Bitcoin and Ether remain the top two cryptocurrencies by market cap — but there have been some surprising entries... and a fair few notable departures.
We've spent a lot of time reflecting on the highs and lows of 2021 — a year punctuated by all-time highs, adoption milestones and audacious hacks.
Over the past 12 months, the top cryptocurrencies by market cap have changed immeasurably. Established digital assets that have been a mainstay of the markets slid down the rankings, with surprising alternatives taking their place.
In this article, we're going to shine a spotlight on the 10 cryptocurrencies at the start of 2022, reveal their percentage gains over the past year, and find out whether their rankings have improved or worsened.
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1. BITCOIN (RANKING UNCHANGED)
January 1, 2021 price: $29,374.15
January 1, 2022 price: $47,686.81 (+62.3%)
2. ETHEREUM (RANKING UNCHANGED)
January 1, 2021 price: $730.37
January 1, 2022 price: $3,769.70 (+416.1%)
There's still a lot of work to be done. The full transition to a Proof-of-Stake blockchain is yet to be completed, and this is seen as crucial for alleviating pressure on the network and bringing transaction fees down to affordable levels.
3. BINANCE COIN (UP SIX PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $37.91
January 1, 2022 price: $527.35 (+1,291%)
4. TETHER (DOWN ONE PLACE)
Some avid watchers of the crypto markets find all of this extremely concerning, and argue that the stablecoin issuer has failed to prove that USDT is fully backed by cash that's held in reserve. There are fears that, if Tether was to collapse, it would drag down the rest of the cryptocurrency sector with it.
5. SOLANA (UP 115 PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $1.84
January 1, 2022 price: $178.52 (+9,602%)
6. CARDANO (UP 2 PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $0.17
January 1, 2022 price: $1.38 (+711%)
7. USD COIN (UP 4 PLACES)
All of this comes despite the prospect of stablecoins being subject to tighter regulation in the U.S. Six prominent crypto executives appeared in front of the House Financial Services Committee as 2021 drew to a close. During one especially enlightening exchange, they argued that stablecoins aren't attempting to undermine the U.S. dollar, but reinforce its dominance — making it easier for consumers in emerging economies around the world to access it.
8. XRP (DOWN 4 PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $0.23
January 1, 2022 price: $0.85 (+269%)
All of this links back to a lawsuit that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Ripple, the company that founded it. The regulator alleges that the sale of XRP amounts to an unregistered securities offering.
These legal proceedings began back in December 2020, prompting the value of XRP to plunge precipitously. As we saw, XRP mounted an impressive recovery in 2021 as Ripple entered into partnerships with a number of high-profile businesses and central banks — especially in emerging economies.
Crypto watchers will be keeping a close eye on whether a settlement is reached in this long-running, bitter legal dispute as 2022 gets underway.
9. TERRA (UP 50 PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $0.69
January 1, 2022 price: $91.36 (+13,140%)
What's all the more remarkable about LUNA's ascendancy is how the token managed to shrug off the woes that seemed to grip the rest of the crypto markets — especially in November and December.
Terra is becoming an increasingly major player in the world of decentralized finance, especially in algorithmic stablecoins. It also operates on a Proof-of-Stake blockchain — the exact same consensus mechanism that Ethereum is currently transitioning to.
Algorithmic stablecoins have raised eyebrows because of how they aren't backed by any collateral sitting in a bank — such as a precious metal or a fiat currency. Instead, complex codes are used to ensure that prices remain at a steady level. There can be disastrous consequences if things go wrong.
10. POLKADOT (DOWN 4 PLACES)
January 1, 2021 price: $8.31
January 1, 2022 price: $28.58 (+243%)
The latter part of 2021 has been dominated by parachain auctions. Parachains are layer-one blockchains that boast their own tokens and governance mechanisms, but they can connect to Polkadot's central chain. Dubbed as a "protocol for protocols," Polkadot was launched by Ethereum's co-founder Gavin Wood.