When Bitcoin was first released to the world, no one could have predicted quite what the market would look like today. Bitcoin is now but one of many cryptocurrencies. The market itself is worth over a trillion. Billions are traded every day, and the applications blockchain and cryptocurrency have birthed are mind-boggling.
If you managed to avoid getting caught up in the hype before, it’s impossible to ignore the crypto sector any longer. It’s officially reached the mainstream and is worth paying some attention to.
“Crypto and NFTs are only going to grow, so businesses that get in there first with the right kinds of fintech firms and banks will be the ones that thrive long term. Many organizations are still looking for the right use cases and reasons to get behind crypto as a payment method, and I predict that we’ll see more of those use cases come to light this year.”
As of 2022, there were more than 10,000 different cryptocurrencies on the market. Keeping track of all the coins available could be a full-time job in itself. But many of those will never grow large enough to warrant your attention. At any given time, just a fraction of that total has real potential and real-world impacts.
- A cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital currency that uses cryptography to secure its transactions and control the creation of new units.
- The most popular ones include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Cardano, and more.
- There are different categories of crypto including mining-based coins, stablecoins, memecoins, and security tokens.
What are Cryptocurrencies?
A cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital currency that uses cryptography to secure its transactions and control the creation of new units. This technique protects electronic information by converting it into a code that is difficult to crack.
What’s unique about cryptocurrency is that it is distributed in a somewhat anonymous fashion. It’s also 100% transparent.
Every transaction is recorded on a digital ledger called a blockchain. The blockchain contains a public record of every transaction that has ever occurred. This system is why cryptocurrencies are often referred to as being “decentralized.” There is no one central authority that oversees or regulates the currency. The blockchain facilitates this movement and tracking without the need for a central authority.
Blockchain technology is an important feature of the crypto ecosystem. By design, it is open-source, meaning that any developer can view and build on this technology. Hence the incredible number of crypto-backed financial products we now see on the market.
Is An Altcoin Different From a Cryptocurrency?
When looking into cryptocurrencies, you will have come across the term “altcoins.” This can be confusing as many cryptocurrencies are referred to as altcoins. It’s sort of considered that Bitcoin is the original. Other coins are alternative coins: altcoins.
In the grand scheme of things, they’re all still cryptocurrencies. As blockchain technology is built upon, new types of coins are developed. All are crypto, but they can have different functions and be created in different ways. Such as:
Mining-based coins use the same system as Bitcoin: requiring computer networks to mine coins into circulation. This process takes a lot of energy, prompting environmentalists and others to wonder if the cost justifies the benefit.
Stablecoins are connected to other assets to make them less vulnerable to the wild fluctuations typical of the cryptocurrency market. That asset is usually a fiat currency, such as the US dollar. Tether and USD Coin are two of the biggest in this category.
Acting almost like a receipt, security tokens represent a fractional interest in other assets. Companies could have security tokens that validate ownership. It could also be applied to art to verify ownership. There are many applications for this type of blockchain-based, crypto-like token.
Everyone will have seen Dogecoin and Shiba Inu, even if you don’t know much about them. These are the coins with memes as the brand which take on strange popularity due somewhat to the ridiculousness of the coin. Just because they’re silly does not mean they’re not valuable. One tweet for Tesla’s Elon Musk is all it takes to throw value behind otherwise absurd-looking meme-coins.
What are Cryptocurrencies Used For?
Many people buy crypto as an investment, but most crypto can now be used to purchase goods and services. For merchants, this poses a great benefit to accepting more transactions.
“As customers change the ways they shop and pay, merchants will have to offer a wider range of alternative payment methods that not only offer consumers options at checkout but also reduce their cost of acceptance. For SMBs, the largest line-item cost can often be acceptance of payments. With that in mind, they want to offer consumers more peer-to-peer payment options…”
As crypto holders hold their own crypto (there are no financial institutions in the middle), these transactions are peer-to-peer, making it easier for merchants and friends to transfer easily between one another.
