With hundreds of cryptocurrencies cropping up, it’s not surprising that cryptocurrency is becoming the talk of the Internet. Even as you read this, there are more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies out there. And while not even one of those cryptocurrencies has garnered the popularity of the leader of the pack—Bitcoin—there are a few that are vying for second place. One of them is Litecoin (LTC). Although it has been in the mix for quite some time now, the question “What is Litecoin?” keeps popping up often enough to warrant a Litecoin Wiki of its own.
What Is Litecoin?
Litecoin is a cryptocurrency—an Internet currency that enables a person to conduct an almost-instant and almost-free financial transaction with another person, anywhere in the world.
Litecoin is an open source, worldwide payment network that does not have any central authorities. It is released under the MIT/X11 license and the creation and transfer of coins are facilitated by an open source cryptographic protocol. Because this fully decentralized network is secured by mathematical algorithms, it allows individuals to be in complete control of their finances. In fact, if you look at the Litecoin history, you can see how decentralization was Litecoin’s raison d’être.
Litecoin History: Who Invented Litecoin and Why Was It Created?
When Charlie Lee, an ex-Google employee first heard about Bitcoin, he thought of it as digital gold. And he thought it would be cool to create “digital silver;” something that is cheaper, more available, and faster in terms of transaction speeds. Just as you would keep gold in a safety deposit box, but use silver daily, you could store Bitcoin for its value, and use “digital silver” for daily purchases.
On October 7, 2011, Charlie released a decentralized software development model on GitHub, a hosting service used for computer code. He named the software Litecoin. A week later, the network went live and the so-called “digital silver” came to life.
How Litecoin Is Different
Before Charlie launched Litecoin, there were quite a few alternate currencies created by people who wanted to get rich quick. These people would mine a lot of coins themselves before releasing the cryptocurrency. They would then try to promote it and create value so that the coins that they mined themselves would be worth something.
But Charlie launched Litecoin without pre-mining any blocks and made it open to everyone, to make it as fair as possible. His strategy paid off, and today, with a market cap of just over $4.0 billion, Litecoin is sixth on the cryptocurrency rankings chart. In fact, if you Google “What is LTC?” you’ll be surprised by how many people are interested in the fast-rising cryptocurrency.
The Litecoin chart below gives a good idea of Litecoin’s early heydays, its mid-life slump, and its current rise up the cryptocurrency charts.
In addition to not being pre-mined, there are other differences to Litecoin, as you’ll see when we stack it up against two of the largest cryptocurrency players, Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Litecoin vs. Bitcoin: How Is It Different from Bitcoin?
I suppose the cryptocurrency world is the only place that silver can be compared to gold and come out winning, as you can see in the Litecoin vs. BTC comparison below. We look at the most important cryptocurrency criteria:
Speed: In today’s business climate, time is money and every second counts. Litecoin’s verification period lasts for a fixed 2.5 minutes. Bitcoin, on the other hand, takes anywhere between 10 minutes and 2,548 minutes for confirmation. This means that even if Bitcoin is operating at its fastest, for every individual Bitcoin block that gets confirmed, four Litecoin blocks of equal size can get confirmed in the same amount of time.
Cost: This is no contest. The fee for sending any denomination of Litecoin is a paltry $0.09 whereas the fee for a similar service is around $5.00 with Bitcoin. As people start using cryptocurrencies for more and more daily transactions, this huge difference in transaction costs will stand Litecoin in good stead. Litecoin walks away with round two also.
Mining: There can only be 21 million bitcoins in the entire Bitcoin community. This is exactly one-quarter the size of the 84-million Litecoins in existence. This high number of Litecoins is a great advantage as it makes mining less competitive, which in turn keeps transaction fees low. Litecoin also uses the “Scrypt” hashing algorithm that utilizes much less processing power than the Bitcoin “SHA256” hashing algorithm.
While Bitcoin is having huge problems with scalability because of its high transaction fees, Litecoin is able to retain its lower transaction costs while churning out block after Litecoin block. Given all the above factors, Litecoin makes it much less possible for a single player (or a small collective group of big players) to dominate the mining world.
