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There are currently over 600 alternative cryptocurrencies in the market. Bitcoin’s source-code, being open-source and publicly available on Github, can be copied freely by anyone interested in creating their own coin.
The question that many people have is that, with so many alternatives, how do we evaluate which ones are worth studying and buying? After all, with each coin having its own price, it certainly feels like a 24/7 stock market.
I will attempt to go through some of the factors that we at CoinGecko use in evaluating altcoins.
1. Technical & monetary rules innovation
Some people have the opinion that Bitcoin’s maximum cap of 21 million coins is a limiting factor because people feel poor receiving only 0.0001 BTC at one point. Dogecoin, for example, has a total supply of 100 billion dogecoins that had been fully mined by mid-2015. It also does not have a hard cap and is projected to grow at 5.256 billion coins every year after reaching 100 billion. The changes in monetary rules creates a whole different economic incentive for the altcoin.
Other coins used a different hashing algorithm altogether. Peercoin, for instance, uses proof-of-stake instead of proof-of-work, while Ethereum is a cryptocurrency that is designed from the ground up without forking any code from Bitcoin and is also Turing-complete. There are many interesting innovations happening in the altcoin world that can be beneficial to the overall ecosystem and starting on this basis will be a good first step in evaluating altcoins.
2. Development activity
One way to gauge if a particular altcoin has a good future is to look at its development activity. A coin with an active development team will be pushing out updates and patching bugs all the time.
We can see that Bitcoin has the most active development team. All development work is done publicly via the Github repository and one can check if any of the coin developers is “sleeping”. Because many coins are “forked” from Bitcoin, it is particularly important for developers to be pushing updates whenever a bug is found in Bitcoin because it will almost certainly affect the altcoin as well since they are sharing mostly similar codebase.
3. Community strength
A coin without a community will not have any value whatsoever because no one will be using the altcoin. Looking through forums like Bitcointalk, you will notice that many will claim that their altcoin has the best community, but the best way to gauge the size of the community is to look at figures.
It is hard to say that coin X has Y number of users due to its decentralized nature. However, one can use proxies when estimating the size of the community by looking at the number of Facebook likes, Twitter followers and Reddit activity.
4. Trading volume & liquidity
Equally important is to look if there is any trading activity surrounding the altcoin. There is no point holding thousands of dollars worth of an altcoin if no one is trading it and there is very low chance of exiting your current position in the market.
There will be wild swings in price whenever any amount is bought and sold and this volatility is not good for sustaining the value of your altcoin holdings.
5. Market capitalization
Coins with low market capitalization can be easily manipulated by people planning to organize pumps and dumps tricks. One may lose a lot of money if susceptible to the lies that these people push out.
Coins with a larger market capitalization will be harder to be manipulate as it will require a substantially larger capital base to manipulate the price.
6. Public interest
Lastly, one should also consider how popular the coin is in the World Wide Web. A quick search of the coin name on Google or Bing will show how many results exist regarding the coin. Established coins like Bitcoin will have millions of search results showing the maturity of the coin, while small coins will have very little to show.
The same can be said by looking at the popularity of the coin’s official website on Alexa. Bitcoin.org, the official website of Bitcoin is very popular in the world, ranking as Alexa’s 14,175th most popular website on the planet at the time of writing.
I hope that by now you are aware of some high-level ways of evaluating altcoins based on this article. However, there are many other ways of evaluating altcoins that will require further research.
Although the altcoin ecosystem is filled with many scams – so do be extra careful when navigating this space -, it can also be very lucrative if you do your homework right. Do not believe everything that you read and always do your due diligence by checking for facts and data on CoinGecko and other websites.