Bitcoin vs. Ethereum: all the crypto coins explained

Oliver Sachgau
May 5, 2021
 · 
5 minutes
 · 
Vivid Invest

You’ve almost certainly heard of Bitcoin. But what about all the other crypto assets? Do you know what Ethereum is? Do you even Doge?

How about we make this easy for you. Let’s walk through the ten most popular crypto coins available right now. Depending on where you are, these are the coins available in the Vivid app.

These are all, with the exception of Bitcoin, so-called altcoins. They advertise themselves as alternatives to Bitcoin, and usually claim to have at least one improved feature over the original. While there are thousands of altcoins out there, we’re going to focus on 10 notable ones here. 

Quick reminder: when you invest in fractional coins via Vivid Invest, some of the features of these coins might not be as directly applicable to you. 

Bitcoin


This is the big one, the one you’ve probably heard of. Bitcoin was not the first cryptocurrency — that honor goes to a project called eCash in the 80s — but it was the first decentralized one. Created by someone with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, it has all the basic features of a crypto currency. Bitcoin still has a massive influence on mainstream attention to cryptocurrencies, as the media tend to report on them more when Bitcoin’s price is rising or falling dramatically.

One of the main criticisms of bitcoin is that it requires an enormous amount of energy to verify all those transactions. By some estimates, bitcoin needs about 0.5% of the total electricity in the world in order to run right now, which means an enormous amount of potential greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the source of that electricity. 

Ethereum


Ethereum is the next biggest contender for the crypto crown. Think of it as the vice president to Bitcoin — it gets almost as much attention, even if people don’t know exactly what it does. 

Apart from its value as a coin, Ethereum’s main selling point is that it allows users to create smart contracts, which are agreements saved on the blockchain. It works like this: on the blockchain, Bitcoin has a little notes field where you can save information about a transaction. Ethereum has this too, except it allows that section to contain computer code. It’s also working on becoming much more energy efficient by switching the way computers verify transactions on its blockchain. Ethereum, as a coin, is the currency used to pay for transactions on that blockchain. 

Litecoin


Litecoin is even more similar to bitcoin, but it’s, as you can probably guess, lighter. It was launched in 2011, soon after Bitcoin was, by a former Google engineer named Charlie Lee. Litecoin’s main selling point is that it allows for faster transaction verification than Bitcoin. This might not be incredibly important to you if you’re just speculating on the price, but it does make a difference if you want to pay with it directly.

Bitcoin Cash


Now we’re getting into the bitcoin offshoots. Bitcoin Cash is a so-called fork, which happens when a cryptocurrency community can’t agree on the direction their currency should take. In that case, a part of the community can decide to split off and make their own variant of the currency. This is what happened with bitcoin cash. The major difference between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin is the size of its transaction blocks. We’re not going to get too technical here, but it comes down to transaction speed again. Like other coins, Bitcoin Cash advertises itself as being faster than Bitcoin. 

Chainlink


Chainlink is closer to Ethereum than to Bitcoin, in that its main use is for smart contracts. The main difference between something like it and Ethereum is its ability to allow outside data. This way, companies can connect their data to the blockchain, even if that data came from somewhere completely different. So while it has a value as a currency that fluctuates, that’s not the main idea behind the asset. 

Cardano 


Remember how we talked about Ethereum moving to a more energy efficient way of processing transactions? The technology it’s switching to is the same as Cardano’s. On its website, Cardano advertises itself as the most environmentally sustainable blockchain. Instead of mining to verify transactions, Cardano users do something called “staking.” The science behind that is too complicated to explain in a paragraph, but the result is you need much less processing power, which means less electricity. That’s been one of the big criticisms of cryptocurrencies: they require a massive amount of electricity to run.

EOS


EOS combines a lot of the things we discussed with the other cryptocurrencies. It works on a proof-of-stake model like Cardano, advertises itself as having faster transaction speeds, and allows codes on its blocks. 

Algorand


Algorand shares a lot of the same features as EOS and Cardano. Its main selling point is allowing what it calls “instant and unconditional completion of transactions.” Basically, if you’re paying in Algogrand, you’re guaranteed to have your transaction verified. 


NEM


Still paying attention? Good, we’re almost done. NEM is a coin based on the New Economy Movement, an economic theory and philosophy that focuses on human well-being and environmental issues. The NEM coin is advertised toward developers, and its main selling points include being able to deeply customize the applications built on that blockchain.  

Basic Attention Token


The Basic Attention Token is perhaps the strangest out of the coins we’re looking at here. It’s used as a form of rewarded advertising — where users get a portion of the money for the ads they view. BAT is linked to the Brave browser, and while it can’t be directly exchanged for money if you own it, it can be traded on exchanges for other coins like Ethereum that can then be exchanged for money. 

If you’re investing in it in the Vivid app however, you’re investing in a fractional coin, and can still cash in your profits instantly the way you would any other crypto asset in the app.

Any opinions, news, research, analyses, or other information contained on this website are provided as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice, recommendations nor should be perceived as (independent) investment research. The author or authors are employed by Vivid and may be privately invested in one or several securities mentioned in an article. Vivid Invest GmbH offers as a tied agent of CM-Equity AG the brokerage of transactions on the purchase and sale of financial instruments with the exception of those in the area of foreign exchange brokered by Vivid Money GmbH.

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