What is a cryptocurrency?
There is no real all-encompassing answer, but the traditional (in this context) Merriam-Webster dictionary does define it quite well:
“Any form of currency that only exists digitally, that usually has no central issuing or regulating authority but instead uses a decentralized system to record transactions and manage the issuance of new units, and that relies on cryptography to prevent counterfeiting and fraudulent transactions.”
Which was the first cryptocurrency?
Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency that was developed by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Since then there have been more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies (including coins and tokens). The top 10 cryptocurrencies based on market cap change very rapidly given the sudden interest in the cryptocurrency market causing there to be a lot of speculation on the prices keeping it quite volatile, but yet on an upward trend over 2017.
Which is the leading cryptocurrency?
In terms of the price and market capitalisation, Bitcoin is still the leading cryptocurrency commanding a market cap of ~$250 billion. This week (Dec 17) the price hit $20,000. Just to give context, it was below $1,000 in Jan 2017 and has increased ~1700%. Cryptocurrencies such as ether, bitcoin cash, and litecoin have also increased significantly since the beginning of this year.
Below is a list of the top 10 cryptocurrencies as of end of day December 20, 2017 based on pricing from www.coinmarketcap.com *
What is the total value of the market?
In terms of market capitalisation, the value (since it is a function of the price) is very volatile. On December 22, 2017* the market cap of all cryptocurrencies (coins and tokens) was ~$580 billion. Just a week ago that number stood at ~$450 billion. The top 10 cryptocurrencies collectively command a market capitalisation of ~$491 billion.
* 1:45AM UTC
** www.coinmarketcap.com follows UTC