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They can be useful experimental platforms... also, the fundamental rules of Bitcoin are fixed— changing how Bitcoin works could be rightfully argued as theft from all the people who hold Bitcoin at the current moment.

If you wanted something like Bitcoin but with different properties, different security, different inflation— an altcoin is the only way to get it.

Unfortunately, practically all altcoins have been almost identical to Bitcoin.

What would be interesting deviations from the bitcoin model if breaking compatibility wasn't an issue?

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