As we write this article, coinmarketcap.com lists more than 2100 cryptocurrencies in total. And that’s not an extensive list by any means. Some digital wallets support more than 3000 coins. If you compare that with the number of tokens listed by the same site as 2017 was beginning, which was of 860, you’d have to conclude that the cryptosphere is growing faster than asparagus –at least regarding token variety.
Bitcoin, mother, and father of all cryptocurrencies, is still responsible for most of the value in the market, as well as for most of the trading volume. That’s no surprise at all, and no other digital asset is even close to challenging Bitcoin’s dominance in the foreseeable future.
It would be only too easy to think that none of those coins other than Bitcoin are worth anything, or useful at all. Given Bitcoin’s overwhelming relevance, that misconception would be understandable, but it would remain a misconception, nevertheless. True, Bitcoin remains the coin with most adoption in the world, and the best option for wealth storage purposes. As a payments system, it already rivals Visa and Mastercard. But as Goliath learned the hard way, size isn’t everything.
Bitcoin was created with a clear purpose in mind: to substitute fiat money once and for all in such a way that central authorities and irresponsible bankers could never again create a global financial crisis for which we all have to pay. That’s a very general (and ambitious) objective to be sure, but some analysts believe it could happen.
The thing is that not all blockchain projects want to change the world so radically.
Among so many cryptocurrencies, one finds that many of them are little more than pet projects from a bunch of bored developers. They are worth little or nothing, they don’t solve any problem better than Bitcoin, or any other coin and, consequently, they are not making any progress in achieving adoption because they are utterly useless.
But if you look more carefully into the market, you’ll find a few blockchain projects that were created with a particular purpose in mind, and they were deployed and developed in such a way that they are handy when dealing with the problem they’re meant to solve.
In this article, we will tell you about those projects. The ones created to be useful. Some of their applications could even be useful to you, right here, right now, if you only knew you had the option to use them. So let’s start.
Bitcoin: The Genesis
Bitcoins remains king, as it’s been from day one.
Created in 2009 by the elusive computer and cryptography developer Satoshi Nakamoto, it came to life to become an alternative to fiat currencies and to empower economically those who are left out of the traditional financial system.
Satoshi saw (as many more people did in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis) that central banks and governments had become complaisant, insidious and inflationary. Colluded, even. Little more than enablers for the world’s biggest banks incompetence and greed.
But unlike almost everybody back then, he tried to find a way to solve that situation. And his solution was to use decentralization to guarantee trust. Centralized ledgers would no longer act as arbitrary central authorities that can do anything they please and charge anything they want when it comes to transferring funds.
But besides creating a global payments system that now rivals both Mastercard and Visa, Satoshi created a new way to store value. As long as there’s a Bitcoin network online, the value of every token is preserved.
The network is comprised of more than 10.000 active nodes running in full, managing and validating transfers and creating new blocks for the chain – and thus, new Bitcoins. This attests the protocol’s power, as well as the power of decentralization as Satoshi imagined it. And it keeps growing so it will only become bigger and better.
Calculating the SHA-256 collision that allows creating a new block and a few new coins is, of course, enormously tricky. That’s been a problem because it’s made the network slow when transacting directly on the chain, and transaction fees can be high depending on the currency’s value. But even that problem has been solved for the most part by the Lightning Network, a protocol designed by the developing community to deal with those issues and that’s already delivering results and improvements.
As the oldest cryptocurrency in the world, Bitcoin has passed the test of time with flying colors.
Ethereum: The smart contracts and decentralized applications pioneer
It all started with an announcement by the project’s creator and leader, the Russian Vitalik Buterin, in 2014.
Ethereum extended the horizons of blockchain technology. Mr. Buterin found a way to use blockchains as a programmable platform that enabled users to develop and deploy decentralized applications and smart contracts. This was revolutionary in itself, it was the dawn of second-generation blockchain technology.
So why use blockchains to develop apps and contracts? Because blockchain technology ensures that they won’t have the weakest link that could bring the platform or the contract down, which is not only possible but common in centralized technology. That’s the power of decentralization.
On top of that, a truly decentralized application can’t be brought down by any means at all. Once it’s running, it will remain running as long as the network is active. That is, of course, the ideal scenario and we still don’t have many – if any – of those.
Ethereum has been incredibly successful in implementing its distinctive technology. It helped that it was the only game in town for dApps and smart contracts until last year. But regardless of the competition it now faces from third-generation platforms (Tron, EOS and others), the sheer reputation it enjoys in the cryptoverse is second to none but for Bitcoin’s.
