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A cryptocurrency, crypto-currency, or crypto is a binary data designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of a computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership. Some crypto schemes use validators to maintain the cryptocurrency. In a proof-of-stake model, owners put up their tokens as collateral. In return, they get authority over the token in proportion to the amount they stake. Generally, these token stakers get additional ownership in the token over time via network fees, newly minted tokens or other such reward mechanisms. Cryptocurrency does not exist in physical form (like paper money) and is typically not issued by a central authority. Cryptocurrencies typically use decentralized control as opposed to a central bank digital currency (CBDC). When a cryptocurrency is minted or created prior to issuance or issued by a single issuer, it is generally considered centralized. When implemented with decentralized control, each cryptocurrency works through distributed ledger technology, typically a blockchain, that serves as a public financial transaction database.
Tokens, cryptocurrencies, and other types of digital assets that are not bitcoin are collectively known as alternative cryptocurrencies, typically shortened to “altcoins” or “alt coins”. Paul Vigna of The Wall Street Journal also described altcoins as “alternative versions of bitcoin” given its role as the model protocol for altcoin designers. The term is commonly used to describe coins and tokens created after bitcoin. A list of some cryptocurrencies can be found in the List of cryptocurrencies article.
Altcoins often have underlying differences with bitcoin. For example, Litecoin aims to process a block every 2.5 minutes, rather than bitcoin’s 10 minutes, which allows Litecoin to confirm transactions faster than bitcoin. Another example is Ethereum, which has smart contract functionality that allows decentralized applications to be run on its blockchain. Ethereum was the most used blockchain in 2020, according to Bloomberg News. In 2016, it had the largest “following” of any altcoin, according to the New York Times.
Significant rallies across altcoin markets are often referred to as an “altseason”