Just when we thought the dust was settling, the crypto market continues to fluctuate. Investors and enthusiasts have been flying high on speculation as to where the prices could go. Now, reality may be sinking in. Since there are hundreds of coins in the marketplace, it is time to look at the differences between them. So, let's forget about price and profits for a few minutes. Instead, let's take a look at the technology's potential, which has fostered community support from the beginning.
Some coins were designed with a mission, others with business applications, and some with a singular purpose. Still, each coin is some adaptation of the blockchain. The community considers Bitcoin to be its digital gold, or the global currency to which all other currencies can be pegged. That's why Bitcoin is commonly referred to as a "store of value". For altcoins, the applications of the crypto technologies are what makes them unique. Though each coin technology serves its owns purpose in the crypto economy, it is easy to cast them all into the same category because of the blockchain.
But... each coin is different in the way it makes use of the blockchain, and it may even create its own blockchain. For example, the Bitcoin blockchain is entirely different from the Ethereum blockchain. Some coins have even taken the concept of the blockchain, and applied it, without using the blockchain at all. What is important to remember is that the blockchain, in its purest form, is a public record that cannot be changed. It is also decentralized, meaning that no single governing body owns it. Because all transactions are validated and confirmed in the system, it is of interest to the financial services industry. Unfortunately, what makes Bitcoin's blockchain an immutable force, the size of its network, results in slow processing time for transactions. For this reason, Bitcoin may be a better store of value than a financial payment instrument. Enter Ripple ...
Ripple, a San Francisco startup established in 2012, aims to solve some of the scalability issues that Bitcoin has. In contrast to Bitcoin, which sometimes takes an hour to send money, Ripple's cross-border payment system can process a payment in 4 seconds. Ripple's network can also process 1000 transactions per second, with the possibility of scaling to handle the same number as Visa (50000 transactions per second). By comparison, the Ethereum platform can only process 15 transactions per second, and Bitcoin currently 3 to 5. It is easy to see how Ripple's technology is better suited for the financial payment industry.
However, Ripple is not resistant to censorship in the way that Bitcoin is. This is due to its blockchain adaptation being more centralized (which annoys many blockchain purists). Regardless, this company has major financial backing by multiple firms including Google ventures, and has been already been adopted by major financial institutions. In spite of all the great technology built into the blockchain, its use as a micro payment system would result in fees that are too large to justify. Enter IOTA ...
The aptly named IOTA is the coin technology that aims to be the backbone for the Internet of Things (IOT). IOTA does not use a main blockchain, and because of this, it allows for micro payments to be made with zero transaction fees. Its major purpose is to allow for the sharing of resources between machine devices that are connected to the Internet. Instead of the blockchain, IOTA created its own adaptation it calls the "tangle", which is also a distributed ledger. Because it is block-less, the tangle has more flexibility, which even allows data to be sent through its system completely "tamper proof and fully authenticated".
With billions of interconnected devices, the applications of this technology are far and wide. Consider that a grocery store might be able to rent cooling through a modular cooling system, or that the driver of an electric car could charge their vehicle with increasing modularity and convenience. While the IOT industry may seem far out, the power of interconnected devices is already here. Finding ways to share resources more efficiently is part of the new economy. So, enter Siacoin...
The idea of Sia was originally conceived at HackMIT 2013. Sia then asked... "What if you could liberate the unused storage space of the world and unite it into a worldwide free market for data?" Sia, a product of Nebulous, Inc., believes that data should be free. Its currency, the Siacoin, can be used to purchase 1 TB of storage space that is being rented by people with extra space on their device. Look out, Amazon, Google and Microsoft because the current price is a startlingly low $2 per month.
This will sound enticing to nearly everyone, but it is important to note that Sia's current target is for the enterprise. Sia aims to become the "backbone storage layer of the Internet". This is a lofty goal, but with its recent popularity, it may well achieve the user base it needs to get there.
What's different? Sia has approached cloud storage in a new and interesting way. Your data is stored in pieces across the globe, and protected using redundancy and cryptography. By its own admittance, though, the developer team is aware that enterprise-level scale is still a year out. The current focus of the Sia development team is on the storage layer as it relates to version control, escrow, personal use cases, and the enterprise API. We'll be taking a closer look at the Sia desktop applications that are used for hosting in the future. Stay tuned for that...
In the meantime, we will leave you with one last coin that deserves honorable mention. Antshares, which is analogous to Ethereum, is a coin worth checking out. Much like Alibaba fills Amazon's needs in China, Antshares may sit in place of Ethereum. China does like to create its own solutions, so make sure you stay up to speed on this one. Feel free to share or comment if you've got anything to add.