The other big advantage Litecoin has over Bitcoin is non-technical but relevant nonetheless. While Bitcoin’s founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, (pseudonym) is essentially relegated to legend and myth, Charlie Lee, the person who invented Litecoin, has been publicly available and active in the community. Personally, I much rather prefer Lee’s accessible and open nature to the mysterious secretive Satoshi. (Source: “What is Litecoin?,” Coin Central, November 1, 2017.)
Litecoin vs. Ethereum
The Litecoin vs. Ethereum comparison is not as cut and dry as the Litecoin vs. Bitcoin debate. That’s because, while Litecoin is an altcoin, Ethereum is a blockchain platform to run smart contracts as they are coded, and not a coin, per se. So comparing LTC vs. ETH is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Having said that, there is one thing Charlie Lee could learn from Ethereum’s inventor Vitalik Buterin—aggressive marketing. Vitalik is everywhere promoting Ethereum and getting third-party developers to make intelligent token apps for Ethereum (“golem,” “gnosis” etc.).
He even started the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which connects top corporates, startups, and technology vendors with Ethereum experts. Backed by this aggressive marketing strategy, Ethereum has climbed up the ranks to become the second-largest cryptocurrency. Litecoin currently is the sixth-largest cryptocurrency in market cap after Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, and Dash.
Litecoin Supply: Is There a Supply Limit to Litecoin?
While industry watchers know the advantage of having more coins in supply, they are not absolutely sure why Litecoin’s supply limit is set at exactly four times that of Bitcoin’s 21 million. Why 84 million? Why not 82 million or a more rounded 85 million? Whatever the reason, at present, there are 54 million Litecoins in circulation, so a little less than 70% of its supply limit is in circulation. And yes, just like with Bitcoin, once the 84-million Litecoin circulation limit is reached, no more Litecoins can be generated.
Litecoin Pros and Cons
As with any other cryptocurrency, Litecoin cannot please all the people all the time. Given that there are so many good cryptocurrencies out there vying to be the second-in-command in the cryptocurrency market, investors and early adopters are quite interested in understanding the Litecoin advantages and the Litecoin limitations before fully committing to it.
- Exchange times happen four times faster than Bitcoin.
- At around $75.83 per Litecoin, it is still very affordable for many individuals.
- Hypothetically, one Litecoin ought to be worth one-quarter of a single bitcoin since there will be four times the same number of coins. It could, therefore, be argued that Litecoin is hence underestimated.
- A bigger number of coins than Bitcoin implies that Litecoin may be more future-friendly than Bitcoin.
- Can’t be acquired specifically with USD or other fiat currency as effectively as Bitcoin.
- Is not aggressively marketed like Ethereum.
- Will always be viewed as the “silver to Bitcoin’s gold” thereby giving Bitcoin more status in the cryptocurrency world.
Litecoin Potential: What’s in Store for Litecoin in Future Value?
While the past few years have seen Litecoin being dethroned from its No. 2 position, the coming months will prove that Charlie Lee and co. are not taking the slide lying down. Litecoin developers are adding interesting tech features that are bound to make people sit up and take notice of Litecoin’s second coming. The first of these tech features is “MAST,” which is designed for more privacy. MAST will also free up a lot of space on the Litecoin blockchain by allowing for complicated smart contracts.
Another great tech upgrade for Litecoin will be the “Lightning Network” (LN), which allows instant transactions and reduced fees. But unlike MAST, which is just a few days away from being incorporated, LN is still a few months away. Maybe even a year or two.
However what I’m really looking forward to is “Atomic Swaps,” which will allow people to trade one coin for another without an exchange. But as this needs LN to function, it is still a long way away.
In addition to these three tech advancements, Litecoin’s potential is going to be further boosted by “Covenants” (lessens the significance of key loss and offers more security) and “Confidential Transactions” (self-explanatory).
As all these tech benefits come into play, they will make Litecoin more user-friendly, reliable, and desirable. And once that desire takes root, the LTC future value could grow exponentially. I say “could” and not “will” because there’s every chance that the other cryptocurrency players will also adopt these and other tech advances. Ladies and gentlemen, the fun is about to start. Buckle up for the crypto-wars!