Darkcoin was introduced to the market roughly a year ago with the mission to create a digital currency focusing on privacy and anonymity. Although people often call Bitcoin anonymous, it is actually pseudonymous, with each Bitcoin transaction connected to the send and receive addresses on the public ledger called the block chain. That being said, there are tools available that enable users to use Bitcoin anonymously but they are centralized rather than being built directly into the protocol. Decentralized tools may become viable in the near future but they are still under development.
The key to DASH's built-in anonymity was the creation of a masternode system, where super nodes are incentivized to provide services to the network in as decentralized a way as possible. In the Bitcoin network there is only one type of node, and node operators aren't compensated for their contribution to the network, but with DASH there are two tiers of nodes. This second tier of nodes, known as masternodes, can be leveraged to handle all sorts of responsibilities going forward. For instance, in February an update was rolled out enabling high confidence instant transactions using the masternode system.
After entering a hype cycle last year that saw its price rise to over $10USD, Darkcoin entered a downward period that saw its price fall to nearly $1 in January. However, the developers kept innovating and when instant transactions were rolled out in February, the price rebounded to over $3. On March 9th, the main stakeholders announced a plan to rebrand Darkcoin as 'DASH', to try and navigate around the perceived negative connotation the currency had developed. The price has continuously climbed with that announcement, and is up over 50% in the last week.
It should be noted that the recent theft of 130k+ bitcoin from the illegal dark market 'Evolution' may be contributing to the recent fall in price of bitcoin and rise in price of DASH as the culprits sell their BTC for DASH in order to cover their trail before cashing out.