Not all bitcoin clones are as bad as each other

btc forkThere are at least 50 bitcoin clones – but they aren't all garbage

Bitcoin is so good it has imitators. Lots of them. It’s the invasion of the clones. But some clones are more equal than others. We have the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin Gold (BTG) at one end and at the other is the trash.

And it is not just us saying that. US exchange Poloniex, recently bought by Circle, is cleaning up the place by delisting coins. Among the coins being delisted is BitcoinDark.

BitcoinDark has seen some weird price spikes in recent days for reasons that no-one can really explain.

However, there is one thing we do know – BitcoinDark adds nothing to the crypto universe. Indeed the project has been officially abandoned.

If BCH and BCG are top tier clones then in the second-tier we might put Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Private and BitcoinDark.

But, of course it doesn’t end there. There is have Bitcoin Pizza, Bitcoin God, Bitcoin Candy, … and so it goes on.

In fact since the fork to create Bitcoin Cash in August last year there have been at least 50 clones of bitcoin released into the wild.

However, we need to be clear what we are talking about when we use the term clone and seek to differentiate the worthless clones from the genuine hard forks to the bitcoin protocol.

Why fork/clone?

There are good reasons to fork from the bitcoin core protocol and chief among them is the need to address perceived design flaws such as the inordinate amount of computing power required for proof of work.

Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are perhaps the best known clones of bitcoin, but these were actual mined forks as opposed to someone doing a minor tweak to the code and then repackaging it as something different.

Bitcoin Cash’s main innovation was to increase the block size as a way of increasing transaction throughput. Bitcoin has blocks of 1MB, bitcoin cash n0w has blocks of 32MB.

Bitcoin Gold sought to address the issue of ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) miners driving out less-efficient GPU miners from the network. This means the code has been changed so that it is impossible to mine the blocks with a GPU processor, just like back in the day before Bitmain came along.

Going  further back than the Bitcoin Cash fork, we find that Litecoin is in fact the very first fork of bitcoin.

Charlie Lee forked it in 2011. He increased the total supply of coins to 84 million and there are also plans down the road to up the block size from 1MB to 2MB.

Litecoin itself has just received the cloning treatment from Litecoin Cash, which started trading in April this year.

Not all bad

There are valid reasons for wanting to fork a coin. However, a genuine fork involves mining an invalid block on the original chain and many of the cloned bitcoins have not done that. Essentially a fork is upgrading the software but requires those who wish to make use of those new features to also upgrade – a hard fork as opposed to a soft one.

Clones on the other hand might be described as having one real use case  – as money machines for their developers.

Whether Bitcoin Cash, which is supported by owner Roger Ver – aka ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ – ever usurps bitcoin is another question and ultimately depends on which finds adoption as a means of payment or store of value.

Investors are growing weary of the bitcoin clones. There are estimated to have been around 50 created since Bitcoin Cash came along.

All these clone coins are trading on bitcoin’s brand visibility and the proven robustness of its code base, despite the occasional bug still being found and squashed, such as the denial of service attack bug patched this week.

Nevertheless, we do have to differentiate.

The dividing line depends on an added-value analysis. On that basis there are in fact only a handful that are worthy of even considering. Two we have already mentioned – Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold.

There is another interesting one to add which does not use the ‘Bitcoin’ prefix, which is probably a good thing given the bad press they are deservedly attracting.

Where’s the added value?

The crypto asset is called Bitcore (BTX) and it is interesting not just because of its branding decision as such (not ‘bitcoin’ prefix), but because of its technology. How then does it differ from Bitcoin core?

Put simply, this project team – based mostly in Germany – is really adding value.

First of all it is ASIC-resistant (Timetravel10 algorithm for GPUs). Also the storage space required to run a full node has been reduced to about about 1GB. Block size has been increased to 10MB and  because of innovative work on bitcoin’s simple payment verification technology (used to run light wallets – like the one you probably have on your phone from Wirex or another crypto wallet/card provider), which makes it possible for greater participation in mining by the community.

Additionally, Bitcore incorporated the SegWit (Segregated Witness) solution that allows more data to be packed into a block, four months before it was implemented on the bitcoin blockchain. This means the effective block size doubles from 1 MB to 20MB. Lightning Network off-chain technology is also available.

All of those changes from the original bitcoin mean that Bitcore has a vastly higher transactions per second (tps) rate than bitcoin. Blocktimes are 2.5 minutes on Bitcore as opposed 10 minutes on Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcion Gold. Shorter block times mean s faster confirmation times, which is a plus when you are, say, transferring funds and waiting for that fourth or fifth confirmation to pop up in your trading account.

Transaction fees are as low as $0.003 which matters immensely when talking about micro payments.

Built for speed

Bitcore took a hybrid approach to its fork. At block height #492,820 a snapshot of the bitcoin blockchain was taken, on 2 November last year. BTX tokens distributed through a 1:1 ratio but only for 50% of the total supply to prevent whales buying huge amounts.  That’s an example that should perhaps be followed by others doing hard forks from major chains. Bitcore did not run an ICO either.

With SegWit, Bitcore handles 550 tps compared too 11 for bitcoin, 1,700 for the Visa payment network or 115 tps for PayPal. Then add Lightning Network into the mix with its payment channels and transactions could become almost infinitely scalable.

Trading at $0.933 (on 21 September) and with a market cap of $14 million, ranking it 260th according to coinmarketcap, this is one crypto asset that has been overlooked by the market.

However, that’s not too surprising given that investors are turning away from the worst of the bitcoin clones and may have tared Bitcore with the same brush.

Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and Bitcore have their critics, who see no difference between the top clones and the near-fraudulent efforts further down the food chain.

However, as the market recovers and minds turn to the use case as means of payment, then it is possible that BCH,  BTG and BTX will rise again, and the likes of Bitcore could be in the slipstream.

When it comes to value for money, don’t bet against the Germans.

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About the Author

Gary McFarlane
Gary has been writing about cryptocurrencies since 2013 and currently works as the cryptocurrency analyst at interactive investor, the UK's second-largest online investment platform. Gary contributes for Coin Intelligence News in a personal capacity and none of his commentary should be considered investment advice. Gary is the winner of the ADVFN International Financial Awards 2018 Cryptocurrency Writer of the Year. Contact Gary on twitter at: @gary_mcfarlane

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