Bitcoin was created as a peer to peer electronic payment system. In essence, it consists of a decentralized computer network that stores transactions in a public register. Bitcoin was built as an open-source project, which means that source code was shared and made free to examine, copy, or modify.
The Bitcoin’s great success and the fact that it is a open-source project has meant that thousands of other projects have been built with similar ideas but also substantial peculiarities. Such projects born from the illustrious progeny of Bitcoin are called “Cryptocurrencies” and / or “Altcoin”.
Although, for now, such cryptocurrencies are not conceived as a real payment method, there is an active trading market into specialized on-line platforms, similar to those devoted to the Forex trade operating with traditional currencies .
The number of Altcoin traded on markets is high, and almost daily, new Altcoin are proposed, some of which are welcomed, others less and these are destined to a short life.
So to get an idea, you can visit the CoinMaketCup site, which show in real time the trend and the exchange value of hundreds of Altcoin compared to the US Dollar.
Bitcoin currently represents a significant part of the total crypto market and that is why in most markets the various Altcoin are normally treated against Bitcoin, however, some of the most popular are also traded against traditional state currencies, such as US Dollar and Chinese Yuan.
Although all cryptocurrencies share the public register structure developed for Bitcoin, they differ significantly in some fundamental details such as the Consensus Algorithm used by the network to validate the transactions, how the information is stored and algorithms used for hashing, the type of public-private key cryptography, the applications and the user cases and the type of community behind each Altcoin.