Why Are There So Many Bitcoin Variants?

There are plenty of cryptocurrencies around, and you can even create one yourself in minutes. Out of all these cryptocurrencies, there are plenty that come with the “Bitcoin” label that you will think are associated with Bitcoin.

Think you have a handle on the Bitcoin market? Here’s a quick test: how many of these are real Bitcoin variant names?

  1. Bitcoin Plaid (BTP)
  2. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  3. Bitcoin Gold (BTG)
  4. Mega Bitcoin (MBTC)
  5. Bitcoin Diamond (BCD)
  6. Bitcoin Atom (BCA)
  7. Super Bitcoin (SBTC)
  8. Bitcoin Quartz (BTQ)
  9. Bitcoin God (GOD)
  10. Bitcoin Waffles (BTCW)

The answer key is at the end of this article. If you got all of them, congratulations – I hope your obsession with cryptocurrency isn’t damaging your social life. Otherwise, you’re probably wondering why there are so many cryptocurrencies that call themselves “Bitcoin Something,” and there are several answers.

They’re forks


“Forking” software means creating a new software project using the code from an existing one. In cryptocurrency these forks are quite popular because:

  • coding blockchains is hard
  • If you hold the forked cryptocurrency, you often get an equivalent amount of the new cryptocurrency, since the ledger has been copied over as well as the base code.

Some Bitcoin forks, like Litecoin and Dogecoin, decided to rebrand themselves, but many have elected to advertise their Bitcoin roots.

They’re free-riding on Bitcoin’s reputation

Bitcoin is a household name, while knowledge of many other blockchain projects is limited to the crypto-curious. Using the name, then, provides an instant (if sometimes undeserved) credibility boost to the new coin. This isn’t an automatic red flag, though. Some Bitcoin clones really are legitimate efforts to improve on the original.

Some of them are scams

Because of the free reputation points, the Bitcoin label is popular for scam-coins. These forks pretty much only exist so the creators can grab some money. Probably the best-known of these was Bitcoin Platinum — a coin designed by a South Korean teenager trying to profit off the Bitcoin market. Hopefully he at least got an A in computer science.

The Top 10

There are dozens of forks out there, and not all of them explicitly include the Bitcoin name, so this list is not comprehensive. The coins listed here are in order of their current (May 2018) position on CoinMarketCap, which lists cryptocurrencies by the total value of all their coins.

1. Bitcoin (BTC)


The original, created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto.

2. Bitcoin Cash (BCH)


A legitimate, active fork of Bitcoin, created in an attempt to fix the slow speeds and high transaction fees that Bitcoin is prone to when its network is under strain.

3. Bitcoin Gold (BTG)


Though many have eyed this cryptocurrency with suspicion, it’s managed to get itself into the ranks of the top-valued coins. It was designed to make Bitcoin more decentralized by making mining easier for individuals.

4. Bitcoin Diamond (BTD)


Though the name sounds like a Pokemon game or something you’ll have to sell a lot of dubious health supplements to get, it is, in fact, a cryptocurrency. While it is marketed as a more private alternative to traditional Bitcoin, it was initially labeled a scam and hasn’t lost that vibe entirely.

5. Bitcoin Private (BTCP)


Though it took the Bitcoin name, Bitcoin Private is also derived from another cryptocurrency called Zcash, which focuses on private transactions. It’s legitimate, but in the words of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, “Why not just use Zcash?”

6. BitcoinDark (BTCD)


Though its name comes off as something you’d use to buy less-than-legal goods and services on a dark net market, BitcoinDark’s goal is actually “financial inclusion for everyone.” It still holds some value, but there’s very little activity around it, as it seems to have been somewhat absorbed by a larger project called “Komodo.”

7. Bitcoin Atom (BCA)


Atom is one of the few Bitcoin forks to add value and get a generally positive reception. It offers “atomic swap” capabilities, meaning it allows you to exchange different assets (like other cryptocurrencies) without going through a centralized exchange. That translates to, among other things, cheaper transactions.

8. Bitcoin Green (BITG)


Bitcoin uses a lot of electricity, especially for mining. Bitcoin Green aims to change that by using a different algorithm that is much more energy-efficient, and they seem serious about it.

9. Bitcoin Plus (XBC)


It says it hides your IP address using Tor, but opinion is divided on this coin. Either way, there’s not much information out there on it, so use caution – don’t end up with Bitcoin minus.

10. BitcoinZ (BTCZ)


No, not a cryptocurrency for zombies – though there will probably be one eventually. BitcoinZ is another “Bitcoin + Zcash” meld, so it’s privacy-focused, with the added goal of being as decentralized as possible.

The rest

As of May 2018, there are twenty-four coins on CoinMarketCap with “Bitcoin” in their name. Here are the last fourteen.

  • eBitcoin
  • eBitcoin Cash
  • Bitcoin Fast
  • Bitcoin Scrypt
  • Bitcoin Red
  • LiteBitcoin
  • Bitcoin 21
  • Bitcoin Planet
  • Super Bitcoin
  • United Bitcoin
  • Bitcoin X
  • Bitcoin Interest
  • Bitcoin God
  • First Bitcoin Capital

How many forks can there be?

Practically speaking, there is no limit. Anybody with the willingness to learn about blockchains and clone the Bitcoin code can do it, whether you’re a computer scientist or a Korean high school kid. Making a valuable, functioning product is not so easy, but even low-value coins can still be hugely inflated in an environment where most investors aren’t very familiar with the product. Given the rate at which these coins are coming out, though, the biggest future challenge may be finding a new word to put after Bitcoin.

Answers: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9

Image Credit: Bitcoin Forks

Andrew Braun
Andrew Braun

Andrew Braun is a lifelong tech enthusiast with a wide range of interests, including travel, economics, math, data analysis, fitness, and more. He is an advocate of cryptocurrencies and other decentralized technologies, and hopes to see new generations of innovation continue to outdo each other.

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