Overview

Dash (DSH), like Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin, aspires to be a common currency, one that can be spent or saved like any fiat currency. It emerged in 2014, before the boom of cryptocurrencies and so-called “altcoins”, and has slowly built a stable market presence within the top ten tokens by market capitalization.

Dash was originally conceived by Evan Duffield, who used Bitcoin’s source code to create his own coin, originally called Xcoin. Later it was named Darkcoin in reference to its privacy features, and then eventually settled on Dash, which is short for “Digital Cash”.

Purpose

Dash simply aspires to be a global digital currency, accepted at any and every store, restaurant, or place of business, online or off. It was conceived to do exactly what Bitcoin originally promised to be, a peer to peer currency, the only difference being technological improvements to provide more speed, security, and privacy.

Technical

Dash sought to solve perceived problems with Bitcoin, and those solutions are the core of what constitutes Dash’s differentiating features. One is increased privacy, by use of a built-in transaction mixing system called PrivateSend. This system breaks transactions into preset increments of 0.01, 0.1, 1, 10, 100, or 1000 Dash. These denominations are mixed with increments within transactions made by other users so that they are in essence shuffled in between senders and recipients. This makes it hard to trace the history of any Dash amount, preserving the privacy of users.

Another feature is a built-in system of governance by using masternodes. Bitcoin, according to Dash supporters, was a great technological revolution but has no methodology in place for participating developers or users to direct the course of the evolution of Bitcoin. If there is contention, as there has been in the Bitcoin community, there is no way to come to a consensus, and there can be harsh factionalization leading to splits and competition.

Dash’s masternodes are servers on the network where users commit at least 1000 Dash and a server capable of running continually with no downtime. These servers help with the operation of the network by providing consistent computing power, but they also give the owners of masternode the right to vote on proposals that affect the development of the network. In 2016, a proposal was made to the Dash network on whether or not to increase the block size from one megabyte to two, and they voted on an answer, which was to increase the block size, within twenty-four hours. Compare that to the Bitcoin block size debate, which has raged on for years and ultimately led to the divisive creation of Bitcoin Cash.

The third significant feature of Dash is the speed of its transactions. Blocks are not only mined and transactions committed every two and a half minutes, but also Dash has a system of “quorums” where ten masternodes can lock in a transaction’s details before the next block is mined. A quorum can process a transaction within seconds so that a buyer and seller can have near instant gratification, and the quorum will lock out other attempts to access Dash associated with those coins, preventing double spends.

Market

The total supply of Dash is 18 million coins, and a little more than a third have been put into circulation. At the time of this writing, it is the seventh largest token by market capitalization, and it looks like a stable contender to more or less maintain its position, barring some exceptional unforeseen circumstance.

Dash does have its loyal supporters, but, it’s most often accepted at places that take cryptocurrencies in general, meaning in the larger market it hasn’t clearly carved out a niche for itself. The challenge for Dash is that, unlike tokens that seek to find some kind of niche, a currency is definitely defined by how common its usability, which means the common person wants to have the currency that is most widely used by everyone else. This leaves little room for a second and third place contender. Cryptocurrency is still very much unknown in the wider world, which means there is a huge market to grow into, but, should one cryptocurrency start to gain mainstream acceptance, it could snowball into being the one winner. Dash could be that coin, but it has very strong established competition.

Coin-Spotlight-Icon-ICX

Overview

ICON is a platform on which one can build new tokens, with their own rules of governance and features. In this way, it is much like Ethereum and the ERC20 standard that allows for new tokens to be created on the Ethereum blockchain. Where ICON differs from ERC20 tokens is that all coins within the ICON ecosystem, called the “ICON Republic”, share an ability to be traded with each other without the need for going through an exchange, a form of a built-in atomic swap.

The republic is supported by what they refer to as a “loopchain”, which is the underlying ICON blockchain that interconnects all individual tokens. The loopchain consists of ICX tokens which are used as the intermediary currency between all other tokens. However, since exchanging between different tokens within the ICON Republic is all handled by smart contracts, transactions should effectively be instantaneous and seamless, giving the impression of direct conversion.

Purpose

The goal of ICON is to create an overall environment in which companies can create tokens that suit their individual needs, and yet still be compatible with all other tokens within the ICON system, allowing for greater liquidity of assets. At the same time, the ICX coin will be a currency that people can use for purchasing goods and services.

One example they offer is of a person going to a hospital that is part of the ICON network. When the person’s visit is registered with the hospital, it alerts an insurance company that uses its own token. The insurance company may be using its own token for smart contracts to handle claims in particular way that is of no concern to anyone outside of that company. However, the insurance company, seeing that the hospital visitor is a member of their services, can issue its own tokens to the hospital or to the hospital visitor, and the hospital or visitor can receive them as a different token they find useful. For example, if the insurance company reimburses the hospital visitor, that visitor might choose to receive the tokens in the form of ICX, which they can then use to go to a coffee shop and buy a drink. Or they might opt to move the tokens into their university’s blockchain, where they also have their own token, using smart contracts or other token features to track students or course credits.

In the end, the ultimate goal is to create for everyone the benefits of custom smart contract solutions, while preserving the advantages that come with a common currency.

