There are more than 1500 known coins available at the moment of writing this post. Bitcoin is the most widely known, and something about 10-20 of them are relatively well known.
Some of the popular coins used by individuals as well as companies and institutions are Monero, Zcash, and DASH. They all belong to the category of privacy cryptocurrencies. Even thought they are far away from widespread usage, they have found a larger scale acceptance than the others.
To these three, we can add two more, PVIX and Cloack coin, both of which are also private coins. In the Zcash category, there are several very similar crypto-currencies, like ZCoin, Zclassic, and Zencash. As of recently, Zclassic has been forked into BitcoinPrivate, which may in the future become one of the most important Privacy coins.
DASH is a popular crypto-currency offering real life solutions to owners of Dash coins, like payments and credit cards. When you own Dash coins it makes sense to use the to load these specialized credit and debit cards.
All this brings these coins closer to mainstream applications, but even if you don’t use them for that, some basic understanding as to how they work can always be very helpful.
Let’s inspect each of these privacy coins sloser.
Monero belongs to the new generation of currencies with enhanced privacy properties. While the algorithm of Bitcoin is SHA-256 hash, Monero uses CryptoNote Proof-of-Work algorithm. CryptoNote is designed having ordinary PC CPUs in mind, so that to prevent GPUs or other expensive hardware to take over the mining process. The technology that Monero is called CryptoNote. It offers different encryption techniques.
Monero could be considered a secure and quite a bit more private coin than Bitcoin. Here we have both higher privacy features and higher security. For example, in Monero you would find stealth addresses and ring signatures. If you really need to hide your identity, Monero is designed for that.
Privacy is optional in Monero, though. You can choose to reveal your identity or to keep it hidden. They have solved this by having separate addresses for the transactions.
As it is the case with most of the Altcoins, Monero cannot be bought directly. You first have to get some Bitcoins and use them to buy Monero coins. Some of the major exchanges, like Coinbase don’t support Monero, so you would have to go to Kraken, and other medium sized exchanges that list this coin. In any case, you won’t have much problem converting your bitcoins once you have them in your wallet.
If you don’t want to use your fiat money (dollars or euros) to buy Monero, there is an alternative. You could go to Genesis Mining, or other similar systems, open a mining account, and mine your own Monero. Or some other currency of your choice.
At this moment (March 2018) Monero is worth BTC 0.0272 or $ 252.6. This may change of course.
The market cap is currently around $3.9B.
Zcash, Zero Cash, is another famous privacy altcoin. It is usually abbreviated as ZEC. It offers high levels of privacy and security. It also has two types of addresses, transparent and private. The difference is that Zcash is created by a company. The name of the company is Zerocoin Electric Coin Company. While this might seem to bring security at first, especially given the expertise of some of the founders, the Altcoin community was very skeptical about having a company in charge of a coin. They also take 20% of all mining fees into a developers fund, which can be viewed as both a good and a bad thing.
However, the security and privacy of ZEC is not questionable. It uses a state of the art zk-SNARKs technology. You can check this post for a more technical explanation.
The acceptance of ZCash is not over the top. You can buy it easily though on a number of well established exchanges, but first you have to purchase some BTC for fiat money. Or if you don’t want to to that, you can always mine some ZEC coins, even if you don’t have your own mining hardware. You can use a company like HashFlare to mine your own crypto currency.
At this moment (March 2018) ZEC is worth 0.0312 BTC or $ 288.6. This may change of course.
The market cap is currently around $800M.
DASH is a cryptocurrency that changed its name from Darkcoin. The reputation of this coin was questionable as it was associated with the DarkWeb. However, today DASH tries to improve its image and to be seen as a crypto ready for mass audiences. It tries to be adopted as digital cash by legitimate merchants. On the DASH’s webiste you can find a list of merchants, web stores and visa and debit card providers. This would indicate that this coin is approaching the mainstream faster than some other altcoins. For example, by using Shakepay as a credit card, you can convert DASH, BTC, and a couple of other currencies into Euros or US dollars.
DASH has a potential, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will be accepted even further. As far as investing is concerned, DASH seems to be well positioned.
At this moment (March 2018) DASH is worth 0.053 BTC or $ 486.9. This may change of course. Check out this post for more detail.
The market cap is currently around $3.9B.
PIVX is Private Instant Verified Transaction coin launched two years ago. Much like the other private crypto-currencies, the focus is on creating secure and private money. It also used to be associated with Darknet under the name DNET, but it managed to create a distance from its past.
PIVX is attempting to create a global payment network. It is an open source project with strong ideological touch. In the long run, PIVX is attempting to incorporate messaging along with transactions and mutual compatibility with the other coins. There are some practical applications with this coin, like buying apps on GitHub.
At this moment (March 2018) PIVX is worth 0.00049405 BTC or $ 4.5. This may change of course.
The market cap is currently around $250M.
CLOAK is a coin designed from the beginning to be totally private. It has many layers of security, including offline coin mixing, extra encoding, and a system for transactions called Enigma. Tracking is further prevented by adding an additional layer of fungibility.
At this moment (March 2018) PIVX is worth 0.00097 BTC or $ 8.9. This may change of course.
The market cap is currently around $45M.
This is a question you will have to answer for yourself. It depends on what you are going to use them, whether you plan to invest in them, etc. Judging from market cap alone, you can see where the potential for growth lies. You should also take into account the possibility of widespread use. For example DASH is integrated with MasterCard and Visa, which is a huge plus.
What About Privacy?
It is hard to talk objectively about the levels of privacy in these coins. Without a doubt, the most private currency seems to be Monero. It is no wonder it is being used on the Darknet for true anonymity.
ZEC is very fast and cheap, but it doesn’t have privacy as a default option. By default, all addresses a tranpsarent. In contrast, with Monero, you have no other option but to go private. However, the transaction is expensive in terms of resources, like cpu, memory, bandwidth, which translates into larger fees. DASH is less secure than the two, but it is very mainstream. Cloakcoin has a good potential to take over Monero’s current position. Its transaction system ENIGMA is open source which promises great future for this crypto. PIVX, as a fork of DASH, is very much like DASH, but it has a PoS (Proof of Stake) and a protocol level governance. Adoption is a big problem of PIVX, though.
There are other promising privacy coins outhere, like Komodo, Verge, ZClassic, Zoin, Zcoin, and BitcoinPrivate. For one, BitcoinPrivate is an interesting and promising cryptocurrency.
The Bottom Line
The problem of mainstream adoption is huge with all of these private coins. If that could be solved Monero, DASH, Zcash, CloakCoin, and PIVX could all be used in apps and everyday usage. Until that time, you can consider them interesting and promising investments.