The first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin. Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous developer named Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin uses SHA-256, which is a set of cryptographic hash functions designed by the U.S National Security Agency. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that is based on the proof-of-work system.
In April 2011, Namecoin, the first altcoin, was created to form a decentralized DNS to make internet censorship more difficult. In October 2011, Litecoin was released and became the first successful cryptocurrency to use scrypt as its hash function rather than SHA-256. This gave the general public the ability to mine for litecoins without the purchase of specific hardware such as the ASIC machines used to mine Bitcoin.
Litecoin began receiving media attention in late 2013 – reaching a market cap of $1 billion. Ripplecoin, created in 2011, was built on the same protocol as Bitcoin but services as a payment system – think of it like a Paypal for cryptocurrencies that supports any fiat currency, cryptocurrency, commodity or even frequent flier miles.