After Bitcoin touched $18,000 a lot of altcoins also drew attention because the value of some altcoins tripled or even quadrupled in under twenty-four hours. In general, some of the best investors and business magnets are now investing in cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and many altcoins. Most altcoins are not as expensive as Bitcoin or Ethereum so you can purchase many coins for cheap. The upside is there is not much risk involved; however, the downside is that the chances of these coins giving you a high yield or appraisal in investment is at times very thin. Moreover, you might lose the capital that you invested initially.

What is altcoin?

In simple words Altcoins or Alt  are cryptocurrencies other than bitcoins. The word altcoin itself stands for alternative coin. This means Litecoin, Ripple, and dashcoin along with a number of other (non-bitcoin) digital currencies are classified as altcoins. The reasons behind the creation of altcoins are mainly the imperfections of bitcoins. In other words, various altcoins do everything possible to be the best version of bitcoins. For example, Litecoin is an altcoin which transacts faster compared to bitcoin. Dash is an altcoin which is focusing on making transactions anonymous, so it is virtually impossible to trace such transactions. The list can go on with many various altcoins solving issues of different natures. Altcoins are also different when it comes to mining them so for example bitcoin's mining algorithm is called SHA256 where Litecoin's mining algorithm is called scrypt. Nowadays, there are thousands of altcoins but only a few are popular. If you want to follow up the top altcoins of 2018 you need to check out the prices and market caps on regular basis.

The best altcoins

To understand things better, you first have to understand some basics of altcoins.

All cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and altcoins use blockchain platform. However every coin is programmed or coded differently, the coins or alts which use a unique and problem-solving platform are more likely to succeed. The main reason for this is that if the platform is unique more people get attracted to it and as a result, the ICO or initial coin offering may be very successful. Some platforms use tokens which is the representation of an asset, and this asset is mostly found on top of a blockchain. Tokens are not necessarily cryptocurrencies, it can be any tradeable digital asset, and you can even develop your own token. There is no need to modify the code of a protocol because you can simply use a template on the blockchain, for example, Ethereum platform which helps you develop your own custom tokens. Talking about tokens, these tokens are generally distributed to the public through an initial coin offering or ICO. ICO or initial coin offering is basically a way of crowdfunding using a new cryptocurrency to fund a project.

Protocol in simple words is an abstract or concrete which performs a security-related function and applies cryptographic methods. In cryptocurrency's case, a protocol describes how an algorithm should be used. Talking about the algorithm, there are two main types of algorithm. 

1. The first one is known as proof of work (PoW) algorithm and this is used for mining Bitcoins SHA2 was selected because of how fast it is, and it has also been critically analyzed. There is a much smaller risk of centralization for this algorithm or logic. Some other algorithms used are Scrypt proof of work, Combination of hashing algorithms in series and combination of hashing algorithms in parallel. 

2. The second one is known as proof of stake (PoS) and in this type of algorithm instead of sacrificing energy to mine coins or a block the user must prove that they own some amount of the certain altcoin to generate a block. This way a lot of energy is saved, and it is almost free to mine by just holding the specific cryptocurrency.

When deciding which altcoin to buy one of the most important things you want to have a look at is the board of developers aka the team. This is crucial if you want to minimize the risk of scam and so if the developers are visible and are public figures the chances of the altcoin succeeding after the initial coin offering are much higher. If you cannot see who the developers are then the, then chances are that the altcoin is a scam. If the developers are visible, you need to find out if they have experience in the cryptocurrency field and whether they can be trusted. Many times developers use the pump and dump strategy where they create a lot of hype about an altcoin, and as a result, a lot of people buy the altcoin and then when the prices rise the developers sell their altcoins for huge prices to make profits and then the market crashes because of excess altcoins. So for these reasons having a look at the developers and even talking to them over social media if possible is a great idea when investing in any altcoin.

Various altcoins have various goals and are trying to solve different problems accordingly. As it was mentioned above, Litecoin is trying to eliminate the time factor of transactions, meanwhile, another altcoin Monero is trying to make transactions virtually untraceable so that no one can track it back to the sender or receiver. There are other altcoins which are trying to minimize huge transaction fees which apply to bitcoin. However, just a handful actually succeed, some altcoins are programmed excellently have a great goal, but it still might fail in the Initial coin offering if the supporters of the project are not very confident about the development of the token or cryptocurrency.

