Cryptocurrencies

What is Litecoin? The Beginner’s guide

What is Litecoin? It is one of the oldest and most popular cryptocurrencies. Litecoin has its origins in Bitcoin. The currency dates back all the way to 2011. This article is the beginner’s guide to Litecoin. We’ll guide you through Litecoin’s history, technology, and future potential as an investment.

Litecoin is one of the oldest cryptocurrencies

Let’s put Litecoin in the right place among thousands of other cryptocurrencies. We like to divide cryptos into three different categories: currencies, platforms, and tokens.

It’s easy to place Litecoin into the currency category. Litecoin is one of the oldest and most popular cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin. Other coins in this category include Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and Monero. They all have a purpose to function as P2P digital money.

Ethereum is the best example of platforms. They are operating systems for distributed apps (Dapp) and smart contracts. You might have also heard of platforms such as Cardano, NEO, and Zilliqa.

Tokens are always issued on these platforms. They function as utility or governance tokens inside specific programs (Dapps). It means tokens don’t have a blockchain of their own. This separates them from currencies like Litecoin. Aave and Uniswap are popular DeFi tokens.

If Bitcoin is digital gold, Litecoin is digital silver. This is the narrative many old-school investors share with the founder Charlie Lee. Below is a video where Lee is interviewed by CNBC in April 2021.

Litecoin is also titled Bitcoin’s little brother. Some see it as a testing environment for future Bitcoin upgrades. These are the narratives often given to Litecoin (with digital silver).

The ticker of Litecoin is LTC.

Next, you’ll find out how Litecoin was created. We’ll also compare Litecoin to Bitcoin. What are the differences between the two?

Litecoin founded by Charlie Lee

Charlie Lee gives a face to this project. Lee is a computer scientist born in Ivory Coast, who moved to the United States at the age of 13. He graduated from MIT with a master’s degree in computer science in 2000.

After his graduation, Lee worked at Google for about ten years. He found Bitcoin in 2011 and understood quickly the importance of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention.

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Charlie Lee – the founder of Litecoin

Litecoin wasn’t the first project Charlie Lee started. He was developing a coin called Fairbrix, which was a clone of another cryptocurrency, called Tenebrix. Fairbrix was launched in 2011 and failed badly.

The founder of Fairbrix pre-mined millions of coins for himself before the launch, which didn’t go too well with the community. There were also serious bugs in the software.

Lee found out that there was a demand for a new cryptocurrency anyway – if only the distribution and mining were done fairly. His second attempt was Litecoin, which was launched in October 2011.

Charlie Lee announced Litecoin at Bitcointalk forum with a topic titled [ANN] Litecoin – a lite version of Bitcoin. Launched! His creation is the oldest cryptocurrency still used right after Bitcoin.

Many newbies don’t know that Litecoin is based almost entirely on Bitcoin. Some people say Lee just copy-pasted the Bitcoin code and changed few parameters. Even if this was the case, it can be done by anyone with Litecoin as well. Both Bitcoin and Litecoin are open-source programs.

The important thing is to understand that Litecoin is not a Bitcoin fork like Bitcoin Cash. Litecoin has its own blockchain and runs its own miners like any other independent cryptocurrency.

Lee still worked for Google when Litecoin was founded. He left Google for Coinbase in 2013. This helped Litecoin to be listed on Coinbase in 2017 right after Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Lee is now working full-time for the Litecoin foundation. This non-profit organization is guiding the development work of Litecoin. He has also sold all his Litecoins, which created a lot of drama in December 2017. The price tanked right after Lee had sold his coins.

Litecoin has barely made any headlines since 2017. The development team has kept working with the project in peace. Despite all this, Litecoin has kept its position in the top 10 of cryptocurrency ranking.

Litecoin vs Bitcoin

As mentioned above, Litecoin and Bitcoin have a lot of common in the program code. This is also one of the strengths of Litecoin.

The founder Charlie Lee has mentioned few times, that Litecoin benefits from all the features developed on Bitcoin. It can use these components due to the high comparability between the currencies.

As the name suggests, Lee launched Litecoin (light coin) to be the light version of Bitcoin. In this context, light means fast transactions. Another major difference comes from mining.

ASIC miners started to take over Bitcoin quite early, which drove “Average Joes” out of the mining business. Bitcoin mining has been only profitable with ASIC miners for a long time.