The platform’s success regarding dApps has been challenged by Tron and EOS over the last few months, but when it comes to smart contracts, it remains the go-to project in the world.
The network has some issues to be sure. Scalability, transfer speeds, and gas prices have been a common complaint among users for a while now. This is normal in a network that’s about to become five-years-old which is an eternity in the blockchain world.
But the reason we’re including Ethereum as a project and its cryptocurrency (ETH) is that it has a practical use for sure. Also, because it’s become so important as the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, ETH shares almost every use case Bitcoin has. For the most part, wherever you find support for Bitcoin, you also find it for Ethereum. So while it’s not a payment system as extensive as BTC’s, it’s still a large and viable one.
Monero: Anonymity’s champion
Bitcoin’s ledger and blockchain are not private nor anonymized. As a matter of fact, it’s public and transparent. Any internet user can use the network’s block explorer and track down any specific wallet’s activity if he’s willing to put in the time and the work. Oh, you didn’t know? Well, that’s not surprising. There’s been so much misinformation floating around about BTC uses for criminal endeavors that imply almost complete anonymity that it’s comprehensible if lots of people, even some relatively familiar with the cryptosphere, incorrectly assume that Bitcoin’s network isn’t public.
Monero’s creators do know that Bitcoin is not as private as people think so they set out to create a new blockchain in which anonymity is the core value. Thus Monero was born in 2014, and this blockchain is indeed authentically anonymous, private and fungible.
The project’s kept making progress. More recently, in 2017, it’s managed to implement stealth addresses successfully, ring signatures and ring CT-like technologies (which is quite technical and we won’t go into the dirty details, so you’ll have to take our word for this: it’s suitable for anonymity). The only pending issue is hiding IP addresses.
That would be a good thing to include in the protocol and, once it’s implemented, your transactions with Monero’s cryptocurrency (XMR) would be genuinely impossible to track. The technology is so effective that some countries, notably France, are considering banning XMR (and other projects with privacy in mind) because it really takes away the government’s power to know what you’re doing with your own wealth.
That being said, you don’t really need this feature to be included to have it. If you just transact with XMR through Tor or the onion network, you’ll have the best of both worlds. Yes, Tor can be slowish. But how much time is privacy worth to you?
A Twitter by one of Monero’s leading developers, Ricardo Spagni, is very illustrative of Monero’s power to keep you off the grid (kind of). After the AlphaBay debacle, government investigators were unable to figure out even the number of XMR tokens in the platform. In his words, “Monero is so private that law enforcement can’t figure out how much the AlphaBay owner had; not so with the other cryptocurrencies.”
So this project’s practical use should be self-evident by now. It’s all about privacy and anonymity. And that is controversial insofar as it’s a useful tool for misbehavior. Let’s not beat around the bush. Monero is good for criminals, there’s no doubt about it. Does it make it a bad thing? Not at all. If WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden have taught us anything at all is that privacy is a precious resource that some of the world’s governments are not willing to grant us as private citizens. So why should we not use every support available to keep a step ahead in the game?
Factom: The blockchain’s Akashic records
It’s a low profile project that came online during 2014. It aims to be the world’s perpetual record keeper, which is no mean ambition.
Peter Kirby founded this project. In his view, Bitcoin’s design hardwires some limitations into the system that can’t be solved creatively. And yet, it’s demonstrated that it’s the most reliable and indelible record system ever known to mankind.
Factom is all about using Bitcoin’s security and immutability for information other than financial transactions.
Once the Factom platform learns a new piece of data, nothing can change it. It becomes written in stone (digital stone, in this case) because Factom anchors it to Bitcoin’s blockchain. That acts like something of an existence certificate for the piece of information in question which can be anything digital at all. Videos, documents, audios, probably even software. In this way, you can use the platform to verify the item in question and keep it safe.
Factom’s blockchain has nothing new about it. It’s quite merely Bitcoin’s SHA-256 chain (if such chain can be considered simple) and a native blockchain developed by the project. There are three things on the menu:
“Proof of Existence”
“Proof of Process”
“Proof of Audit”
It works, and it’s become the world’s premier decentralized notary.
The project’s practical value is attested by the 126+ million records it currently holds.
So far, Factom has secured over 126,485,400 records, which is a testimony to its practicality.
