Many of us have probably been using the terms ‘token’ and ‘coin’ interchangeably without realizing that there are minor but meaningful differences between them. It’s something we’re all fairly guilty of. But to get some clarity regarding the differences between Bitcoin and a token, we first need to understand the difference between a token and a conventional cryptocurrency as a whole.
While both of these terms are used to define a unit of blockchain value, they still refer to different categories of digital currencies. Let’s explore.
Digital coins are unique digital currencies that are based on their own standalone blockchains. In other words, a digital coin is an asset that is native to its own blockchain. Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) are examples of such coins because they operate on the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, respectively. These coins exist as data on the database (which is the blockchain), and any transactions are checked and verified by computers across the world.
Coins are used much like traditional money. They serve as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account. However, certain digital coins like Ether, NEO, and DASH have additional features such as fuelling transactions, staking, and being allowed to vote on important decisions, respectively.
Tokens are unlike coins in that they are created on top of existing blockchains. For example, the Ethereum platform remains one of the most common platforms for creating crypto tokens, and tokens built on Ethereum are known as ERC-20 tokens. ZRX, BAT, and GNT are some popular tokens existing on the Ethereum platform. Other such platforms include Stellar, NEO, Omni, and EOS.
An important distinction to be made here is that while coins mostly serve as a method of payment, tokens often exist to be used with dApps. They are mostly designed for specific applications and are used to activate features on the same. For example, using tokens to access games in a gaming dApp.
The Difference Between a Token and a Bitcoin
Now that we understand the difference between a digital coin and a token, it becomes far easier to understand how bitcoins are different from tokens. Much like coins, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency (rather, the first cryptocurrency) that was built on the Bitcoin blockchain. Let’s explore the points of differences between the two.
- Bitcoin is an asset native to its blockchain, while tokens are built on existing blockchains.
- Bitcoin has monetary uses – it can be used as a store of value and a medium of exchange. It can also be used as a unit of account, which means that the things you buy can be priced in BTC too.
For example, the conversion from 1 BTC to INR is approximately 1453049 INR as of December 2020, and thus, the Bitcoin price in INR can be used to price various goods and services. Therefore, apart from monetary uses, Bitcoin does not have much use. It cannot be staked or used to gain access to a dApp.
Tokens, on the other hand, are created for different purposes altogether. These purposes can range from operating dApps, representing fractional ownership in a physical asset like real estate, voting rights when participating in governance, or even value-added services specific to brands (the WazirX token – WRX is a great example).
- Since tokens are created on existing blockchains, they are far easier to create as compared to Bitcoin. However, creating a token does require paying a fee via the native coins to the blockchain where the token is being created.
We’re seeing an interesting shift across the cryptocurrency sector has been the move towards Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus models.
Bitcoin relies on the Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm to validate transactions, involving ‘miners’ using high-end computing equipment to generate new bitcoins and secure the network. This has been termed by many in the community as an inefficient, resource-intensive method of running a blockchain network. Proof-of-Stake (Pos) does away with this approach and instead requires cryptocurrency holders to lock in their coins in the network to validate the transactions.
Most new cryptocurrencies being made are being offered as a token that is generated via the blockchain in this manner. Ethereum is by far the biggest brand on the PoS front. This makes Bitcoin particularly stand out when compared with tokens.
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