Litecoin (LTC or Ł) is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency and open source software project released under the MIT/X11 license. Creation and transfer of coins is based on an open source cryptographic protocol and is not managed by any central authority. While inspired by, and in most regards technically nearly identical to Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin has some technical improvements over Bitcoin, and most other major cryptocurrencies, such as the adoption of Segregated Witness, and the Lightning Network. These effectively allow a greater number of transactions to be processed by the network in a given time, reducing potential bottlenecks, as seen with Bitcoin. Litecoin also has almost zero payment cost and facilitates payments approximately four times faster than Bitcoin.
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. Litecoin reached a $1 billion marketcap in November 2013. As of August 16, 2017, its market capitalization is US$2,253,184,567 at around $42.94 per coin. 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 0.00000001 LTC from Zurich to San Francisco in under one second.
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. Advantages can include greater resistance to a double spending attack over the same period as Bitcoin. 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.