By mining, you can earn cryptocurrency without having to put down money for it. That said, you certainly don't have to be a miner to own crypto.  You can also buy crypto using fiat currency (USD, EUR, JPY, etc); you can trade it on an exchange like Bitstamp using other crypto (example: Using Ethereum or NEO to buy Bitcoin); you even can earn it by playing video games or by publishing blogposts on platforms that pay its users in crypto. An example of the latter is Steemit, which is kind of like Medium except that users can reward bloggers by paying them in a proprietary cryptocurrency called Steem.  Steem can then be traded elsewhere for Bitcoin. 

Ripple is the third-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization after Bitcoin and Ethereum. It is a venture-backed startup that never held an ICO (which is the main reason why the SEC will never declare it a security). Ripple offers a global financial settlement service for banks that lets them transact directly and instantly across national borders. Thus, Ripple is oriented to large institutions instead of individual users. Its goal is to give financial institutions an easy and reliable solution for cross-border payments. It has already partnered with large banks around the world and more financial institutions are moving to adopt the Ripple protocol. This institutional support and the fact it is safe from SEC regulation are why I believe XRP will survive the altcoin bloodbath.
ETC could be poised to survive for one major reason: Ethereum is moving towards a proof of stake system. Some people will undoubtedly want to use ETC over the new protocol because they prefer proof of work consensus. Coinbase also recently added ETC, which is a good sign this coin isn;t going anywhere soon. For these reasons, Ethereum Classic is a good investment.
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I understand that this is simplifying things to the extreme, but that's why an entire series of guides is needed! It's a complex landscape to understand, but the core is simple: miners are people independently verifying transactions on the coin's network, and when that happens more coins are created. Miners effectively keep the network running and increase the coin's global supply.
There are a few platforms that have been christened with the name “Ethereum Killer”, but as of right now, EOS looks to be the only one within striking distance. If the success of BitShares and Steem (both founded by Larimer), combined with the fact they’re dominating the market in terms of blockchain activity, are at all indicators of success, the case for an EOS/ETH “flippening” could hold some weight.
Similar, even in name, to an initial public offering (IPO) in which a private company’s stock first becomes public, an ICO happens when a cryptocurrency startup wants to raise funding in order to further the development of their coin. The startup releases some of their coins (often referred to as “tokens”) to traders, who purchase these tokens in the hope that the project succeeds and those coins gain value. If the predefined minimum funding is not reached, the money is sometimes returned to the traders.
Altcoins began life as little more than bitcoin copies attempting to mimic bitcoin’s successful run, but they quickly became much more than their name suggests. At the time of writing (February 2018), there are more than 1,500 altcoins available for use. While many are still struggling to break the mold set by bitcoin, some are doing truly amazing things with the technology.
What you may not know is the technology surrounding mining isn't just limited to consumer graphics cards. We’re beginning to see PC game platforms that allow you to mine when you’re away from your system, and exchange that digital currency for new games. There are even new Pokemon GO-style games hitting the app stores that are outdoor scavenger hunts with cryptocurrency as the ultimate treasure.
At the time when this guide was written, January 2014, the price of one bitcoin stood at $913, down slightly after reaching an all-time high of over $1,200 earlier in December. The new cryptocurrency came a long way from trading below $4 just two years ago. Major online and offline retailers are starting to add the new currency as a payment method. But what exactly is bitcoin?
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