Some altcoins are great others controversial but in both cases what makes them rise or famous is the money they raise through the Initial coin offering or the token sale. If the developers of the cryptocurrency are influential people or if there is a partnership with someone who is influential this can help raise funds because influential people or stars have the power to influence their fans and they can well encourage people to buy or invest in the specific altcoin. Example an altcoin known as Tron, Tron or Trx's price increased because some influential public figure investors had put their stake in it and as a result, people who believe in the star started investing their money in the altcoin too. This, in turn, resulted in an increased demand for the coin which resulted in the price going up.

There is a pretty big community behind some altcoins, and one thing to keep in mind is that a strong community is an important predictor of an altcoin's success. Usually, there are various forms of the altcoin where you can directly talk to the owners and developers of the particular altcoin. Often there is a lot of hype during the initial coin offering or maybe even after a successful ICO and this hype may increase the price of an altcoin. The market use per day is increasing day by day, although the overall market cap of the cryptocurrency market is still majority bitcoin but there is some good amount of space for altcoins, and this pace is increasing day by day.

Best altcoins to invest in

There are thousands of altcoins in which you might want to invest in 2018. Here are a few which may interest you.
Steem: This digital currency is used as the power of the steemit platform. Steemit appears to be a blockchain social media platform aiming to incentive the users to create accounts and use steem as the payment currency for the work they do. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Steem has a built-in inflation of 100% annually and no coin limit.

Ardor: Some say that this is the next generation of the service blockchain since it provides a low cost, low risk and fails fast platform for users or organizations. Ardor provides unlimited scalability and safe, smart contracts.

IOTA: This is the coin for the Internet of things or IoT, the developer states that the goal of the platform is making the transaction from “paradigm shift” to Internet of Things smoother through “de facto standardized” and “Ledger of Everything”. In other words, the cryptocurrency is going to exchange data with sensor-equipped devices that are the major part of the Internet of Things.

Ethereum: This is one of the most well-known altcoins. Ethereum is an open software platform which enables users to create smart contracts or build and implement decentralized applications based on the blockchain. The most significant difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum is the purpose and capability.

Stratis: This is not really a coin but a platform or a blockchain as a service platform which is developed to help organizations in the financial sector who want to benefit from the blockchain technology.

Litecoin: This is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency which has gained popularity over the years. Like most cryptocurrencies, Litecoin allows transfer between organizations or individuals without the need of a third party or bank. The main thing which differs Litecoin from Bitcoin or other altcoins is the market cap, the speed of transactions and the number of coins.

Cardano: This is a pretty old platform for some people this might be new but Cardano has been here since 2015, and it was discovered by the co-founder of Ethereum. Cardano has invented a more robust version of the proof of stake called Ouroboros, and it is known as an all in one coin.

Monero: This is a secure, private and an untraceable currency system, it enables untraceable transactions by using a special type of cryptography which makes the transactions a 100% unlinkable and private.
ICO: As mentioned earlier ICO or Initial coin offering is when a company or group of developers raise funds for a certain project in this case tokens or a new cryptocurrency they are launching.   

How to trade altcoins?

Altcoins can be easily exchanged for bitcoin or other altcoins. Various cryptocurrency exchanges enable these transactions. Here are a few exchange altcoin platforms:

Hitbtc: This is a cryptocurrency exchange based in Europe which was first launched back in 2014. The transaction fees are 0.01% on orders which are executed immediately. The deposit method is easy, just generate a wallet address through their website and then transfer the currency to the wallet address. This exchange is not very secure, and multiple users have reported that their account got hacked because of a mass attack on the servers. However, it has a very user-friendly interface.

Binance: This is a cryptocurrency exchange which has the most users. This platform may not be very user-friendly however it is very secure and has never been hacked. It also offers two-factor authentication on its site, and you can begin trading without getting your documents verified. The deposit method is straightforward, the website generates a wallet address where you transfer the currency, and the fees are 5% on all transactions. This is a decentralized exchange with a user-friendly user interface. The site has never been hacked and seems to be very secure, and the fees are fair.

The bottom line is if you want to invest in any altcoin you need to do a lot of research on it and remember to check out the developers before investing to make sure it is not a scam. The best exchange and the most famous one too is Binance at the moment, the fees may be a little high, but the transaction speed and efficiency are excellent.