In a word, yes. Bitcoin was the very first cryptocurrency, and is still the biggest, but in the eight years since it was developed pretenders to the throne have come along. Every one of them have a similar basic underpinnings: they use a “blockchain”, a shared public record of transactions, to generate and track a new form of digital token – one that can simply be made and shared in accordance with the agreed-upon rules of the network, whatever they might be. However the flourishing ecosystem has provided plenty of variation on top of that.
Some cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin or Dogecoin, fulfil the identical purpose as bitcoin – building a new digital currency – with tweaks to some of the details (making transactions faster, for instance, or ensuring a basic level of inflation). Others, like Ethereum or Bat, consider the same principle but apply it to some specific purpose: cloud computing or digital advertising when it comes to those two.
Exactly what is a bitcoin? Can I hold one? – A bitcoin doesn’t really exist as a concrete physical – or even 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.
Everything you genuinely have when you own a bitcoin is definitely the collective agreement of each and every other computer on the bitcoin network that your particular bitcoin was legitimately produced by a bitcoin “miner”, and then handed down to you through several legitimate transactions. If you wish to actually own some bitcoin, you will find exactly two options: either become a miner (that involves investing lots of money in computers and electricity bills – probably more than the value of the bitcoin you’ll can even make, unless you’re very smart), or just buy some bitcoin from another person using conventional money, typically via a bitcoin exchange like Coinbase or Bitfinex.
Most of the quirks in the currency fall to the collective agreement about what constitutes “legitimacy”. For example, since the first bitcoin was made in 2009, the total number available has become growing slowly, at a declining rate, ensuring that at some time around 2140, the 21 millionth bitcoin will likely be mined, and no more is ever going to be created.
If you disagree with this collective agreement, well, there’s nothing stopping from splitting using the wider network and creating your own version of bitcoin. This is what’s known as the “fork”, and it’s already happened many times previously (that’s what competitors such as Litecoin and Dogecoin are). The problem is persuading others to follow along with you. A currency used by just one person isn’t a good deal of currency.
Exactly what can I just use cryptocurrencies? – Theoretically, just about anything which can be done using a computer could, somehow, be rebuilt on the Cryptocurrency Exchange Design. Building a cryptocurrency involves rkabxo a worldwide network of computers right into a decentralised platform for data storage and processing – ultimately, a giant hive-mind PC (this will no longer sounds like it has much related to “currencies” is area 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, now that “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 also Cryptokitties (Tamagotchis but on the blockchain).
In practice, however, the accessible uses are rather more limited. Bitcoin can be used a payment system for a couple of online transactions, and also fewer real-world ones, while other cryptocurrencies are a lot more juvenile than that. The excitement about the field is focused more about what it really could become compared to what it actually is.