Dash: Digital money
Dash came to life on January 18th, 2014 under the name of “XCoin.” It was developed by Evan Duffield. On February 2014 it was renamed as “Darkcoin,” and then, on March 25th, 2015 it was renamed again as “Dash.”
The creator’s idea is for Dash to be easy to use as well as anonymous for users who care a lot about privacy.
Dash examines the best things that the traditional financial system and fiat currencies have to offer and then tries to adapt them in the cryptoverse in the most user-friendly way possible. Dash doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, but it’s instead content to be the powering engine under the hood of a user interface that looks very much as traditional banking.
Dash’s strength is in its practical use cases, which make it a good investment. The work that the management team puts in daily is also remarkable. InstantSend and PrivateSend are noteworthy characteristics that set a robust fundamental value for the project.
If your current cryptocurrency portfolio lacks at least a bit of Dash in it, you should reconsider your positions and find a way to include it.
Golem: Decentralization in computing power
Can you imagine an open-sourced, decentralized super-computer working on blockchain technology? That’s what the Golem project is, and it’s the first of its kind in the industry. It’s power by the network’s native cryptocurrency (Golem or GNT, Golem Network Tokens) which is Ethereum-based. The token’s value is not as vulnerable to inflationary pressure and speculation because the total number of coins in circulation is fixed.
Golem’s computing power comes from all kinds of computers distributed all over the planet. From small laptops and portable devices to large data centers. If you use Golem’s platform, you can use all that power to run your website, do a problematic scientific calculation, run a long piece of code, render CGI. You can even use it to run mining software.
It’s not for free. You have to pay for your usage with GNT tokens which you can get at some cryptocurrency exchange platforms, or you can get them by renting out that extra computing power that you have laying around at home or at work and that you’re not really using.
Golem’s roadmap is planned for the next 4-5 years which is an eternity in the cryptoverse. But there’s a lot of potential in a project that can make a supercomputer available to anyone in the world cheaply and effectively. Just imagine how now, any isolated scientist can have at his hands as much computing power as the world’s big boys (think NASA or some o the world’s top universities) to develop an exciting project that couldn’t take off otherwise because of lack of computing resources.
Siacoin: Decentralized clouds
This is a very down-to-earth project with a convenient usage which is to use to harness the blockchain’s power into a decentralized cloud storage system. Cloud storage is becoming more common by the minute so it will be fascinating to see how Siacoin develops in the next few months.
Sia enables users to make some passive income by renting out their unused storage space to the network, and there’s plenty of them. The system has 1.7 PetaBytes in storage space, of which it’s using only 212 TeraBytes currently.
You could wonder if the world really needs yet another cloud storage system when we already have services like Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon Cloud. And the answer would be yes because of two main reasons. Firstly, Sia is decentralized and blockchain-based, which sets it apart from the mentioned commercial options in terms of reliability, and privacy. Secondly, Sia’s service is way cheaper. Both things are achieved by storing data on the blockchain, instead of using expensive centralized servers.
Also, centralized storage services have bottlenecks. We’ve all had that episode in which Google Drive takes ages to erase a bunch of small files or to synchronize with your computer, and it’s just useless in the meantime.
The nature of this project means that success is something that can only be achieved (or judged) in the long-term. And also, it’s the service itself what’s essential, more than the project’s native cryptocurrency’s value (it’s called Siacoin, SC), so the Siacoin project has a long way ahead.
Success would be to become a competitive option to the major centralized services we all know already. But it also has to face competition from the cryptoverse with projects such as Storj and MaidSafe offering similar options. Sia’s strengths are in improved decentralization and encryption.
The developing team is entirely satisfied with their ability to come up with an exceedingly competitive product. So much so, that they are not interested in marketing.
This is one of the most “real” blockchains in the crypto world, and it will be worth it to keep an eye on it in the months and years to come. And who knows? Even to use it if you need some extra space for storage or to rent out some space, if you have it.
IOTA: The internet of things
Many new (and not so new) blockchain projects maintain they’re the crypto verse’s next generation. IOTA is one of them, and we’ll give you some information so you can decide if they are.
The project aims to turn its cryptocurrency into the most used one on the internet.
One of IOTA’s unique features is the transaction price: there isn’t one. Transactions are entirely free which doesn’t happen at all in other projects (small as the transactions fees may be).