For investors, decentralized financial services (Defi) solutions make it easy to not only collect and hold cryptocurrencies. Holders can stake their crypto, trade, and use their crypto to invest in other blockchain-based projects and decentralized organizations. Anything you can do in the traditional financial markets, there is a crypto equivalent operating on the blockchain.
Below, as we look at the most popular cryptocurrencies, we will uncover each of their specific uses.
Are Cryptocurrencies Regulated?
In the US, regulation is underway to find a middle ground where cryptocurrency and its positive implications can flourish. Without crumbling the systems that are essential for societies to function. In March 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets.
Essentially, the Executive Order acknowledges the potential of the industry and the need for cross-department research to address risk.
Watch out for new developments to best understand what that means for you when investing in or transacting with cryptocurrencies.
20 of the Most Popular Cryptocurrencies to Watch in 2023
Looking at both those that are currently in favor and those that look to be on the rise, we have listed the most widespread crypto assets, how they’re used and why they’re so popular.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and is still the most well-known. It was created in 2009 and is currently the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.
Often seen as a way to store value, Bitcoin is seen by many as “digital gold.” It’s considered a good investment with a long history of steady growth. Although this is not guaranteed, it is the cryptocurrency that most people place the most value in. Therefore, its value continues to go up.
Bitcoin is the most common cryptocurrency for use, similar to traditional currencies. Many shops accept Bitcoin. Many online purchases can be made with Bitcoin. So far, it is the cryptocurrency of choice for buying both real-world and digital goods and services.
2. Ethereum (ETH)
Ethereum was created in 2015 and quickly rose to become the second-largest cryptocurrency. It is quite different from Bitcoin, designed to serve a different purpose, and is now used for a variety of interesting decentralized applications (DApps).
Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts. These are applications that can be built on top of Ethereum’s blockchain. These contracts are programs that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of fraud or third-party interference.
Smart contracts allow for a wide range of possibilities, from games to financial applications. Ethereum was the blockchain birthplace of NFTs. Through smart contracts, NFTs could be created, sold, and programmed in a variety of interesting ways to enable artists to get royalties or NFTs to have unique utilities. These utilities are what make it possible for gamers to buy outfits and tools with Ether and use them in the game.
3. Tether (USDT)
Tether is a stablecoin that is pegged to the US dollar. Currently, it is the third-largest cryptocurrency and one of the most popular stablecoins.
The main use for Tether is to “tether” or stabilize other cryptocurrencies. When the crypto market fluctuates a lot, investors often move their money into USDT so they don’t lose as much money. This helps to stabilize the market and provides a way to buy cryptos when prices are low and sell when they are high.
4. USD Coin (USDC)
USD Coin is a stablecoin created by Circle and Coinbase. It is backed 1:1 with the US dollar and is available on Coinbase.
Like Tether, USD Coin is used to stabilize other cryptocurrencies. Because it is available on Coinbase, it is one of the more accessible stablecoins. Coinbase is one of the most popular crypto exchanges and allows for buying, selling, and transferring crypto easily.
5. BNB (BNB)
BNB is the native token of Binance, one of the most used platforms for buying, selling, and transferring crypto.
BNB can be used to pay fees on the Binance platform. These fees are often lower than if you were to pay them in another currency. It can also be used to buy other cryptos on the Binance platform.
6. Binance Coin USD (BUSD)
Binance USD is another stablecoin. It was created by Binance and is backed 1:1 with the US dollar.
Like other stablecoins, it is used to stabilize cryptocurrencies. Because it is from Binance, it can be used to pay fees on the Binance platform and to buy other cryptos.
7. XRP (XRP)
XRP is the native token of Ripple, a payments network for banks and financial institutions. Created on its own blockchain platform, called XRP Ledger, Ripple is used by banks and financial institutions as a way to settle transactions quickly and cheaply.
Because of its useful application for financial institutions, XRP has been adopted by some of the largest banks in the world.
8. Cardano (ADA)
Cardano is a smart contract platform created in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson, one of the co-founders of Ethereum.
