If you think the historic bounce from a bear market bottom for the stock market is impressive, you haven't been paying attention to the cryptocurrency space. Whereas the benchmark S&P 500 has gained a little over 100% since hitting its trough in March 2020, the aggregate value of all cryptocurrencies has exploded from $141 billion to more than $2.5 trillion over the same time frame.
As you can imagine, these gains have been led by the Big Two, Bitcoin (BTC -3.19%) and Ethereum (ETH -4.11%). Aside from these two comprising almost 63% of the market value of all digital currencies, they're perfect examples of what's possible with cryptocurrencies.
Crypto's Big Two are popular for a reason
For instance, Bitcoin offers the perception of scarcity, with its 21 million token cap, and has delivered gains over the past 11 years that topped 8,000,000,000%, as of early last week. It's also gaining some level of legitimacy, with El Salvador becoming the first country to accept it as legal tender. Following the Taproot upgrade executed last weekend, Bitcoin is primed to handle more complex transactions on its blockchain.
Meanwhile, Ethereum is creating plenty of buzz for its role in decentralized finance (DeFi). With DeFi, smart contracts are used on financially focused blockchain to complete payments. The key here is that these payments aren't routed through financial institutions, which might otherwise halt or delay them. The sky's the limit for Ethereum financial and nonfinancial applications (e.g., supply-chain logistics).
It's probably no surprise that these "blue chip" cryptocurrencies are among the most searched in the U.S. in 2021. According to a press release from Bacancy Technology, Bitcoin and Ethereum have averaged a respective 4.7 million and 1.8 million monthly searches on Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, in 2021.
These lesser-owned cryptocurrencies are creating a lot of buzz
There's a world of interest that extends well beyond these widely followed tokens. Below are the three most searched cryptocurrencies in the U.S. this year not named Bitcoin or Ethereum, according to data from Bacancy.
Dogecoin: 7,000,000 average monthly searches
Believe it or not, Bitcoin and Ethereum aren't the most searched digital currency in 2021. In the U.S., the 7 million average monthly Google searches for Dogecoin (DOGE -5.31%) outpace Bitcoin and Ethereum combined!
Investors have primarily latched onto Dogecoin as a result of Tesla Motors' CEO Elon Musk touting the coin and purchasing some for his own crypto portfolio. The self-proclaimed "Dogefather" also previously tweeted that he was working with Dogecoin's developers to make the network better, which could include lower transaction fees and/or expediting processing times. Pretty much anytime Musk tweets about Shiba Inu-breed dogs -- Dogecoin's creation was inspired by a Shiba Inu dog meme -- investors pile in.
Unfortunately, the interest in Dogecoin looks misplaced. That's because it lacks anything resembling a competitive advantage. Putting aside that it's the most searched coin in the U.S., Dogecoin:
- Has markedly higher transaction fees than other popular cryptocurrencies
- Is accepted by fewer than 2,000 merchants worldwide, according to Cryptwerk
- Has seen its daily blockchain transactions decline to a three-year low in September
In short, it's a hyped token with virtually no real-world utility.
Shiba Inu: 870,000 average monthly searches
In a world that's going to the dogs, the next most-searched cryptocurrency is Shiba Inu (SHIB -4.27%). With gains of close to 10,000,000% since its debut less than 16 months ago, it's not hard to understand why there's a lot of interest. On average, 870,000 searches a month in the U.S. are for Shiba Inu.
Recently, I highlighted a laundry list of reasons Shiba Inu has soared, including the fear of missing out (FOMO), a growing number of listings on crypto exchanges, and the launch of decentralized exchange ShibaSwap in July 2021. The latter is helping to boost liquidity and allows for staking, which could encourage investors to hang onto their SHIB tokens for a longer period of time.
Shiba Inu is also on track to land its first major merchant, AMC Entertainment. AMC expects to incorporate SHIB for online payment in the coming months.
But it suffers the same critical flaw as Dogecoin: It has no competitive edge. As an ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain, Shiba Inu's transaction fees are higher and processing times slower than many other popular payment coins. It also sports laughably low real-world utility, with a little over 100 merchants accepting it for payment.
Were this not enough, SHIB has one of the lowest median hold periods among the world's largest digital currencies, according to leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. In other words, Shiba Inu coin is a momentum play with little long-term or real-world appeal.
Cardano: 704,000 average monthly searches
The third cryptocurrency generating a boatload of buzz is Cardano (ADA -5.04%). You'll note that the 704,000 average-monthly searches Cardano generates in the U.S. are only about a tenth of the interest shown toward Dogecoin. But unlike Dogecoin and Shiba Inu, Cardano offers real-world potential.
Arguably the best aspect of Cardano has been the transparency of its development team and the clearly defined steps being taken to improve speed, function, security, governance, and scalability. For instance, the Shelley upgrade that took place in late July 2020 increased the number of nodes network participants could run, which led to rapid scaling. In less than a year, Cardano went from handling 2,000 transactions daily on its blockchain to more than 100,000.
Two months ago, the much-anticipated Goguen update took place. Goguen is key because it introduces smart contracts to the network. Similar to Ethereum, these smart contracts will allow developers to create financially focused and nonfinancial decentralized applications.
Up next will be the Hydra upgrade, which is focused on boosting scalability. For some context, Ethereum is currently processing around 13 transactions per second (TPS). Cardano hit approximately 250 TPS four years ago and could theoretically make a run at 1,000,000 TPS following the launch, testing, and scaling of Hydra.
There's real long-term potential here, and crypto investors have a reason to be excited.