Litecoin, abbreviated LTC, developed and released in 2011, is a cryptocurrency based on bitcoin software. As modified from the open-source bitcoin software, it is considered a “fork” from bitcoin with the aim of improving on the shortcomings of the original cryptocurrency. The developer, Charles Lee, is a Chinese-American who formerly worked for Google. Possibly in part due to Lee’s heritage, litecoin has gained popularity in mainland China, where it is openly traded by investors and enthusiasts. Lee has compared bitcoin to gold and litecoin to silver, recognizing the role of bitcoin in paving the way for the widespread adoption of other cryptocurrencies.
Among the modifications by litecoin of the bitcoin software is its significant increase in the maximum number of litecoins that can be created, at 84 million. This is four times the number of bitcoin units that can ever be created, at 21 million. The greater number of litecoins compared to bitcoins makes it more attractive to some investors who feel priced out of bitcoin. Similar to bitcoin, litecoin transactions are published on a public ledger known as a blockchain. Litecoin has gained popularity by making significant improvements on the bitcoin code to facilitate speed and lower transaction fees, such as by implementing Segwit (segregated witness) in 2017.
Following litecoin’s implementation of Segwit, the market capitalization of the cryptocurrency has risen significantly, fortifying its status as one of the top alternative cryptocurrencies (“altcoins”) to bitcoin. As of June 23, 2017, litecoin has a market capitalization of about $2.5 billion, and is ranked fourth overall among all cryptocurrencies.
A block of litecoin is added to the blockchain every 2.5 minutes. Six confirmations for a transaction thus take about 15 minutes, whereas with bitcoin it might take up to an hour or more. Litecoin transactions are therefore confirmed in the network four times faster than bitcoin’s. Transactions among both cryptocurrencies are instant, though the confirmations in the network are necessary to ensure units of the cryptocurrency have been transferred.
Litecoin is traded on a number of major exchanges, such as Bitfinex, 247exchange, BitBay, Kraken, Yacuna, and BTC China.