Technical

ICON is built much like Bancor, which uses a “delegated proof of stake” model. In ICON’s implementation, blocks are validated by people, called delegates, who vie for that status by committing tokens to what amounts to putting them in escrow. However, just committing tokens is not enough, that is essentially just nominating oneself for the role. One must also submit a proposal and exhibit skills necessary to running a node, and then one is voted into the position.

ICON also follows Bancor’s model of reserve backed tokens. Essentially, when creating tokens, one deposits a certain amount of money to ensure that no matter what, there were always be a value to the coin. If other people start buying the newly created token, driving up its price, a smart contract works to balance the price of the token with the amount in reserve.

Market

ICON has a system in place where it can issue up to 20% of its current number of tokens within the space of one year. The amount of increase it is voted on by people called C-Reps who are delegates that act as representatives for individual tokens. In some years the growth could be zero, or 20%, or anything in between. This means its effectively an inflationary currency. If in any given year a number of new tokens equal to 20% of the existing supply, it means all current token holders have their holdings reduced by 20%.

ICON is backed by DAYLI Financial Group, a large Korean conglomerate, and has a robust network within Korea of banks, insurance companies, and government institutions. As such, they’re well funded and networked, so they have the resources to see themselves through market dips and other hardships that might be too much to bear for smaller startups.

Their promotional material often emphasizes hospitals and insurance companies, which in itself is a large market. Even if they stay within Korea, and within that one business sector, they could stand to increase in value a great deal. If they can break out of that niche and find wider adoption, then their growth could be very substantial.

EOS

What is EOS?

EOS is a blockchain that is designed specifically for facilitating “decentralized applications”, or DApps. This is different from Ethereum which has made its mark by focusing on “smart contracts”. A smart contract is a way to make a record of an agreement that is settled in one transaction. A DApp may continue to run indefinitely over many transactions, where each transaction is one step of an overall computation. EOS can, therefore, be thought of as a distributed computing resource, taking advantage of otherwise idle computing power and applying it to complex problems that require more power to solve than any one user may have in their possession.

Overview

There are two significant problems that must be overcome in order to make DApps worthwhile. One is that transactions must be inexpensive, because if a DApp becomes more expensive as the number of operations increase, then the cost of running the program might outweigh the benefits of its results.

The other problem is the speed of transactions per second. While every blockchain aspires to clear as many transactions as it can with every block, the ultimate goal of facilitating human beings making individual transactions, such as purchases, puts a rough upper boundary on how many transactions would be expected. For example, Bitcoin is often compared to whether or not it could handle a throughput of transactions similar to Visa, at 1600 transactions a second. However, any DApp could create an algorithm that expands to create nearly unlimited operations, limited only by what any programmer hopes to achieve.

EOS claims to solve both these problems. Its distributed proof-of-stake, or DPOS, a method of validating the blockchain requires no transaction fees from users, giving DApp developers access to all of the computing power of EOS at no cost. The same DPOS mechanism also shares computing power in such a way that EOS developers claim can process millions of transactions a second.

Purpose

A DApp is a program that is run on a blockchain so that the work required to make it run is spread out over all the computing power supporting that blockchain. Examples of DApps running on EOS are Everipedia, a recreation of Wikipedia, Ono, a decentralized social network, and Oraclechain, an Oracle service provider.

One may note that all these DApps are versions of applications that exist in other forms elsewhere, so there does not yet seem to be a service that could not exist without the support of EOS. The current offering of DApps establish EOS as a viable way to run a program, but the killer app has yet to be found.

Technical

EOS uses a distributed proof of stake algorithm. Instead of blocks being more likely to be mined by people who have more computing power, blocks are verified by people designated as “witnesses” who are selected by an ongoing process of voting. In this way, bad actors can’t overtake the system as unwelcome actions will cause them to be voted out of their position. Also, it increases speed because blocks are not verified through a competition of computing power. A proof-of-work system puts all participants in competition with everyone else, driving an incentive for more and more computing power. In a proof-of-stake system, the designated witnesses are limited to a small pool, so there is reduced incentive to commit vast resources to compete with others. The savings in computing power by not competing can be put toward improving the throughput of calculations. According to EOS developers, they can handle millions of transactions a second, as compared to Ethereum’s 15 transactions per second.

Market

Currently, EOS is 5th overall in market capitalization, with a little over 12.5 billion dollars invested. However, by having a clearly defined niche in distributed computing power, its success is not necessarily relevant to other top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, as they are going after different use cases. While a large market capitalization is an indicator of market confidence so far, EOS still has a ways to go to establish itself, in particular by demonstrating itself with a particularly popular DApp, which has yet to emerge. Until that time, competitors such as Golem, who are going after the same use case, could have a chance to catch up.

What is Litecoin

Litecoin was created in 2011 as a fork off of the Bitcoin chain, in an attempt to solve a perceived problem of mining centralization. The inventor of Litecoin, Charlie Lee, is an ex-Google employee who has been a vocal member of the cryptocurrency community, and his persona has been tightly bound with the coin since its inception. With over 750,000 followers on his Twitter account, Lee’s statements, whether praised or condemned, have resounding effects.

