For the most part, Bitcoin remains the dominant force in cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has slowly but surely gained more influence in society, and has performed very well in 2016 despite mixed projections heading into the year. It’s had its setbacks, sure — like not being accepted in the Windows app store any longer — but just recently, a new forecast for the immediate future actually suggested that Bitcoin could skyrocket. That’s just one writer’s opinion, but every time an analysis like that comes out it fuels the fire for cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
For all the attention Bitcoin generates, however, there’s still plenty of competition out there. They’re called “Altcoins,” and though some are pale imitations of Bitcoin’s model, a few are distinct enough to warrant attention. Traditionally, those few have been Dash, Litecoin, and a few others that have become relatively recognizable. Ethereum has risen to become arguably the most popular Bitcoin alternative, and some smaller options like Dogecoin have earned loyal followings. But more recently, a new challenger has emerged in a big way in the cryptocurrency field. It’s called Steem.
Loosely based on Reddit, at least conceptually, Steem is a brand new digital currency that fuels the social networking platform Steemit. It launched back in April, and since that time its market cap has ballooned from $2,000 to nearly $300 million. The platform works entirely through user-generated blog posts and up-votes. Basically, any user can write any blog post, and other users can then vote for it to make it more popular. When your post is voted up, you get “Steem Power,” which makes your own up-votes more powerful, and which can also be converted into Steem Dollars (which in turn can be exchanged for actual currency). There’s a little bit more to it than that, and some analysts delving into the technical foundation have exposed a few flaws here and there, but to understand Steem and Steemit, you pretty much need only think of it as Reddit with a digital currency attached.
This may still sound like a blip on the radar if you happen to have followed cryptocurrencies on a regular basis. Whenever a new one sticks around long enough not to be rendered irrelevant, it tends to generate some attention among those who are convinced Bitcoin is bound to be taken down by a competitor. But most of them either fizzle out or settle into particular niches beneath Bitcoin. Steem may well do the same, but it’s worth noting that it has already surpassed Litecoin and Ripple to become the third most valuable cryptocurrency on the market (behind Bitcoin and Ethereum). That doesn’t mean it’s usurping Bitcoin’s throne just yet, but it’s in the discussion, and that’s pretty remarkable given that it’s only been around for a few months.