactions, and also fewer real-world ones, while other cryptocurrencies are much more juvenile than that. The excitement about the field is focused more on exactly what it could become compared to what it really is.