Bitcoin is the first and most well-known cryptocurrency, but there are many other digital currencies out there. These are collectively known as altcoins, and some of the more popular altcoins include Litecoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. So, is Bitcoin an altcoin?
Technically speaking, yes, Bitcoin is an altcoin. Altcoins are any digital currency that is not Bitcoin.
However, when people say “altcoin,” they usually mean a cryptocurrency that is an alternative to Bitcoin. In other words, an altcoin is a coin that hopes to be as successful as Bitcoin but with some different or improved features.
For example, Litecoin has faster transaction times than Bitcoin because it uses a different algorithm for its proof-of-work system. Ethereum offers smart contracts, which are programs that can automatically execute transactions when certain conditions are met.
Ripple is designed to be used by banks and other financial institutions for international money transfers.
So, while technically all cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin are altcoins, the term is usually used to refer to those that are trying to be competitive alternatives to the reigning king of cryptocurrencies.