Official Litecoin logo
|Plural||Litecoin, Litecoins, LTCs|
|Date of introduction||7 October 2011|
|Inflation||Limited release (geometric series, rate halves every 4 years reaching a final total of 84 million LTC)|
|Method||Increasing difficulty per every 2016 blocks produced.|
Litecoin (LTC or Ł) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency and open source software project released under the MIT/X11 license. Inspired by and technically nearly identical to bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin creation and transfer is based on an open source protocol and is not managed by any central authority.
Litecoin was released via an open-source client on GitHub on October 7, 2011 by Charlie Lee, a former Google employee. It was a fork of the Bitcoin Core client, differing primarily by having a decreased block generation time (2.5 minutes), increased maximum number of coins, different hashing algorithm (scrypt, instead of SHA-256), and a slightly modified GUI.
During the month of November 2013, the aggregate value of Litecoin experienced massive growth which included a 100% leap within 24 hours.
Near the end of March 2017 Litecoin surged close to the $10 price level mainly thanks to talks about network scaling implementations. 
Litecoin version 0.8.5.1 was released in November 2013. The release included fixes for vulnerabilities and added enhanced security to the Litecoin network.
The Litecoin developer team released version 0.8.6.1 in early December 2013. The new version offered a 20x reduction in transaction fees, along with other security and performance improvements in the client and network. The source code and binaries were released early to people in the "#litecoin" IRC channel, on the official Litecoin forums, and on Reddit, with information for power users to add a Litecoin supernode to the configuration file, while the main site was to be updated after enough of the network was running the new version. This release method was used to ensure that the low fee transactions from version 0.8.6.1 clients would not be delayed by clients running older versions.
In April 2014, a new version of Litecoin was released, version 0.8.7.1, which fixed some minor issues along with an important fix related to the Heartbleed security bug.
Differences from Bitcoin
Litecoin offers three key differences from Bitcoin.
- The Litecoin Network aims to process a block every 2.5 minutes, rather than Bitcoin's 10 minutes, which its developers claim allows for faster transaction confirmation. A drawback is a higher probability of orphaned blocks. Advantages can include greater resistance to a double spending attack over the same period as bitcoin. However, total work done is a consideration. For example, if the Litecoin Network has comparatively ten times less computing work done per block than the bitcoin network, the bitcoin confirmation is around ten times harder to reverse, even though the Litecoin Network is likely to add confirmation blocks at a rate four times faster.
- Litecoin uses scrypt in its proof-of-work algorithm, a sequential memory-hard function requiring asymptotically more memory than an algorithm which is not memory-hard.
- The Litecoin Network will produce 84 million Litecoins, or four times as many currency units as will be issued by the Bitcoin Network.
The original intended purpose of using Scrypt was to allow miners to mine both Bitcoin and Litecoin at the same time. The choice to use scrypt was also partially to avoid giving advantage to video card (GPU), FPGA and ASIC miners over CPU miners.
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.This is widely due to the Scrypt hashing scheme being more memory intensive; increasing memory requirements for ASICs and FPGAs.
A peer-to-peer network similar to bitcoin's handles Litecoin's transactions, balances and issuance through scrypt, the proof-of-work scheme (Litecoins are issued when a small enough hash value is found, at which point a block is created, the process of finding these hashes and creating blocks is called mining). The issuing rate forms a geometric series, and the rate halves every 840,000 blocks, roughly every four years, reaching a final total of 84 million LTC.
Litecoin transactions are recorded in the Litecoin blockchain (a ledger held by most clients). A new block is added to the blockchain roughly every 2.5 minutes (whenever a small enough hash value is found for the proof-of-work scheme). A transaction is usually considered complete after six blocks, or 15 minutes, though for smaller transactions, fewer than six blocks may be needed for adequate security.
As of February 2015 there are many exchanges that deal with Litecoin. Although some exchanges allow only trading between litecoins and bitcoins, many exchanges provide trading between litecoins and US dollars (247exchange, Bitfinex, BTC-e, OKCoin, BitBay), Euros (Kraken, Yacuna), and Chinese Yuan (Huobi, BTCC, OKCoin).
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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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