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What Is Litecoin (LTC)?

Litecoin (LTC) is an alternative cryptocurrency created in October 2011 by Charles "Charlie" Lee. Litecoin was adapted from Bitcoin's open source code but with several modifications. Like Bitcoin, Litecoin is based on an open-source global payment network that is not controlled by any central authority. Litecoin differs from Bitcoin in aspects like faster block generation rate and use of Scrypt as a proof of work scheme.

Key Takeaways

  • Litecoin is an early altcoin developed by former Google engineer Charlie Lee in 2011.
  • It has been called the silver to Bitcoin's gold, and at its height was the 3rd largest cryptocurrency by market cap.
  • Because its structure is similar to Bitcoin's, it has been used as a testnet or testing ground for improvements that later were applied to Bitcoin.

Understanding Litecoin (LTC)

Charlie Lee is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former Google engineer who became interested in Bitcoin in 2011. According to Lee, "In October of 2011, I was playing around with the Bitcoin codebase, and I guess the short of it was that I was just trying to create ... a fork of Bitcoin. It was mainly a fun side project."

Scrypt Proof-of-Work Algorithm

Scrypt is a password-based key derivation function. According to Tarsnip, "the scrypt key derivation function was originally developed for use in the Tarsnap online backup system and is designed to be far more secure against hardware brute-force attacks than alternative functions such as PBKDF2 or bcrypt."

Scrypt was developed by Lee specifically to make large-scale, custom-built hardware attacks on the currency more difficult. Bitcoin's SHA-256 algorithm does not require a lot of random access memory (RAM) as an impediment to parallel processing, whereas Scrypt does.

At the beginning of the 2010s, as mining operations developed specialized hardware, like the application-specific circuit (ASIC) to solve SHA-256 hashing, it appeared that Bitcoin was vulnerable to such an attack. By making Litecoin's consensus algorithm memory intensive, Lee sought to thwart the hardware arms race, though in practice that didn't happen as the rise of GPUs answered the need for greater RAM.

How Is Bitcoin (BTC) Different From Litecoin (LTC)?

Litecoin was launched with the aim of being the "silver" to Bitcoin's "gold." Like Bitcoin, Litecoin is a peer-to-peer internet currency. It is a fully decentralized, open-source, global payment network. Lee developed Litecoin with the aim to improve on Bitcoin's shortcomings. The broader differences between the two cryptocurrencies are listed in the table below.