Overview

Litecoin is known as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. Litecoin’s faster block processing time of two and a half minutes was intended as a benefit to merchants who would see their transactions confirmed much more quickly.

The faster block time was also seen as an advantage to miners who would essentially have four times as many chances to successfully mine a block than they would with Bitcoin’s ten minute block times.

Purpose

Litecoin, like Bitcoin Cash and others, is intended to be a currency. It could be said that Litecoin was an early sign of a change in perception of Bitcoin as a store of value, in that Litecoin was intended to be an alternative to Bitcoin by offering more consumer and merchant friendly features.

With a long presence in the cryptocurrency market, Litecoin is one of the tokens that will be more commonly included in services that accept cryptocurrency. However, it tends to be rolled in with Bitcoin and does not show any intention of trying to go its own way, meaning its fortunes are very much tied to Bitcoin.

Technical

Using a block mining algorithm called Scrypt, miners are forced to do serialized processing, which places more of the calculations in memory. This creates a need for hardware memory that quickly becomes too expensive to be practical to amass on a large scale, thus making it ASIC resistant. The intention was to try and prevent groups from coalescing mining power and allow regular people with fewer resources to enter the arena with non-specialized hardware.

However, as of 2017,  companies have started making Scrypt ASIC mining hardware that would work on  Litecoin, which may make mining pools for Litecoin possible.

Market

Litecoin is older than most other cryptocurrencies, and in earlier years, with fewer competitors, it was closer to the top of the list of currencies ranked by market capitalization. With the recent boom of currencies, Litecoin has fallen to the number six position, just under relative newcomer EOS.

Founder Charlie Lee created some controversy at the end of 2017 when he announced he had sold all of his holdings in Litecoin. Lee claimed that at least part of the reason he sold all his Litecoin was that he was constantly being accused of trying to manipulate its price, as traders would watch his tweets for indications of how Litecoin’s price might move. It is not known how much Litecoin he held, and he has stated that he will remain active in development. He also remains active as a key influencer in the cryptocurrency market. While he does have his detractors, even those who find fault with him nonetheless pay attention to what he says.

bitcoin cash logo render

Overview

Bitcoin Cash was created as a result of a continuing debate in the Bitcoin community about how Bitcoin should scale to meet an expanding user base. Bitcoin Cash branched off from the original Bitcoin blockchain, and all work done previous to the split is just as much part of the history of Bitcoin Cash as it is part of the history of Bitcoin. Because of this shared history, and the disagreements that led to its creation, the status of Bitcoin Cash is hotly debated, with two sides deeply entrenched in their view.

Proponents of Bitcoin Cash believe that they preserved the original Bitcoin by forking off before other controversial changes were applied, mainly the SegWit side chain system. In their view, Bitcoin Cash conforms more to the original version of Bitcoin, and some even go so far as to say it is the true Bitcoin.

Opponents of Bitcoin Cash feel that it was a fork perpetrated by people looking to capitalize on Bitcoin’s success by creating what is essentially just another coin in the market, but unfairly leveraging the name recognition of Bitcoin.

Purpose

Bitcoin Cash has a very clear and simple goal, which is to be an everyday currency, used as commonly and frequently as any paper cash, credit card, or any other way people transact for goods and services. However, this goal does not exclude the possibility of being a store of value, as proponents of Bitcoin Cash believe that value ensues from the ability to conduct commerce. Also, as of mid-May 2018, Bitcoin Cash will have the ability to do smart contracts similar to what Ethereum can do, and previous to this, developers have already innovated different uses for the Bitcoin Cash blockchain, such as an on chain social messaging system. What turns out to be the most popular use for Bitcoin Cash may yet to be seen.

Technical

Bitcoin Cash is mined on the exact same hardware that Bitcoin uses, as they are both forks of the exact same code base. As such, Bitcoin Cash directly competes with Bitcoin for computing power. How much power is split between the two coins is determined by the price of the coins, which determines how profitable they are to mine. Currently, the majority of mining power goes to Bitcoin, as it has a significant price advantage. However, Bitcoin Cash has seen price gains approaching 20% of the value of Bitcoin. If it goes upward, and there is enough incentive for Mining to switch over to Bitcoin Cash, this could present a technical challenge for Bitcoin, as the difficulty algorithm that determines how fast blocks can be mined might not adjust in time to match less computing power being available. In such a case, the Bitcoin chain could see a dramatic fall in value, or even fail to be able to continue entirely. This is one reason Bitcoin supporters feel that Bitcoin Cash is an existential threat to Bitcoin.

Market

Except for a few very short-lived spikes, Bitcoin Cash has held a fairly consistent place as the fourth largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. As of May 2018, it has closed the gap on Ripple, its price deviating slightly from the rest of the market, which usually tends to rise and fall together. Because of the controversy surrounding Bitcoin, there are those who apply a lot of meaning to its rise or fall, but while the two warring factions rally against the opposing side, hoping to see Bitcoin Cash rapidly become the de facto cryptocurrency or disappear completely, the market seems to have settled on a slow and steady progression that leaves neither side completely satisfied.