Are Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin the Same Thing?

Are Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin the Same Thing?

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. While Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, cryptocurrency encompasses a wider world of digital assets built on blockchain technology. Lets dive deeper whether Are Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin the Same Thing?

What is Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is secured by cryptography, making it difficult to counterfeit or double-spend. Cryptocurrencies leverage blockchain technology to gain decentralization, transparency, and immutability. [1]

Some key attributes of cryptocurrency include:

  • Encrypted using cryptography to secure transactions and control the creation of additional units
  • Decentralized – no central bank or government controls it
  • Peer-to-peer transactions without intermediaries
  • Transactions are anonymous (to varying degrees depending on the cryptocurrency)
  • Transactions are fast, global, and inexpensive

Hundreds of cryptocurrencies exist, including popular ones like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple. While they share the attributes above, they have unique technical differences in their blockchains and monetary policies.

So in summary, a cryptocurrency is a digital payment system that does not rely on banks to verify transactions and uses encryption techniques to regulate and generate currency units.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin (BTC) launched in 2009 was the first ever cryptocurrency and is still the most widely adopted. [2]

Bitcoin was created by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto to be a peer-to-peer electronic cash system that gives users complete control over their money without relying on banks. It runs on a blockchain ledger that provides unprecedented transparency where coins are passed person-to-person with no middleman.

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Some defining characteristics of Bitcoin include:

  • Fixed supply of 21 million bitcoins
  • Decentralized open-source blockchain network
  • Transactions are pseudonymous
  • Bitcoin can be divided into smaller units (1 bitcoin = 100 million satoshis)
  • No governing body controls it

So in summary, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency and is a specific digital coin secured and powered by blockchain technology. Bitcoin paved the way for hundreds of other cryptocurrency projects built using similar technology.

The Relationship Between Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin

Bitcoin falls under the umbrella of cryptocurrency. While all bitcoins are cryptocurrency, not all cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin.

Think of it like squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Similarly, Bitcoin is a type of digital currency known as cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrencies include others beyond just Bitcoin.

Cryptocurrency is the category of digital, encrypted, decentralized currencies, of which Bitcoin was the first use case. However, many other cryptocurrencies have since come to market such as Ethereum, Cardano, Polkadot, Dogecoin, and more.

These other cryptocurrency projects can operate independently from the Bitcoin network and have unique mechanisms, specifications, use cases, communities and more. So Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, but so are hundreds of other coins.

So in essence, Bitcoin is interchangeable with cryptocurrency only in the sense that it meets the fundamental definition of a cryptocurrency. But cryptocurrency as a concept is much broader than just Bitcoin, encompassing many cryptocurrency tokens with distinct purposes.

Why Do People Think Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Are the Same?

Given that Bitcoin was the pioneering first ever cryptocurrency, some confusion still exists among the mainstream public around terminology.

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Here are some reasons why people incorrectly use “Bitcoin” and “cryptocurrency” interchangeably:

  • Bitcoin was first to market – Being around for over a decade, Bitcoin has become almost synonymous with the emergence of this new crypto asset class.
  • Market dominance – For a long time Bitcoin comprised the vast majority of total crypto market capitalization at over 80%, leading to an association between Bitcoin superiority and general cryptocurrency relevancy. [3]
  • Limited understanding – To everyday investors new to the space, the differences between coins may not be fully grasped initially.
  • Simpler communication – Referring broadly to investments as related to “Bitcoin” or “crypto” is easier than detailing specifics.

However, as the crypto ecosystem matures and expands, it is important for people to understand the differences between Bitcoin and broader crypto coin categories.

Cryptocurrency vs Bitcoin – The Key Differences

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin share similarities, yet have distinct attributes:

Purpose and Function

Cryptocurrencies have a broader range of functions – like powering decentralized apps or governance protocols. Bitcoin specifically aims to replace paper cash transactions with peer-to-peer digital money.

Supply Availability

The supply of many alternative cryptos is flexible, while Bitcoin has a fixed cap of 21 million tokens. This gives Bitcoin theoretical advantages in scarcity and store of value properties.


Some cryptocurrencies can facilitate fully private transactions, unlike Bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymous blockchain where coins can be traced to an extent. Privacy coins have gained traction for those valuing anonymity.

Development Governance

Decentralized cryptocurrency networks like Ethereum have coordinated, multi-party governance of upgrades and proposals. Bitcoin development, despite open-source permissions, is more concentrated around core developer groups.


Features like proof-of-work mining create barriers to Bitcoin verification and network participation. Other cryptos attempt innovations like proof-of-stake to open access and decentralize power dynamics within the ecosystem.

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Environmental Impact

As pioneers in the novel realm of crypto, Bitcoin’s energy intensive proof-of-work consensus has been scrutinized for inefficiency wasting resources. Emerging cryptocurrencies try proof-of-stake and other methods aiming to align sustainability with growth.

So in essence, while Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies overlap conceptually, understanding their comparative pros, cons and differentiating factors remains important as the space evolves.

So while Bitcoin is highly important as both the first cryptocurrency and current market leader – it is still just one part of the expanding world of blockchain-based digital assets.

Cryptocurrency encompasses Bitcoin along with alternative crypto coins using decentralized ledger technology to enable use cases across finance, technology, governance, and beyond.

Conclusion – Bitcoin is a Component of Cryptocurrency

In conclusion, while the terms Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are often used interchangeably, they are not equals. Bitcoin is a specific coin and network – the pioneering cryptocurrency launched in 2009. Cryptocurrency is the broader landscape of digital currencies that leverage encryption and blockchain technology for various functions.

Think of cryptocurrency like an umbrella term or asset class that houses Bitcoin as the predominant player. This class includes other independent altcoins using groundbreaking technology to transform how people transmit value, govern communities, build applications and conduct business on the internet.

So always remember that all Bitcoin is cryptocurrency, but not all cryptocurrency is Bitcoin! As additional innovation happens in the sector outside of just Bitcoin, it’s important to understand their connections along with intricacies that distinguish them. With more maturity of the market, expect less confusion between these two related but definitively different crypto concepts!


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