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What Are Cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies, or tokens of value, that use cryptography to secure transactions. 

The first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin in 2009, which is still the most popular and valuable. Since then, more than 13,000 different cryptocurrencies have been created by various developers worldwide. All proper cryptocurrencies rely on blockchains. These digital ledgers record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. 

One can use blockchain technology for more than just cryptocurrencies: it’s also being explored to manage supply chains and track food items.

Cryptocurrencies use cryptography for security

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography for security. 

Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties. In cryptocurrency, it’s used to verify a transaction in which two people exchange money, goods, or anything else of value.

One can use cryptographic signatures to prove the ownership of an encrypted message or file. We first encountered this technology when we were taught to sign our names on a document and write our initials underneath it. Doing so let others see that we had signed the document. 

That is one way cryptography works: It allows you to prove your identity without revealing who you are.

The world’s first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin in 2009

Cryptocurrencies use a distributed ledger called the blockchain. The blockchain is a public record of all cryptocurrency transactions that have ever been executed. It also serves as an authoritative source for verifying the ownership of any digital currency, and this specific feature gives cryptocurrencies their borderless nature.

Bitcoin was invented by an anonymous programmer or group of programmers in 2009 under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It was the first cryptocurrency to use blockchain technology. That is a decentralized computer network that validates transactions and maintains a shared record of them called blocks (or ledgers). 

No government or bank controls the Bitcoin network. Instead, its users run software on their computers to participate in this network and verify each other’s transactions over time. 

That makes Bitcoins practically impossible to counterfeit because no single entity controls them. Bitcoins are not printed like dollars but created through complex mathematical equations—a process known as mining. It requires computers worldwide to run specialized software designed specifically for this purpose.

Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency

Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, with a market capitalization of over $300 billion. It’s a decentralized digital currency that no government or central bank controls. Bitcoin is used for peer-to-peer transactions between individuals and businesses, and it’s also used to pay for things online (such as books, gifts, and travel tickets) or offline (like groceries).

The first use case for Bitcoin was as an alternative to traditional currencies like the US dollar or euro. However, over time, it has evolved into a more sophisticated form of money. 

Today, many other cryptocurrencies are available besides BTC, including Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin. These cryptocurrencies have unique characteristics, but they all share one thing: they’re based on blockchain technology!

There are now more than 9,000 cryptocurrencies in circulation

There are now more than 9,000 cryptocurrencies in circulation. Moreover, the number of cryptocurrencies is growing daily, with new ones created every few hours.

Most of these are built on the Ethereum blockchain (the second-most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin). However, some have unique features that set them apart, making them worth investigating further.

Blockchains fuel all proper cryptocurrencies

A blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions. It’s decentralized and distributed, meaning it doesn’t rely on one central database to record everything that happens.

Instead, each transaction is recorded on the peer-to-peer network. That makes it impossible for anyone to change or delete the data in the future. Blockchain technology also allows you to transfer assets directly from one person or entity to another without going through a third party.

For example, you can send money from your bank account directly into someone else’s without having your funds through an intermediary such as PayPal or Venmo.

Each block in a blockchain contains information about previous transactions (called a hash). Every block also includes data that makes it unique:

  • its cryptographic fingerprint (or hash) that links back to earlier blocks 
  • timestamps, so users know when each transaction occurred 
  • other relevant information, such as fees paid per byte sent across this particular line of code.

The combined data forms proof of work, ensuring there isn’t any double spending on the network. That is a crucial aspect of cryptocurrencies, making them more secure than traditional money.


Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography for security. 

The world’s first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin in 2009, but there are now more than 13,000 cryptocurrencies in circulation, and new ones are being created daily. 

They all use blockchains to ensure transactions are secure, but they also have other features that make them unique from one another.