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What is an Altcoin?

An altcoin generally refers to any cryptocurrency that exists as an alternative to Bitcoin. The term arose as hundreds of new cryptocurrency projects emerged following Bitcoin's creation and launch.

These alternative cryptos aim to either build on Bitcoin's design with new capabilities or offer an entirely different technology and value proposition. Prominent examples of altcoins include Ethereum, Litecoin, XRP, Cardano, Solana, and Luna. Even meme coins like Dogecoin are often considered altcoins. Namecoin, which was launched in 2011, is generally considered the very first altcoin.

They encompass both medium of exchange cryptos trying to achieve digital cash functionality like Bitcoin as well as platform and utility tokens powering blockchain networks. They span the range from near clones of Bitcoin with minor tweaks to wholly unique architectures that explore alternative consensus mechanisms.

Some altcoins aim to improve Bitcoin in areas like transaction speed, scalability, or mining decentralization. Others offer novel capabilities like smart contracts that expand functionality beyond just payments. The diversity of altcoins enables experimentation across types of digital assets, cryptography, decentralization techniques and business models.

In summary, the altcoin sphere captures the myriad of blockchain-based projects that make up today's cryptocurrency landscape. Altcoins provide choices beyond Bitcoin while still typically staying within the paradigms Bitcoin pioneered.

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