Litecoin and Bitcoin both use the Proof of Work consensus method. This means that the blockchain maintenance work is done with physical mining machines, which consume a lot of energy. Nowadays PoW systems have been replaced with Proof of Stake, where the cryptocurrency is pre-mined and blockchain maintenance is done through software.

The difference between Bitcoin and Litecoin comes from the hashing algorithm, which is also called the mining algorithm. Litecoin is using an algorithm called Scrypt, while Bitcoin is using the famous SHA-256.

The idea behind Scrypt is that it’s more memory intensive, while SHA-256 is only about CPU processing power. This makes it impractical to run the algorithm on ASIC.

The situation is different now, though. Chinese mining manufacturer Bitmain presented its Antminer L3 in 2017, which became instantly a huge hit. This is an ASIC miner designed to work with the Scrypt algorithm.

bitmain antminer l3

Bitmain’s Antminer L3 for Litecoin mining.

Litecoin has also a strong connection to Dogecoin through its mining. You can read more from our Dogecoin guide.

There are also other differences between Litecoin and Bitcoin, such as the maximum supply. As many readers might know already, Bitcoin’s max supply is 21 million coins. Litecoin’s supply is exactly four times that, 84 million.

New Litecoins come into existence through mining due to the Proof of Work algorithm used until the max supply is reached. Currently, 25 new Litecoins are “born” with each block. These are handed out to miners as rewards.

The inflation rate slows down over time. Every 840.000 blocks there is an event called halving when the amount of new Litecoins is reduced by 50%. The next halving occurs in August 2019.

A new Litecoin block is created on average every 2.5 minutes. Bitcoin blocks are created every 10 minutes, which makes Litecoin about four times faster. The downside is reduced safety because it’d be faster for an attacker to re-organize the blocks in the blockchain. identtisesti Bitcoinin kanssa.

Litecoin and Bitcoin are technically very similar. If you are not entirely familiar with Bitcoin, Proof of Work mining, and blockchain yet, check our Bitcoin guide. The principles mentioned in this article can be applied to Litecoin as well.

Litecoin development

Litecoin has kept developing slowly but steadily. It has taken many steps parallel with Bitcoin as well. SegWit and Lightning Network are good examples of big upgrades both currencies have had.

The Litecoin project has also raised its brand awareness. They sponsored the UFC 232 event in December 2018 and had the Litecoin logo in the middle of the ring.

One of the most important steps is the Lightning Network. Many newcomers might think, that LN is Bitcoin’s scaling solution. It is only partially true because this technology can be also applied to other cryptocurrencies.

Litecoin’s own Lightning Network is up and running. You can check the statistics from  1ml.com/litecoin/.

Lightning Network is an interesting solution because it gives Bitcoin lightning-fast and cheap transactions. This has been the main reason why cryptocurrencies like Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash were created in the first place. Bitcoin’s 10-minute blocks and relatively high transaction costs haven’t been suitable for quick & fast transactions.

Now, anyone can make a microtransaction in the Lightning Network with close to zero fees in almost real-time. No wonder, Litecoin has also built its own LN. Though, it must be said, LN hasn’t been a successful implementation so far.

Charlie Lee has also demonstrated atomic swaps between Litecoin and Bitcoin already in 2017. An Atomic Swap means a cryptocurrency can be swapped on-chain to another cryptocurrency without the need of a third party (cryptocurrency exchange). When atomic swaps and Lightning Network are combined, interesting possibilities will arise.

The development work is guided by the Litecoin Foundation. One of its board members is Charlie Lee. In recent years, Litecoin has been working with MWEB. This is described in detail in the following chapter.

Litcoin’s privacy features (MWEB)

Features like MAST and CT (Confidential Transactions) are mentioned in the Litecoin roadmap. Many expect such features to be implemented eventually to Bitcoin as well. This means Bitcoin and Litecoin could eat the market share from “traditional” privacy coins, such as Monero.

But, how is this development going? See the video below from November 2019 where Charlie Lee was interviewed by DataDash. If you have an extra 30 mins to spend you should watch it.

Lee tells in the interview how the Litecoin team has studied CT (Confidential Transactions) technology. CT makes it possible to hide the number of coins sent in a transaction.

The problem is, this process is heavy and not very scalable. When using CT, the size of Litecoin’s blockchain could increase 3x to 20x. This is where a technology called MimbleWimble comes to the rescue.

The funny name really comes from the Harry Potter books. The best-known MimbleWimble implementation is Grin Coin, which reached brief popularity in early 2019.

