Primecoin (XPM)

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Primecoin has much in common with the other leading digital currencies, such as being an independent and international currency that isn't affected by the governmental or banking regulations of any given country. What sets it apart—and what gives it its name—is the methodology used to mine the data blocks and the transaction information they contain. Instead of working out the “hash” (complex mathematical pattern) of a given block, Primecoin's mining is based on the generation of unique prime numbers (numbers that can only be divided evenly by themselves and 1). As a result, several world records for prime number generation have been set by miners of the currency. Additionally, Primecoin claims transaction verification speeds that are ten times as fast as those of its competitors.

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Software developer Sunny King introduced Primecoin publicly in July 2013, and to date it's the only cryptocurrency that uses scientific computation as its basis. Its prime-number based mining protocol was initially attractive to miners and investors because it tends to be quicker to process and can generate mining rewards faster than other those of other digital currencies. The chance of being named as a world record holder for prime number generation is another attractive feature, though it has little or nothing to do with the currency's usefulness or overall market value.