In pictures: 5 things to know about... alt-coins that people are investing in

Bitcoin isn't the only player in town, so what are the alternatives and what do you need to know about them?
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Everyone seems to be talking about the future of Bitcoin right now, but there are plenty of other cryptocurrencies on the market that could also offer some interesting returns in 2018
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Ethereum (ETH): Launched in 2015, this currency differs from Bitcoin in one key way: its use of smart contracts, a decentralised, peer-to-peer means of confirming transactions without the need for third parties. As a result, a lot of digital applications (dapps) choose to run on its blockchain.
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Ripple (XRP): The enfant terrible of the crypto world, this was launched in 2012 but has experienced a wild ride in recent weeks, from vying with Ethereum for second place on the cryptocurrency market cap league table to losing almost 50 percent of its value. But banks love it for instant transactions.
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Litecoin (LTC): Released by a one-time Google employee in 2011, this utilises almost exactly the same technology as Bitcoin but promises faster processing times and an increased supply of coins. However, mining is much more complicated than Bitcoin, meaning it is more expensive to produce.
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Dash (DASH): This crypto began life as XCoin in early 2014 before it was rebranded a year later as “Dash” or “digital cash”. Promising much faster processing times than Bitcoin, it also has a two-tier network, one for creating the blocks, the other for its sending functions. Only 19 million coins will be issued.
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Doge (DOGE): If there is one coin that exemplifies crypto-mania it’s Doge, created by programmer Billy Markus and launched by Adobe Systems’ Jackson Palmer as a Twitter joke. But that didn’t stop it having an active fanbase and, by the end of 2017, a market capitalisation in excess of $2bn.