The world of cryptocurrencies has become a lot more complex than just being programmed mediums of exchange. From the days where one could only buy goods with these coins, now expensive digital artwork worth millions of dollars is being sold thanks to crypto.

Some projects are too sophisticated for the average person to understand, while others are simply electronic versions of the fiat money we know. 

The list below will provide brief descriptions of the 40 most traded cryptocurrencies (as of 16 April 2021), according to CoinMarketCap.

NameTickerYear releasedMarket cap (as of 16 April 2021)Description
BitcoinBTC2009$1.1 trillionP2P digital currency; the first official cryptocurrency.                                                      
EthereumETH2015$280 billionA ‘programmable money’ network for creating smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) using its native utility token, Ether, for payments.
Binance CoinBNB2019$84 billionThe utility token on the Binance exchange to pay for fees and partake in other services on the platform.
RippleXRP2012$77 billionThe real-time gross settlement, remittance, and currency exchange using its native cryptocurrency, XRP.
CardanoADA2017$46.6 billionBlockchain for smart contract creation that will also eventually be developed to include dApps like Ethereum.
TetherUST2014$46.5 billionThe first official stablecoin, a non-price-changing cryptocurrency free from volatility and pegged on a 1:1 ratio with the US dollar.
PolkadotDOT2020$38.8 billionSharding, multichain protocol allowing for the cross-chain movement of data to enable interoperability between cryptocurrencies.
UniswapUNI2018$19.5 billionUtility token for the Uniswap decentralized exchange, a marketplace for the trading of ERC-20 or Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies.
LitecoinLTC2012$18 billionA clone of Bitcoin that is faster, cheaper, and has a bigger supply than its predecessor.
ChainlinkLINK2017$17.1 billionOracle network connecting off-chain, real-life data to blockchains.
DogecoinDOGE2013$16.6 billionA funnier and friendlier version of the average cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin CashBCH2017$15.1 billionA spin-off from Bitcoin created to have a bigger block size, allowing for the confirmation of more transactions and scalability overall.
StellarXLM2014$14.1 billionProtocol for fiat-crypto currency exchanges and transfers, and also a platform for creating smart contracts and dApps.
THETATHETA2018$12 billionDistributed video streaming platform that incentivizes users to watch and create content and share bandwidth resources.
VeChainVET2017$11.7 billionA blockchain that optimizes business processes and supply chain management.
FilecoinFIL2020$11.3 billionDecentralized cloud storage service that’s cheaper than other mainstream providers and rewards FIL tokens to users providing unused disk space.
USD CoinUSDC2018$11.3 billionA stablecoin like Tether pegged with the US dollar.
TRONTRX2017$10.5 billionApplication promoting distributed and cost-effective sharing of digital or entertainment content without any middleman.
Wrapped BitcoinWBTC2019$9.2 billionA ‘wrapped’ or tokenized version Bitcoin compatible on any of Ethereum’s platforms with ERC-20 tokens.
SolanaSOL2020$7.1 billionAnother ambitious project with similar goals to that of Cardano, EOS, etc. of building applications using cryptocurrencies.
EOSEOS2018$7 billionAnother blockchain for creating dApps.
KlaytnKLAY2019$6.8 billionKakao’s (South Korean giant internet company) own blockchain with its native cryptocurrency, KLAY.
Bitcoin SVBSV2018$6.5 billionAnother Bitcoin spin-off with an even bigger block size than Bitcoin Cash.
IOTAMIOTA2016$6.4 billionDistributed ledger for executing transactions in the Internet of Things.
TerraLUNA2019$6.2 billionBlockchain platform hosting a suite of different stablecoins using its native crypto, LUNA, for stabilization
MoneroXMR2014$5.8 billionA privacy-enhanced version of Bitcoin.
Crypto.com CoinCRO2018$5.7 billionCrypto.com’s utility token affording users discounts on trading fees and other services, as well as rewards from staking.
NeoNEO2014$5.5 billionSimilar to other application-building cryptocurrencies, Neo facilitates the development of smart contracts and digital assets.
CosmosATOM2019$5.4 billion‘Universe of blockchains’
Binance USDBUSD2020$5.4 billionUSD-backed crypto stablecoin like Tether and USD Coin.
AaveAAVE2018$5.3 billionMarket liquidity protocol for lenders and borrowers
BitTorrentBTT2019$5 billion TRON-powered cryptocurrency on BitTorrent.
FTX TokenFTT2019$5.1 billionNative crypto of the FTX exchange with similar features to the Crypto.com Coin.
AvalancheAVAX2020$4.5 billionAn application project like Ethereum, Neo, etc., for developers to build dApps and smart contracts.
AlgorandALGO2019$4.1 billionTechnology bridging the gap between decentralized and traditional finance through the creation of different protocols and value exchanges.
KusamaKSM2019$3.8 billionKnown as the ‘cousin of Polkadot,’ Kusama allows for testing new blockchains before launching on Polkadot and other networks.
ElrondEGLD2019$3.7 billionOne of the unique blockchain networks using sharding technology to deliver different enterprise products in a ‘new internet economy.’
NEMXEM2015$3.7 billionA platform for moving blockchain-based assets seamlessly and building dApps.
Huobi TokenHT2018$3.6 billionUtility cryptocurrency on the Huobi, exchange offering clients discounts, receiving crypto, early access to special events, etc.
Ethereum ClassicETC2015$3.5 billionA forked, modified version of Ethereum specializing in smart contract functionality.

Final word

From the list above, we can see some interesting trends. Very few projects nowadays are simply standalone cryptocurrencies with one use case like Bitcoin or Dogecoin. There are a few entries of exchange-created utility tokens and stablecoins. 

The rest of the assets here incorporate some form of application-building to achieve a vision, which is the beauty of cryptocurrencies.