hubble caterpillar
Stellar will be initially offered freely to both individuals and charities. NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Jed McCaleb, the founder of MtGox and Ripple, has launched a new project designed to encourage the wider adoption of digital currencies through the free distribution of a new altcoin.

Stellar, which had previously been referred to as the 'secret bitcoin project', offers a decentralised gateway for digital currency-to-fiat currency transfers, as well as also featuring its own internal digital currency called stellar.

stellar digital currency

According to the Wall Street Journal, Stellar will operate with an open-source protocol much like Ripple, meaning the software can be accessed and improved upon by anybody.

McCaleb formerly co-founded the cryptocurrency payment network Ripple Labs, but left the company last year after disagreements with the company's management.

A significant difference to Ripple is that 95% of Stellar's 100 billion pre-mined coins will be given away for free at the outset. This overcomes previous criticisms from some cryptocurrency enthusiasts that Ripple was a pre-mined scam.

Half of the 95 billion coins initially released will be freely available to any applicant to place an order through Facebook.

Non-profit organisations and charities involved in cryptocurrency and economic development will be the recipient of the other half of the first batch of stellar.

Joyce Kim, executive director of the Stellar Development Foundation, said in a statement that other digital currencies "eliminate most of the world" by requiring those who want to get hold of them to either put money in or mine for it.

By offering a cost-free alternative, Kim hopes that many more people will be introduced to the world of cryptocurrencies.