What makes it unique is that it uses a proof-of-stake consensus algorithm instead of proof-of-work. This makes it more energy efficient than other blockchain protocols. For context, Processing Bitcoin transactions consumes around 110 Terawatt Hours per year—which is equivalent to the annual energy draw of small countries such as Sweden. Cardano, on the other hand, is said to be 1.6 million times more energy-efficient compared to Bitcoin, as cited by Forbes.
Currently, they are working on integrating a new programming language called Plutus, which will make it easier to develop smart contracts.
9. Solana (SOL)
Solana is a high-speed blockchain protocol that can process thousands of transactions per second. It was created in 2017 by Anatoly Yakovenko, the former Chief Technical Officer at Qualcomm.
Solana’s main selling point is its speed. It can process transactions much faster than other protocols like Ethereum. This makes it ideal for applications that need to process a lot of transactions quickly, such as video streaming or gaming.
10. Dogecoin (DOGE)
Dogecoin started as a joke in 2013. It is based on the Doge meme, which features a Shiba Inu dog.
While it may have begun as a joke, it has since grown to become one of the more popular cryptocurrencies. This is largely due to its low price, which makes it accessible to everyone.
It’s a coin for the people and has been used for charitable causes, such as sending money to Kenya to build water wells.
11. Polkadot (DOT)
Polkadot was created in 2016 and is a “next-generation” blockchain protocol. It is designed to be scalable, flexible, and interoperable.
What makes Polkadot unique is that it uses “parachains.” These are chains that can be used for specific applications. This allows for a more customizable and efficient use of resources.
Polkadot is also working on something called “Polkaswap,” which is a decentralized exchange. This will allow users to trade DOT, ETH, and other assets in a trustless manner.
12. Dai (DAI)
Dai is a stablecoin that is backed by the US dollar. It was created by MakerDAO, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) on the Ethereum blockchain.
What makes Dai unique is that it uses a system of “collateralized debt positions.” This means that it is backed by other assets, such as ETH or BAT.
This makes Dai a very stable coin, as it is not subject to the same volatility as other cryptocurrencies.
13. Polygon (MATIC)
Polygon is a “scalability solution” for Ethereum. It is a “layer 2” solution, which means that it sits on top of Ethereum and helps to improve its scalability.
One of the main features of Polygon is “sidechains.” These are separate chains that can be used to process transactions. This off-loads some of the work from the Ethereum blockchain, which helps to improve its scalability.
Polygon is also working on “stake-mining” that will allow users to earn rewards for staking their tokens on the network.
14. Shiba Inu (SHIB)
Shiba Inu is another cryptocurrency that was created as a “joke coin” in 2021. It is based on the Dogecoin meme, which features a Shiba Inu dog.
However, unlike Dogecoin, which has a market cap of $1 billion, Shiba Inu has a market cap of $5 billion. This is because it was created on the Ethereum blockchain, which allows for “token cloning.”
This means that anyone can create their own version of Shiba Inu. As a result, there are now over 100 different versions of the coin.
15. TRON (TRX)
TRON is a decentralized entertainment protocol that was founded in 2017. It is designed to “decentralize the web” and allow for a more open internet.
TRON has its own blockchain, which is designed to be scalable. It can also process transactions very quickly.
TRON is working on a number of different projects, such as the TRON Arcade, which is a gaming platform. It is also working on something called “Project Atlas,” which is a project to decentralize the internet.
16. Avalanche (AVAX)
Avalanche is a “platform for launching decentralized finance applications and enterprise blockchains.” It is designed to be scalable, secure, and interoperable.
Avalanche is based on a “proof-of-stake” consensus model, which means that users can earn rewards for staking their tokens on the network.
Working with smart contracts, they are improving the usability of the platform.
17. UNUS SED LEO (LEO)
UNUS SED LEO is a token that is used to power the Bitfinex exchange. This means it can be used to pay for fees on the Bitfinex exchange. Users can then get a discount on fees if they use UNUS SED LEO to pay them. It was created in 2019 and is backed by the US dollar.
