Investing in cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns no cryptocurrencies.
There are hundreds of altcoins, and more appear every day. Most altcoins are little more than Bitcoin clones and they do not survive for very long. They only change minor features, such as its hashing algorithm, distribution method, or transactions speed. One exception is Litecoin, which has branded itself as “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.” The reason for that is that, in addition to using a different hashing algorithm than Bitcoin, Litecoin has a much higher number of currency units.
It can do this by making the problem more or less difficult, by requiring more or less zeros at the beginning of the output that solves the problem. The more zeros that are required at the beginning of the output, the more exponentially difficult the problem becomes to solve. To understand this why this is, click here for a reasonably good explanation.
Yet there's reason to doubt that cryptocurrency frenzy will return. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) — Ma Bell in Warner's analogy — banned credit-card purchases of cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, the SEC and foreign governments have cracked down on initial coin offerings. And lately, Alphabet (GOOGL)-unit Google, Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) have banned cryptocurrency ads.
Opportunities on this scale only seem to come about when the world is going through mass technological change. Yes, i’m likening bitcoin to the dot-com era and the thousands who made bank because they chose to become early adopters of the technology. They saw opportunity and took a risk which paid off immensely once the rest of the world got over their prejudice and realised the value.

Virtual currencies, including bitcoin, experience significant price volatility. Fluctuations in the underlying virtual currency's value between the time you place a trade for a virtual currency futures contract and the time you attempt to liquidate it will affect the value of your futures contract and the potential profit and losses related to it. Investors must be very cautious and monitor any investment that they make.