I wanted to make this post to introduce the cryptocurrency scene and provide some insight and education to those interested. I have been researching cryptocurrencies since June of 2011. I first learned about Bitcoin then, and have been researching, following, and promoting it since. But Bitcoin is not the only player in town. In the next 5 years, we are going to witness a wave of decentralized cryptocurrencies which all have different features and uses. Bitcoin is by far the most popular cryptocurrency, and it has the most backing behind it. You can consider this the gold standard in the cryptocurrency world right now. Because: It is the most popular Has the strongest network hash rate of about 10petahashes at the time of this post Has a market cap of about 8-10billion $USD When trading in the cryptocurrency world, everyone uses Bitcoin just as people use Dollars in the real world. You can consider Bitcoin to be the gold standard in the crypto community. Currently, Bitcoin has the most development behind it, from startup/atm/exchanges/merchants/adoption Known to be a good (but volatile) store of value with excellent yearly interest rates There are many other "Bitcoin clones" out there called Altcoins. Most of the Altcoins that are a 1:1 fork of Bitcoin, and they gain temporary traction but they will not stick around long-term because Bitcoin does everything they do. I don't believe these will stick around long-term. There are altcoins like Litecoin, Peercoin, Quarkcoin, Dogecoin, any hundreds of others, but if their only function is to be a currency, ultimately I don't believe they will work because Bitcoin runs the scene for the Currency/Store of Value benefits. There are some really innovative other cryptocurrencies out there that I believe will become widely adopted, because they have other features besides just currency and store of value that Bitcoin already provides. For example, there is a new currencies in development right now that bring other features to the table. NXT, eMunie, and Mastercoin are some good examples that provide innovative features. They are competitors, but they aim to bring the following to the table: Decentralized Asset Exchange / Colored Coins. This allows gateways to issue other currencies (fiat or crypto) Decentralized Marketplace / Auction Decentralized Mixing Service Encrypted Messaging / Chat Decentralized DNS / Alias System Transparent Mining DDoS Protection - Project Kharon Voting I think in the next 5 years, as more problems arise with politics, government, fiat currencies, there will be an increased and faster paced adoption into these cryptocurrencies. Many people bring up the argument that cryptocurrency is just a fad, but I really think this industry is here to stay, and it is currently booming right now. With bail-ins, inflation, bank corruption, and the problems with politics and nations, people will be moving to international math-based currencies that eliminate counter-party risk with P2P currencies. Here are some reasons why 2014 will be a big year for cryptocurrencies: FATCA (new finance law) + collapse of traditional offshore jurisdictions. US stocks market bubble busts. Series of Cyprus-style bail-ins around the world. ZipZap introducing easier ways to put money into Bitcoin Bitcoin ATM's expand globally Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF may get approved by the SEC Overstock.com accepting Bitcoin in 2014 Second Market Founder said wall street will support bitcoin next year As Bitcoin becomes easier to acquire, alternate cryptocurrencies will also flourish because Bitcoin is what the dollar is in the digital world. In real life, people trade dollars for goods and services, but in this new digital currency economy, Bitcoin is the gold standard for trading goods and services.