What is Litecoin? A step-by-step guide to LTC

Showing itself to be faster and more secure than bitcoin, Litecoin has been enjoying growth in 2017. Let’s take a closer look at why.

Last updated:

Litecoin on top of US dollars

Having started from very modest origins and demonstrating only subtle technical improvements over bitcoin, Litecoin has grown to become the second largest cryptocurrency on the market. It is now often characterised as the silver to bitcoin’s gold, but there’s far more to the currency’s growth than meets the eye.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade.

What is Litecoin?

IconSymbolInitial release dateAlgorithm typeMax. supply
Litecoin iconLTC, Ł7 October 2011scrypt4 million LTC

Released on 7 October 2011 by former Google employee Charlie Lee, Litecoin (LTC, Ł) is an open source, peer-to-peer cryptocurrency – that is a digital currency operating independently of any country’s central bank. While similar to bitcoin in many ways, Litecoin has also incorporated several features (such as Segregated Witness) which they describe as improvements to help to reduce bottlenecks in the network and increase the speed with which transactions are carried out.

Litecoin has experienced significant growth since its inception, reaching a US$1 billion market cap in November 2013, and over four times that much by 2017.

Glossary tip: Segregated Witness
In May 2017, Litecoin became the first cryptocurrency to adopt Segregated Witness (or SegWit, for short). The system splits every transaction into two segments, removing the signature (the “witness” part) from the original data. This makes the processing of every transaction faster, one of the key advantages of Litecoin over bitcoin.

How is Litecoin different from bitcoin?

While there are a lot of similarities between Litecoin and its more widely-accepted competitor, bitcoin, Litecoin states that it has a few distinct advantages when it comes to mining, transaction verification speed and security:

  • Higher volume of transactions. The Segregated Witness process increases the rate at which transactions are verified on the block, reducing the time for confirmation of payment from 10 minutes (for bitcoin) to 2.5 minutes (for Litecoin).
  • More secure. This faster processing time also helps maintain a secure environment by reducing the chance of double-spending attacks – a hack in which the attacker spends the same money twice to pay for two different transactions.
  • Larger coin limit. While bitcoin has a maximum coin limit of 21 million coins, Litecoin has an upper limit of 84 million coins.
  • Harder to mine. This might not be seen as an advantage at first glance, but because Litecoin uses scrypt hashing (instead of SHA-256) mining cannot be accelerated by using parallel processors, as can be done when bitcoin mining. This has created a much more level playing field as opposed to the race that bitcoin mining has become.

Scrypt vs SHA-256 mining

Cryptocurrencies that allow mining of coins all use a particular hashing algorithm. The algorithm both protects the transactions and data of the network from tampering, and allows miners to collect coins by cracking the hashing and verifying the transactions themselves. The most common algorithm is SHA-256 (used in bitcoin and all its forked coins), but some currencies like Litecoin use scrypt (read: ess-crypt) instead.

Today’s Litecoin price

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Updated: 03 Apr 2020 21:00:29 UTC

Where can I use Litecoin?

You can use Litecoin nearly anywhere you can use bitcoin. Since its release it has become the second largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin, and merchants have been quick to adopt it. The Litecoin website has an always-growing list of services, merchants and providers that accept Litecoin, ranging from financial consulting services to health and beauty product merchants.

How do I buy Litecoin?

As with most other cryptocurrencies there are quite a few ways to put some Litecoin in your wallet, provided you have done your due diligence and are sure you want to acquire LTC:

  • Purchase directly from an exchange. The easiest and most straightforward method of acquiring Litecoin is to buy some from an exchange. Exchanges mostly accept credit card payments, cheques, and some even money transfers, and will in turn deposit Litecoin into your wallet. Exchanges also usually charge a percentage fee for their service, typically in the 0.5-2% range, depending on the service provider and the volume of Litecoin you’re exchanging.
  • Receive payment in Litecoin. Whether you’re providing a service or selling goods to a consumer, you can always accept Litecoin as payment just as you would any other currency. With its lower fees, commissions and costs, compared to receiving fiat money (ie, government-issued currency), receiving payment in Litecoin results in more money in your pocket. Additionally, Litecoin transactions are known to be secure, faster and less susceptible to fraud.
  • Earn Litecoin through mining. Generating Litecoin through the process known as mining is slow and requires specialised equipment to be worth the effort, but it is nonetheless a legitimate method of generating coins. You can just put your computer to work, validating and verifying transactions made on the Litecoin network by other users, and in return you are paid in Litecoin. The faster you can mine, the more Litecoin you can make.
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Using Litecoin to transfer money

As with cryptocurrencies in general, payments with Litecoin are fast and easy. To pay someone with Litecoin:

  1. Enter the person’s address into your wallet application, or scan the QR code that corresponds to that address.
  2. Enter the amount of Litecoin you’d like to send.
  3. Send.

That’s it. There’s nothing else to it.

What to watch out for

Not unlike its bigger sibling, Litecoin has its disadvantages. Here are a few of the cryptocurrency’s shortcomings that have become evident:

  • Not as widely accepted. Litecoin is still growing and while its acceptance has become more and more common, bitcoin is still the most commonly recognised cryptocurrency.
  • Not different enough. Many consider Litecoin’s technical improvements too subtle and this might hinder Litecoin’s growth. Faster transaction times and more difficulty in mining might be good enough reasons for specific-use cases, but in the grand scheme of things many are of the opinion that it does not differentiate itself from bitcoin enough to sustain long term growth.

The future of Litecoin

Litecoin’s market cap growth is not expected to slow down anytime soon which may lead to more and more businesses adopting the altcoin, either alongside bitcoin or as a complete replacement.

Additionally, a lot of work is being carried out on improving the network Litecoin runs on, which will improve the speed at which transactions are verified even further and will, more importantly, allow Atomic Swaps.

New Litecoin ATMs being installed and a growing number of companies are slowly making the switch to Litecoin. Potential buyers should consider these developments before making decisions about purchasing LTC.

Glossary tip: Atomic Swaps

With Litecoin joining the Lightning network, users will soon be able to participate in what is known as Atomic Cross-Chain Trading or Atomic Swaps for short.

Imagine Alice needs to pay Bob. Without Atomic Swaps, if Bob has a bitcoin wallet and Alice only has Litecoin, she would need to first exchange her Litecoin into bitcoin, open a bitcoin wallet, then pay Bob in bitcoin. This is clumsy and has been a major hindrance to the acceptance of altcoins over bitcoin.

Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.
Image sources: Shutterstock, CoinMarketCap

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