Cryptography is essentially the science of making messages secure. It has been employed to various degrees and contexts for centuries, and is a major subfield in the realm of computer science. Cryptocurrencies are cryptographically protected digital currencies, most of which are peer-to-peer (p2p), decentralized, and secured via the revolutionary blockchain technology. There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, and you’ve probably heard of some of them (i.e. bitcoin, ethereum, etc.). Click here to learn more about what I personally am into!

Ethereum (ETH)
Many cryptocurrencies aren’t just forms of money. Ethereum, for example, is actually an entire platform! What’s cool about it is it’s a platform that runs smart contracts. What’s a smart contract? Great question! It’s basically a set of code that runs exactly as planned without fear of it getting hacked, censored, or changed. For example, let’s say you did a job for friend, so now they owe you some money. Let’s also say you had a smart contract made that transfers $100 from their account to yours on January 28th, 2018. Uh oh, your friend suddenly decided to skip town and you have no idea where they are!

Good thing you had that smart contract made, because whether or not you’re able to get in touch with them, that transfer is going to happen on January 28th because there’s software that is executing the commands for exactly that on its own.

Ethereum allows you to create and deploy smart contracts, which can be used for MANY different purposes. Ethereum’s native currency is the Ether coin.

As of January 2, 2018, ether is generally considered to be the 2nd most lucrative cryptocurrency, behind only the progenitor of them all–Bitcoin. One ether is currently valued at $833.21 USD.

Litecoin (LTC)
Litecoin is another p2p digital currency, and it is considered to be the silver to bitcoin’s gold. One of litecoin’s major draws is that it is almost instantly available upon purchase (in other words, its verification process only takes 2.5 minutes), making transactions extremely fast. Add that to the facts that a) it is completely decentralized–it has no central authorities governing it–b) it’s trade volume is quite high, and c) its liquidity is pretty substantial, and you have a very popular coin.

In November 2017, one LTC was priced at about $100.00 USD. As of January 2, 2018, one LTC is priced at about $251.00 USD .

Bitcoin (BTC)
Ah yes, bitcoin.

The illustrious.

The gift that apparently keeps on giving.

The meat and potatoes of the cryptocurrency world.

It is the first to popularize the blockchain technology. Its values has increased dramatically since its inception. It didn’t just popularize the cryptocurrency world, it stormed it. In 2009, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto created it. Satoshi Nakamoto is, in fact, a pseudonym–the real identity(ies) of the inventor(s) is (or are) unknown. What is known is that bitcoin is by far the most valuable cryptocurrency, coming in at approximately $15,000.000 USD per coin as of January 2, 2018. Like most of those that have come after it, it is decentralized, as it has no central governing body controlling it. It’s confirmation/verification time varies, but as of January 2, 2018, it is hovering at around 4 minutes.

If you were one of the fortunate (or perhaps smart) ones to grab 5 or so while they were worth $20.00 USD back in ’09, you’re sitting on a substantial amount of money right now if you still have them.

Ripple (XRP)

Ripple is another one of those “not just a coin” cryptocurrencies. AND it is actually quite different from many of the others in that its creators are purposely seeking out banks in its utilization. The ripple network claim that ripple is the fastest digital asset, and that it basically enables real-time payments ANYWHERE in the world–payments in ripple settle in a mere 4 SECONDS–allowing banks to source liquidity in real time. If you take a gander at the XRP website, you’ll see that the network handles approximately 50,000 transactions per second.

Get this: one XRP is worth about $2.30 as of January 2, 2018. Now, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but less than a month ago it was worth $0.70 USD. At the beginning of 2017, it was worth less than 1 cent. It’s seen incredible growth, and pretty consistently! What do ya think of that…?

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