Bitcoin Has Company on Cryptocurrency Stage

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2013-12-04

In recent weeks, the hype and interest around the Bitcoin virtual currency have risen to new heights as the value of a Bitcoin has now surpassed $1,000 US. Bitcoin, a virtual currency that was first introduced in 2009, is also known as a cryptocurrency. The term "cryptocurrency" refers to the fact that the currency is created, or "mined," from cryptographic hashes. A cryptocurrency also leverages the same cryptography that creates virtual coins, to validate transactions and prevent fraud. The increased attention on Bitcoin has made it increasingly difficult to mine and create new Bitcoins. That's because the cryptography behind Bitcoin only allows for 21 million Bitcoin (BTC) in total, with the incremental difficulty to create new coins increasing at a rapid rate. While Bitcoin is the most well-known and highest value cryptocurrency in the world today, it isn't the only cryptocurrency being mined and used. Other cryptocurrencies--including Litecoin, Peercoin and Megacoin, among others--are not nearly as valuable as Bitcoin and are not as difficult to mine either. There is also a growing secondary market where alternative cryptocurrencies are traded for Bitcoins and, in some cases, against the U.S. dollar and euro. In this slide show, eWEEK takes a look at some of the more common cryptocurrencies in the market today.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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