Over the past decade, cryptocurrencies had evolved from a fringe technology to a mainstream asset class, with thousands of them currently in circulation. While Bitcoin remains the most popular one by market capitalization, it has been joined by a growing number of alternative coins (aka altcoins) that offer different features, use cases and potential for growth.
The emergence of altcoins has been a fascinating phenomenon, reflecting the diversity and experimentation that characterizes the crypto ecosystem. But, do you know the first ones? In this article, we will take a retrospective look at the early stages of altcoins and their emergence in the cryptocurrency market.
2011 - Two years after Bitcoin
During 2011, a few altcoins joined the show. The first one to emerge was Namecoin and had it's genesis block mined in April 2011. Namecoin's goal was to offer a decentralized DNS that would allow users to register and transfer domains without relying on central authorities. Despite not gaining much traction, it laid the groundwork for later projects that aimed to decentralize other aspects of the internet.
Another famous one, released through Github by former Google engineer Charlie Lee, is Litecoin. It went live during October 2011, and it was designed as a "lite" version of Bitcoin, with faster transaction confirmation times, lower fees, and a different mining algorithm in an attempt to keep CPU-mining possible. Litecoin has become one of the most popular and long-lasting altcoins, with a loyal community and a market capitalization of over $5 billion at the moment.
In between, we had Ixcoin (IXC), Devcoin (DVC) and Tenebrix (TBX).
It's worth mentioning that Tenebrix was the first experiment of a GPU-resistant cryptocurrency, replacing the SHA-256 algorithm in favor of scrypt, but due to the greedy 7.7M TBX that the developers kept for themselves, the project was resisted by the community. In the end, Lee developed Fairbrix (FBX) as an alternative, which he ended up using in the Litecoin project.
Wanna check the Fairbrix announcement?
The following years brought us a few notable cryptos: Ripple (XRP) and PeerCoin (PPC).
What's so special about PeerCoin? Well, it was the first cryptocurrency to implement the Proof-of-Stake concept.
This retrospective only scratches the surface of the vast and dynamic world of cryptocurrencies. In future articles, we will dig deeper into the history of altcoins and explore the beginnings of some well-known projects. Stay tuned for more insights on the crypto ecosystem.