A cryptocurrency (or crypto currency or crypto for short) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange wherein individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership. It typically 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 centralized digital currency and central banking systems. 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.
Bitcoin, first released as open-source software in 2009, is the first decentralized cryptocurrency. Since the release of bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies have been created.
The first decentralized cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was created in 2009 by presumably pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto. It used SHA-256, a cryptographic hash function, in its proof-of-work scheme. In April 2011, Namecoin was created as an attempt at forming a decentralized DNS, which would make internet censorship very difficult. Soon after, in October 2011, Litecoin was released. It used scrypt as its hash function instead of SHA-256. Another notable cryptocurrency, Peercoin used a proof-of-work/proof-of-stake hybrid.
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.
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.
A blockchain account can provide functions other than making payments, for example in decentralized applications or smart contracts. In this case, the units or coins are sometimes referred to as crypto tokens (or cryptotokens). Cryptocurrencies are generally generated by their own blockchain like Bitcoin and Litecoin whereas tokens are usually issued within a smart contract running on top of a blockchain such as Ethereum.
Source: Wiki pedia
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