UNUS SED LEO allows users to earn rewards for staking their tokens on the exchange. Staking is a practice in which users lock up tokens to help improve the security of the network. Rewards are paid out in the form of LEO tokens.
18. Litecoin (LTC)
Litecoin is a cryptocurrency that was created in 2011 as a “lightweight” version of Bitcoin. It has a number of different features that make it unique, such as faster transaction times and improved storage efficiency.
Litecoin is often used as a “testnet” for Bitcoin. This means that developers can test new features on Litecoin before implementing them on Bitcoin. As one of the older cryptocurrencies, outside of Bitcoin, it has a large community of supporters.
19. Stellar (XLM)
Stellar is a payments network that allows for fast, cross-border transactions. It is designed to be scalable and to work with existing financial infrastructure. It’s based on a “consensus protocol,” which means that it does not require mining in order to validate transactions. This makes it more energy efficient than other cryptocurrencies.
In addition to its cryptocurrency, Stella is working on projects like “StellarX,” which is a decentralized exchange. And “Lightning Network,” designed to make Stellar even faster and more scalable.
20. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin Cash is a “fork” of Bitcoin. This means that it is a copy of Bitcoin with some changes. The main change is the block size, which is eight times larger on Bitcoin Cash. This allows for more transactions to be processed per second.
Bitcoin Cash also has a different mining algorithm than Bitcoin, which makes it more accessible to miners who do not have access to specialized equipment.
Crypto For Merchants
Although Stax does not currently offer acceptance of cryptocurrencies, we strongly believe in paying close attention to the new ways customers are choosing to transact.
As the government investigates deeper and the news speaks more regularly about the normalcy of transacting in crypto, customers are bound to begin to explore these payment options. It pays to stay informed. Monitor the currencies that are most in use and explore what other crypto-based financial solutions could add value to your business.
Quick FAQs about the most popular Cryptocurrencies in 2023
Q: What are Cryptocurrencies?
A cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital currency that uses cryptography to secure its transactions and control the creation of new units. It is distributed in a somewhat anonymous fashion and 100% transparent. Every transaction is recorded on a digital ledger called a blockchain.
Q: Is An Altcoin Different From a Cryptocurrency?
Altcoins refer to any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin. They are still cryptocurrencies, but they can have different functions and be created in various ways, such as mining-based coins, stablecoins, memecoins, and security tokens.
Q: What are Cryptocurrencies Used For?
Cryptocurrencies can be used for investment, purchasing goods and services, and decentralized financial services (Defi) solutions. They can be used for staking, trading, and investing in other blockchain-based projects and decentralized organizations.
Q: Are Cryptocurrencies Regulated?
Regulation is underway in the US to find a middle ground where cryptocurrencies and their implications can flourish without compromising essential systems for society. In March 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets, which highlights the need for cross-department research to address risk.
Q: What is the difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum?
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, seen as a store of value and is used for purchases. Ethereum, on the other hand, is a decentralized platform for running smart contracts with a wide range of possibilities, including decentralized applications (DApps) and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).
Q: What are stablecoins?
Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies connected to other assets, usually a fiat currency like the US dollar, to make them less vulnerable to market fluctuations. Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC) are two popular examples.
Q: What is the purpose of Tether (USDT)?
Tether is a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar, providing stability during market fluctuations. Investors often move their money into USDT to protect against losses when the market is volatile, and it helps to stabilize the market overall.
Q: What is Litecoin (LTC)?
Litecoin is a cryptocurrency created in 2011 as a lightweight version of Bitcoin, offering faster transaction times and improved storage efficiency. It’s often used as a testnet for Bitcoin, allowing developers to test new features before implementing them on Bitcoin.
Q: What is Bitcoin Cash (BCH)?
Bitcoin Cash is a fork of Bitcoin, meaning it’s a copy of Bitcoin with some changes, particularly a larger block size allowing for more transactions to be processed per second. It also has a different mining algorithm, making it more accessible to miners without specialized equipment.
For more financial news and insights about how to better accept payments from customers, check out the Stax blog. Ready to start accepting payments? Get in touch with our team to chat about your needs.