What is Litecoin?
Nov 1, 2020 - 4 min read
Litecoin is one of the first cryptocurrencies derived from Bitcoin which tried to address some of the original cryptocurrency’s adoption issues. Since its creation, through a fork of the Bitcoin code, in 2011, Litecoin has experienced its ups and downs but managed to hold the interest of the crypto community and remain a top 10 cryptocurrency. Even so, it faces stiff competition from other protocols such as Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV in its positioning as a viable protocol for mass on-chain transactions.
Litecoin (LTC) is a peer-to-peer digital currency based on a decentralized, open source blockchain network. It was created in 2011 by the MIT graduate and former Google employee Charlie Lee.
Lee designed Litecoin based on the Bitcoin code and protocol, with some modifications that he believed addressed certain barriers to its wider adoption. Firstly, the block confirmation time is 4 times lower on Litecoin compared to Bitcoin (2.5 min vs. 10 min) which allows Litecoin to confirm transactions much faster. Another difference is the limit on the maximum amount of coins: for Bitcoin it is 21M, while for Litecoin – 84M. Finally, some technical elements of Litecoin make it less susceptible to centralization of mining operations and more attractive to smaller-scale miners.
Litecoin was one of the first altcoins to spring from the Bitcoin protocol. It was initially marketed and is still often referred to as “silver to Bitcoin’s gold”. Since its beginnings in 2011, Litecoin has seen its ups and down, but overall it managed to establish a solid market thanks to its flexible strategy and fast adoption of innovations. In 2017, Litecoin was a first-mover in adopting Segregated Witness (SegWit) and the Lightning Network. Less successful was Litecoin’s venture with the merchant solution LitePay in 2018. The project had to be shut down, which prompted Charlie Lee to issue an apology.
The development of the Litecoin project is overseen by a non-profit Singapore-based Litecoin Foundation, with Charlie Lee as a managing director. Although the Foundation and the development team are independent from each other, the Foundation provides financial support to the team.
Litecoin functionality is overall quite similar to Bitcoin, i.e. it is meant to be a digital currency which is free from any centralized influence. The LTC philosophy is formulated by the Litecoin Foundation on their website, “We Believe That When It Comes To Your Money, You Deserve 100%”. The statement generally refers to the promises common to most cryptocurrencies: constant availability and absolute control of the funds by the owners, and the accessibility to everyone.
LTC can be purchased on any major crypto exchange, and stored in digital wallets, specialized hardware, or crypto custody providers. Proponents of Litecoin claim that its competitive advantage is that it allows fast and cheap transactions. Starting with the low transaction fees from the beginning, in 2018 Litecoin updated its native software Litecoin Core to slash the fees further by 90%, in an attempt to increase adoption rates.
Speed and low fees should make it attractive for individuals to use Litecoin for peer-to-peer transfers and digital purchases, and for businesses – as a payment system. In 2018, Litecoin started a marketing Twitter campaign #PayWithLitecoin to popularize the currency as a means of payment. However, the list of businesses accepting it remains limited.
As most crypto assets, LTC experienced some serious price volatility since it started trading. The price has reached its peak above $300 in the end of 2017. During 2020, LTC was mostly trailing just below the $50 mark. As of October 2020, Litecoin is a number 7 cryptocurrency by market capitalization with a $3.6B market cap (for comparison, Bitcoin’s market cap is $256B).
In 2020, one of the most interesting trends in Litecoin development is the work on MimbleWimble.. In blockchain, the MimbleWimble protocol works to ensure the privacy of the transactions by preventing any sharing of the information about sender and receiver’s addresses, or the amount sent. Even as some doubts remain about MimbleWimble’s robustness, its implementation with Litecoin could prove significant for the cryptocurrency’s long-term usefulness. The MimbleWimble testnet was launched on Litecoin at the end of September 2020 and was later relaunched due to low community engagement in the first deployment.
Another interesting development that could influence the future of Litecoin is its venture into the gaming industry. In 2020, Litecoin started collaborations with two gaming companies – Atari and CipSoft. Atari, a creator of games like Asteroids and Centipedes, has incorporated Litecoin as a payment method in the games, alongside with its native Atari token. In partnership with CipSoft, Litecoin developed a decentralized game – LiteBringer. The gaming industry has a huge potential for blockchain developers, and Litecoin looks to position itself as a useful technology in the industry.
On the whole, Litecoin’s development and usage trails that of other top ten cryptocurrencies as the industry grows beyond a simple focus on payments and looks towards the wider horizons of Web 3.0.