Bitcoin – BTC
Dubbed the King of cryptocurrencies, bitcoin’s unprecedented bull run through 2017 cemented its place on top of the crypto markets.
Kicking off 2017 at less than £737 ($1,000) the token has topped a record high of just below £14,744 ($20,000) in December last year, according to CoinDesk.
There are currently well over 16 million BTC tokens in existence with a staggering market capitalisation of over £204billion ($277billion) – the single biggest market cap by more than £73billion ($100billion).
The bitcoin white paper was first revealed to the world in October 2008, penned by an anonymous individual or group of programmers under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto.
Bitcoin mining then officially began in January 2009 and the peer-to-peer network and currency token has grown massively since.
The question of whether or not you should invest in bitcoin has split analysts and investors alike, with very strong opinions in both camps of the argument.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of investment giant JPMorgan Chase, joined the chorale of analysts who urged against betting your money on the volatile token.
He said: “I think this is going to be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes by a long shot.”
Many investors were put off by bitcoin’s inherent volatility in December last year, when the token plunged from its all-time high prices by more than £4,900 ($6,700) in the space of three days.
However some analysts have been more positive about bitcoin’s future potential to be recognised as a genuine store of value – more so than an investment.
Nicholas Gregory, CEO of CommerceBlock, told Express.co.uk: “Bitcoin is a tangible asset, because once you own one bitcoin you own one bitcoin for life. You own £100 but is that really £100 in five years time when the Government prints more money?”
Ripple’s market capitalisation is second only to bitcoin on the crypto markets
Ripple – XRP
Ripple – the new player on the block – emerged in the past week to the top of the crypto markets with a £88billion ($120billion) market capitalisation second only to bitcoin.
Compared to bitcoin, ripple has a minuscule price point of just £2.30 ($3.12), but there are some 40 billion tokens currently held by customers, compared to bitcoin’s 16 million.
The main criticism levelled at XRPs, and thus also against the Ripple network, is the way the XRPs were distributed
Ripple has made the headlines this month after skyrocketing more than 1,000 percent in value since December 2017 – rising from around $0.006 per token.
Unlike the decentralised bitcoin, ripple was conceived as an alternate to money transfer systems such as SWIFT.
Ripple’s management believe that their platform offers a faster and more reliable transfer network than its direct competition.
Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, said: “You can use digital assets to fund liquidity, and Ripple is uniquely positioned to capitalise on that.
“Bitcoin takes four hours to settle a transaction. XRP takes 3.6 seconds.”
At the moment, ripple has a significant advantage over bitcoin by being recognised by major banks such as Bank of America, Santander and the Swiss UBS.
But ripple’s detractors have pointed out that unlike bitcoin and ethereum, the ripple network is not an open blockchain, and is centralised with is its creators. This is because ripple’s focus is on being a business-to-business (B2B) network and not peer-to-peer (P2P).
Piotr Piasecki, senior developer at Factom, said: “The main criticism levelled at XRPs, and thus also against the Ripple network, is the way the XRPs were distributed.
“Ripple Labs, the creators of Ripple, created the network with 100 billionn XRPs in it, and no new XRPs have been created since the its inception. This is not an unknown practice in the crypto space – a lot of networks ‘pre-mine’ their tokens.
“However, the network creators usually only keep a fraction of the tokens for themselves, pre-selling the rest to anyone that wishes to buy some. Ripple, however, still owns about 60 percent of the originally issued tokens. This raises a few issues.”
Ethereum: The goal of the cryptocurrency is to build a ‘World Computer” network
Ethereum – ETH
Ethereum has been another success story last year but one that seemingly flew under the radar, overshadowed by the meteoric rise of bitcoin.
The token started off 2017 at around £7.37 ($10) before gradually growing 100 percent in value and breaking through £737 ($1,000) on January 5 2018.
But unlike bitcoin, the goal of ethereum is not meant to disrupt the world of online shopping and banking, but rather develop a “World Computer” super network.
The theory is that a worldwide implementation of ethereum would do away with third party companies like Google or Apple having and controlling your data, files and information and instead give control back to the users.
The team behind ethereum believe that this creates an unique opportunity for bitcoin and ethereum to coexist rather than compete.
Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin said: “Bitcoin is the first application built on the blockchain technology.
“Ether can be a more programmable money. We conceive it as a crypto fuel because it powers these programs on the world computer.”
In the light of ripple’s recent success story, Mr Garlinghouse also argued that there is room for all three platforms to cooperate in the crypto market.
He said: “In 2017, people have realised there isn’t going to be one crypto to rule them all.
“You’re seeing vertical solutions where Ripple is focused on payment problems, Ethereum is focused on smart contacts, and increasingly Bitcoin is a store of value. Those aren’t competitive.
“In fact, I want Bitcoin and Ethereum to be successful.”