|1⁄1000||lites, millilitecoin, mŁ|
|1⁄1000000||microlitecoins, photons, μŁ|
|Original author(s)||Charlie Lee|
|Initial release||0.1.0 / 7 October 2011|
|Latest release||0.21.2.1 / 7 June 2022|
|Project fork of||Bitcoin|
|Operating system||Windows, OS X, Linux, Android|
|Developer(s)||Litecoin Core Development Team|
|Source model||Open source|
|Block reward||Ł12.5 (approximately till August 2023), halved approximately every four years|
|Block time||2.5 minutes|
|Circulating supply||Ł70,715,481 (14 July 2022)|
|Exchange rate||US$55 (July 2022)|
|Market cap||US$3.4 billion (July 2022)|
Litecoin (Abbreviation: LTC; sign: Ł) is a decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency and open-source software project released under the MIT/X11 license. Inspired by Bitcoin, Litecoin was among the earliest altcoins, starting in October 2011. In technical details, the Litecoin main chain shares a slightly modified Bitcoin codebase. The practical effects of those codebase differences are lower transaction fees, faster transaction confirmations, and faster mining difficulty retargeting. Due to its underlying similarities to Bitcoin, Litecoin has historically been referred to as the "silver to Bitcoin's gold." In 2022, Litecoin added optional privacy features via soft fork through the MWEB (MimbleWimble extension block) upgrade.
Units and divisibility
One litecoin is divisible to eight decimal places. Units for smaller amounts of litecoin are lites, millilitecoin (mŁ), equal to 1⁄1000 litecoin, photons, microlitecoin (μŁ), equal to 1⁄100000 and the litoshi, which is the smallest possible division, and named in homage to bitcoin's smallest denomination the satoshi, representing 1⁄100000000 (one hundred millionth) litecoin.
By 2011, Bitcoin mining was largely performed by GPUs. This raised concern in some users that mining now had a high barrier to entry, and that CPU resources were becoming obsolete and worthless for mining. Using code from Bitcoin, a new alternative currency was created called Tenebrix (TBX). Tenebrix replaced the SHA-256 rounds in Bitcoin's mining algorithm with the scrypt function, which had been specifically designed in 2009 to be expensive to accelerate with FPGA or ASIC chips. This would allow Tenebrix to have been "GPU-resistant", and utilize the available CPU resources from bitcoin miners. Tenebrix itself was a successor project to an earlier cryptocurrency which replaced Bitcoin's issuance schedule with a constant block reward (thus creating an unlimited money supply). However, the developers included a clause in the code that would allow them to claim 7.7 million TBX for themselves at no cost, which was criticized by users.
To address this, Charlie Lee, a Google employee who would later become engineering director at Coinbase, created an alternative version of Tenebrix called Fairbrix (FBX). Litecoin inherits the scrypt mining algorithm from Fairbrix, but returns to the limited money supply of Bitcoin, with other changes.
Creation and launch
Noting that earlier altcoins failed due to a lack of fairness, Lee planned Litecoin's launch intentionally to avoid premining and ninja mining. With the intention of creating "silver to Bitcoin's gold," Litecoin was developed both by combining the good attributes of previous cryptocurrencies and avoiding their pitfalls as observed by Lee. After posting Litecoin's defining features and purpose, Lee clarified the launch procedure and polled Bitcointalk.org participants to establish the preferred launch time. To improve miner distribution and participation from launch, Lee established a testnet and compiled a downloadable mining binary. Lee released Litecoin via an open-source client on GitHub on October 7, 2011. The Litecoin network went live on October 13, 2011.
It was a source code fork of the Bitcoin Core client, originally differing by having a decreased block generation time (2.5 minutes), increased maximum number of coins, different hashing algorithm (scrypt, instead of SHA-256), faster difficulty retarget, and a slightly modified GUI.
After launch, the early growth of Litecoin was aided by its increasing exchange availability and liquidity on early exchanges such as BTC-e. During the month of November 2013, the aggregate value of Litecoin experienced massive growth which included a 100% leap within 24 hours.[better source needed]
In early 2014, Lee suggested merge mining (auxPOW) Dogecoin with Litecoin to the Dogecoin community at large. In September 2014, Dogecoin began merge-mining with Litecoin, providing increased security for Dogecoin and a permanent block subsidy that previously was not available with Litecoin mining.
In May 2017, Litecoin became the first of the top 5 (by market cap) cryptocurrencies to adopt Segregated Witness. Later in May of the same year, the first Lightning Network transaction was completed through Litecoin, transferring Ł0.00000001 from Zürich to San Francisco in under one second.
In 2020, PayPal added the ability for users to purchase a derivative of Litecoin along with Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash which could not be withdrawn or spent as part of its Crypto feature.
In September 2021, a fake press release was published on GlobeNewswire announcing a partnership between Litecoin and Walmart. This caused the price of Litecoin to increase by around 30%, before the press release was revealed as a hoax. In February 2022, Litecoin has reached a marketcap of $8.7 Billion.
In May 2022, MWEB (Mimblewimble Extension Blocks) upgrade was activated on the Litecoin network as a soft fork. This upgrade provides users with the option of sending confidential Litecoin transactions, in which the amount being sent is only known between the sender and receiver.
Differences from Bitcoin
Litecoin is different in some ways from Bitcoin:
- The targeted block time is every 2.5 minutes for Litecoin, as opposed to Bitcoin's 10 minutes. This allows Litecoin to confirm transactions four times faster than Bitcoin.
- Scrypt, an alternative proof-of-work algorithm, is used for Litecoin. It differs from Bitcoin's SHA-256 algorithm in part by including a sequential memory-hard function, requiring asymptotically more memory than an algorithm which is not memory-hard. Due to Litecoin's use of the scrypt algorithm, FPGA and ASIC devices made for mining Litecoin are more complicated to create and more expensive to produce than they are for Bitcoin, which uses SHA-256.
- Litecoin is merge mined with another prominent cryptocurrency (Dogecoin), increasing miner compensation and network security for both blockchains.
- Litecoin has a maximum circulating supply of Ł84,000,000, which is four times larger than Bitcoin's maximum circulating supply of ₿21,000,000.[a]
- Both Litecoin and Bitcoin retarget their mining difficulty every 2016 blocks. However, due to the 4x faster block speed for Litecoin, mining difficulty retargets occur approximately every 3.5 days. This compares to approximately every 14 days for Bitcoin.
- MWEB optional privacy was added to Litecoin's base layer in May 2022 via soft fork. This allows amounts held within wallets and transaction amounts within MWEB to be private.
Third party vendors providing point of sale infrastructure for Litecoin include companies such as Verifone, BitPay, and Coingate. BitPay added support for Litecoin in 2021, with Litecoin initially accounting for less that 3% of BitPay transactions. As of June 2022, Litecoin had grown to represent 21% of BitPay transactions by payment count.
- The supply will approach, but never reach, ₿21 million. Issuance will permanently halt c. 2140 at ₿20,999,999.9769.: ch. 8
- renaming of mLTC/µLTC to lites/photons https://github.com/litecoin-project/litecoin/pull/375
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These hash functions can be tuned to require rapid access a very large memory space, making them particularly hard to optimize to specialized massively parallel hardware.
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