Also, we made a mistake in the first paragraph. We’re not talking about a blockchain project because IOTA doesn’t use a blockchain at all. Instead, it’s powered by Tangle technology.
IOTA’s adoption is chained to the adoption of IoT devices so it could grow very slowly, but when that market becomes relevant, it will already be in IOTA’s pocket which is why we shouldn’t ignore it.
Expect a slow adoption rate for IOTA because it will only grow as more and more people start using IOT things and smartphones/smart devices.
Ripple: Blockchain for remittances
Few blockchains get as much attention (both positive and negative) than Ripple and its currency, XRP.
Ripple was founded with a very definite purpose in mind, which it has pursued relentlessly for almost seven years. It’s not something that you and I can use directly, but we could still feel its benefits in years to come. Ripple wants to get rid of all the friction and red-tape that characterize sending money across borders using the company’s blockchain, software solutions, and cryptocurrency. Because of the company’s mission, its clients and partners are not individuals, but banks and remittance services and the currency’s retail use cases have been rather scarce (but that is changing quickly).
Payments issued through Ripple’s technology are settled in a matter of minutes, they cost fractions of a penny, and they’re very reliable. The traditional system (which bears the involuntarily sarcastic name of SWIFT) takes days, and it’s quite expensive, usually requiring a fee of around USD 25 or a percentage of the payment.
So Ripple’s idea is to become the engine under the hood for the world’s banks and remittance services, and it’s succeeding. It already has more than 200 strategic partners in the globe which include some of the world’s largest and more influential banks such as Banco Santander.
Besides that use case, XRP has proven to be a sound investment option. It was the most profitable coin among all during both 2017 and 2018 (which were, respectively a year of bonanza and a year of winter, so it’s the coin for all seasons), and it’s also becoming a retail currency available to end users. In the last few months, several fintech projects have been issuing debit cards funded by XRP tokens (among other currencies which include Bitcoin and Ethereum), which means that, if you have one of those plastics, you can pay your groceries, or beer or cigarettes, using your digital assets.
Ripple is growing steadily at a time in which most other blockchain projects are shrinking because of the prolonged crypto winter, it’s well managed, and it’s been a sound project from any angle you could adopt. And that’s all based on a single successful practical application.
Civic: ID service for the world at large
Civic’s mission is to use the blockchain to create a decentralized digital identity for everyone in the world. This may not sound as sexy as the previous projects on the list, but it could be incredibly useful.
Civic’s digital identity would comply with the variegated rules imposed by different governments all around the planet.
The first step is to secure data using Civic’s blockchain. Then, the stored data is verified meticulously by Civic or one of its business partners. Once the data’s validity is ensured, it’s attested and included in the blockchain as un-decryptable data. And this data can only be exchanged between a user and the party to whom he’s trying to demonstrate his identity through the use of Civic tokens (CVC).
If the project succeeds, you wouldn’t need to keep typing your info in every site you visit or use. Or every bank, or every hospital, or every insurance company, etc. The process would become frictionless if Civic’s technology succeeds, and the strength in blockchain technology would make identity theft problems impossible.
This could be the most controversial use case among those already explained in this article. But there’s no doubt that it would have practical value.
Digital assets and practicality
The crypto verse is going to keep growing in the present and the future. As it matures as a market and a system, some cryptocurrencies will consolidate, and some others will go away. And that will tell us which were the ones that are actually useful in the real-life (even if in the digital real-life only).
Our list is incomplete, of course. The cryptosphere is enormous, and covering every potentially useful asset would take a book and not just an article. So we left some excellent projects out such as EOS, Tron, Cardano, Electroneum, Binance and many others. Tron alone has several currencies with massive potential within its network (like the BitTorrent Token, USDT-Tron, and TRX itself).
But the thing to learn from all this information is this: Bitcoin was created to be useful, and not just a toy for investors to have fun speculating. And its value stems from its ability to solve problems. And the same goes for any other blockchain currency in the market. Market cycles will come and go, and we will always have incredible years such as 2017 and catastrophic years such as 2018.
But the long-run is going to be all about real-life value. That will be the one factor that boosts any token’s value in the market which is why locating the projects that have that potential and those strong fundamentals is essential for anybody who wants to dive into the cryptocurrency market.
Disclaimer: The presented information is subjected to market condition and may include the very own opinion of the author. Please do your ‘very own’ market research before making any investment in cryptocurrencies. Neither the writer nor the publication (TronWeekly.com) holds any responsibility for your financial loss.