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Sick of Mt. Gox and Bitcoin? Here are four alternative cryptocurrencies

With Bitcoin's recent woes, topped off by a potential Mt. Gox shut down, some are looking at the growing list of alternative digital currencies.

By Staff Writer / February 26, 2014

Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest Bitcoin exchange, went dark Feb. 25, 2014, with its website down, its Tokyo office empty, and a cryptic comment from its chief executive that the business is at 'a turning point.' Some Bitcoin enthusiasts have recommended coins and paper vouchers, often called 'paper wallets' (shown here), as a way to store bitcoins offline.

Jim Urquhart/Reuters/File

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If you look at its recent track record, Bitcoin is far from a safe investment.

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First it was the Silk Road bust, money-laundering arrests, peak-to-valley value fluctuations, and temporary exchange shut downs. Then on Tuesday, Mt. Gox, one of the biggest bitcoin exchanges available, went offline amid reports the exchange lost 740,000 bitcoins, the equivalent of 6 percent of all the currency in circulation.

If you’re going to invest in a cryptocurrency, unfortunately, investment insecurity is part of the deal. However, with Bitcoin’s status as a major digital currency crumbling with every misstep, some have pointed to a growing list of “altcurrencies” as better investment options. Since Bitcoin is open source, many have used the available blueprints to correct what they see as Bitcoin’s flaws. Here’s a look at a few of the prominent currencies and how they make up for Bitcoin’s pitfalls.

 Note: all currency values as of Thursday 2/26/2014 at 2:00 p.m. EST. For current values, check here.

Namecoin

Namecoin isn’t just a currency; it’s a domain name. Users who purchase namecoin can purchase a “.bit” URL that operates outside of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN—the nonprofit in charge of top-level domain names). Operating outside ICANN creates a decentralized domain name space, which acts as a block against Internet censorship. CoinMarketCap.com has Namecoin’s market cap valued at $7,892,190, with each namecoin valued at $3.43. Not a bad deal for a domain name and an investment in what could be the next big cryptocurrency.

Litecoin

Litecoin is essentially Bitcoin without the wait. Though it is also a peer-to-peer open source digital currency based on the bitcoin protocol, its algorithm can be used by standard computers, which cuts down on processing time. Litecoin has been called the “silver” to Bitcoin’s “gold” by many cryptocurrency experts, and has dramatically increased in value in recent months. Currently, CoinMarketCap has Litecoin’s market cap value at $373,768,722, and each litecoin priced at $14.34.

Peercoin

Peercoin, like Litecoin, is very similar to Bitcoin, although it includes a few key securities and processing upgrades that make many believe it has the staying power that Bitcoin doesn’t. Peercoin uses a proof-of-stake/proof-of-work scheme hybrid, which minimizes the possibility for a mining monopoly because it drives down the reward for people who mine peercoins. Currently, CoinMarketCap has Peercoin’s market cap valued at $74,826,574, with each peercoin valued at $3.53.

Quark

Quark is one of the youngest altcurrencies available, only launched in late 2013. However, it has already been making waves due to its intense security measures. Transactions go through nine separate rounds of encryption with six different encryption algorithms. It also claims to be 10 times faster than other mainstream currencies. Currently, CointMarketCap has Quark’s market cap valued at $13,353,900, and individual quarks at five cents.

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