MimbleWimble is essentially solving the data usage issue of CT. MimbleWimble can shrink the blockchain so small, that privacy features can be implemented in a “light” fashion.

Lee has said these privacy features will be implemented as a soft fork. This means a voluntary upgrade. Litecoin users can choose if they want to use the privacy features or not.

This is important from the regulatory point of view as well. It means crypto exchanges can support the legacy Litecoin and leave the privacy features out. This way all transactions are AML compliant and won’t raise any issues.

MimbleWimble is using Extension Block technology. It essentially adds another block (extension block) to the Litecoin blockchain. This extra block is linked to a “native” block and it contains all the hidden transactions.

Extension blocks resemble soft forks, but quite literally take the concept to another level. An extension block itself looks a lot like a normal Bitcoin block, which we’ll call a “base block.” Like a base block, an extension block mostly includes a bunch of transactions.

But there is a difference. A base block is cryptographically linked to the previous base block and to the next base block, chaining all base blocks chronologically to form Bitcoin’s blockchain. An extension block, on the other hand, links only to one corresponding base block. Extension blocks “peg along” base blocks.

The above quote is from this article, where the subject is elaborated further. This technology was originally presented in 2013.

This privacy upgrade is called MWEB. You can follow its progress at wenmweb.com. At the moment, (4/2021) the MWEB code is complete and ready for auditing at Litecoinin GitHub. It should be implemented to the Litecoin MainNet in 2021.

Read more from this MWEB article at the Litecoin foundation’s website.

Litecoin as an investment

Bitcoin’s Little Brother has reached a respectable age of 10 years. It has also kept its top 10 status in the cryptocurrency global rankings. Litecoin’s brand awareness is excellent as well. Still, the future doesn’t look that bright.

Litecoin had a very strong position in the crypto boom of 2016/2017. It was one of the few coins available in Coinbase giving Litecoin a big vote of confidence. Back then, the world wasn’t full of “altcoin casinos” and Litecoin was actually used for fast transactions. Things have changed dramatically since that.

There are now hundreds of exchanges offering every top 50 coin you can imagine. Decentralized exchanges are also gaining market share.

Litecoin is not really a fast currency either. In fact, it’s now one of the slowest transaction methods besides Bitcoin. There are dozens of popular platforms offering near-zero fees and almost real-time transactions. Litecoin’s 2.5 minute block time is nothing compared to that.

Litecoin has kept its top 10 status due to its historical reputation. When PayPal added cryptocurrencies in October 2020, Litecoin was among the coins selected with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash weren’t certainly among the top 5 most popular coins PayPal’s customers would have wanted to buy.

The long history has also created lots of fans for Litecoin. Many are speculating (and hoping) that Litecoin would have a massive bull run in 2021. Below is a video, where DataDash is analyzing Litecoin’s potential in April 2021.

Even if Litecoin is still a top 10 currency and even if MWEB is coming, it’s difficult to see LTC as an interesting investment.

Litecoin has branded itself as digital silver since the day it was born. It has tried to suck part of Bitcoin’s digital gold narrative and popularity. This digital silver idea hasn’t really convinced the market. Even if Litecoin has reduced inflation and halvings (just like Bitcoin), it hasn’t enjoyed similar “halving bull runs”.

The biggest problem for Litecoin is competition. It isn’t an exceptionally fast and cheap currency anymore. You can pick randomly almost any of the top 100 coins and it will be faster and cheaper than Litecoin. There are also many deflationary coins out there, even among platforms. Binance Coins are burnt every quarter and its total supply is actually shrinking.

Since Litecoin is using a Proof of Work consensus, there is no staking either. This would have created a based demand for the coin.

If you want to invest in Litecoin, ask the following question: what is the use case for Litecoin in the current market?

Litecoin price and how to buy Litecoin

Litecoin can be bought from every single well-known cryptocurrency exchange. We recommend Binance, which is the market-leading operator. You can deposit fiat currencies by using a debit/credit card or SEPA wire transfers.

Buy LTC from Binance

You can also use Coinbase and Bitpanda. These are great options for less experienced users.

Litecoin is supported by all the popular free wallets. Exodus is a good choice, which has a mobile and desktop version. You can also download an official Litecoin wallet from litecoin.org. Ledger Nano X offers ultimate safety.

If you want to keep up with Litecoin, follow Charlie Lee in Twitter. The reddit page of Litecoin can be found at reddit.com/r/litecoin.

Image credit: Charlie Lee screencap of this video, Litecoin photo by Eivind Pedersen from Pixabay

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