Download vector logo of Monero
Monero was launched in April 2014. It was a fair, pre-announced launch of the CryptoNote reference code. There was no premine or instantmine, and no portion of the block reward goes to development. See the original Bitcointalk thread here. The founder, thankful_for_today, proposed some controversial changes that the community disagreed with. A fallout ensued, and the Monero Core Team forked the project with the community following this new Core Team. This Core Team has provided oversight since.
Monero has made several large improvements since launch. The blockchain was migrated to a different database structure to provide greater efficiency and flexibility, minimum ring signature sizes were set so that all transactions were private by mandate, and RingCT was implemented to hide the transaction amounts. Nearly all improvements have provided improvements to security or privacy, or they have facilitated use. Monero continues to develop with goals of privacy and security first, ease of use and efficiency second.
Monero is one of many cryptocurrencies currently available. Other examples are Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Dash, Zcash, etc, but nearly all other cryptocurrencies lack features that make them a true money (most importantly @fungability which is a requirement for it to be a @store-of-value).
Not all cryptocurrencies operate the same, but they usually share the properties of @decentralization, encryption, and the ability to send and receive transactions. Most are irreversible, pseudonymous, global, and permissionless. Most aim to be a @store-of-value or be digital cash that allows you to transact.
Most cryptocurrencies (including Monero) use a distributed ledger (called a blockchain) to keep track of previous transactions . The blockchain serves to tell other users on the network that transactions have happened. There are many different ways for cryptocurrencies to create their blockchain, and not all are the same. Monero uses @proof-of-work to craft blocks, where other cryptocurrencies may use proof-of-stake or other consolidated methods.
Ultimately, cryptocurrency is an attempt to create @trustless value; that is free from borders, governments, and banks. Whether that be to transact or to be digital gold is up to the users of each.