Litecoin (LTC): What It Is, How It Works, Vs. Bitcoin

What Is Litecoin (LTC)?

Litecoin (LTC) is a cryptocurrency created from a fork in the Bitcoin blockchain in 2011. It was initially designed to address the developer's concerns that Bitcoin was becoming too centrally controlled, and to make it more difficult for largescale mining firms to gain the upper hand in mining. While eventually unsuccessful in preventing enterprise miners from taking over the lion's share of Litecoin mining, the cryptocurrency has reworked itself into a minable coin and a peer-to-peer payment system.

Learn more about Litecoin and what makes it different.

Key Takeaways

  • Litecoin is a cryptocurrency founded in 2011, two years after Bitcoin, by a former Google engineer named Charlie Lee.
  • It shares similar features with Bitcoin but has a different algorithm. The cryptocurrency's goal is to become a medium for daily transactions.
  • Litecoin has a faster transaction processing time compared to Bitcoin.

Understanding Litecoin (LTC)

One of Litecoin's original missions was to discourage enterprise-sized miners from gaining control of the mining process by using a different encryption method. However, miners quickly adapted their specialized machines and continued to grow their mining capacity.

Litecoin is minable using ASIC miners, much like Bitcoin is. A block within a blockchain stores transaction information. The block is verified by mining software and made visible to any system participant (called a miner) who wants to see it. Once a miner verifies it, the next block in the chain is created, and Litecoin is rewarded.

Charlie Lee

Released to the public in 2011 by former Google engineer Charlie Lee, Litecoin is an open-source global payment network not controlled by a central authority. Lee referred to Litecoin as a “lite version of Bitcoin” and “a coin that is the silver to Bitcoin’s gold.”

Rather than focusing on its functionality, many investors are interested in Litecoin as a potential long-term holding. They speculate that Litecoin will build relative wealth over time like other investments.

Litecoin Maximum Supply

Litecoin was released with 150 pre-mined coins and has a total supply of 84 million coins. The cryptocurrency’s blockchain generates a new block every 2.5 minutes. The Litecoin supply is designed to reduce over time to preserve the coin's value.

As of April 2022, there are 14 million Litecoins left to mine.

Litecoin Halving

Halving refers to reducing the reward given when a block's hash and the transaction information within the block are validated and a new block is created. Halving reduces the number of Litecoins awarded by one-half, which helps to slow down the creation of new coins.

Halving dates for LTC:

  • Aug. 25, 2015: 50 to 25 LTCs
  • Aug. 5, 2019: 25 to 12.5 LTCs
  • Aug. 23, 2023 (expected): 12.5 to 6.25 LTCs

Litecoin Hashing Algorithm

Litecoin uses a hashing algorithm called Scrypt (pronounced es-crypt). Scrypt is more memory-intensive and slower than SHA-256. But it found greater acceptance in the cryptocurrency community after the 2011 Tenebrix project modified Scrypt to work with regular CPUs for mining.

The significantly larger memory requirements for Scrypt also made it difficult to develop application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miners. But its ASIC-resistant setup didn't last long: the world’s first Litecoin ASIC miner was released in 2016.

Litecoin Developments

Litecoin has moved away from its mining ecosystem dominated by individual miners to a corporatized setup, where large mining pools run by tech firms account for an overwhelming majority of Litecoin mining. 

It has a much lower market capacity than more popular coins. However, it is still one of the most traded cryptocurrencies, maintaining a position within the top 30 coins out of the more than 18,000 tracked by CoinMarketCap. This demonstrates that it is still a popular cryptocurrency but doesn't have the investor interest that Bitcoin and some newer coins have.

Where to Buy Litecoin

Most cryptocurrencies can be purchased on cryptocurrency exchanges. Several exchanges can conduct transactions within the United States; many more are outside the U.S. It's important to note that exchanges within the U.S. are monitored and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure that the best interests of investors and traders are upheld. With that in mind, if you live in the U.S., your choices are limited to exchanges within the U.S.

Because exchanges are regulated and regulations are still being developed, the places you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies fluctuate.

Exchanges outside the U.S. may or may not have regulatory authorities, although many countries have implemented controls or granted regulatory authority to their financial regulating agencies. Some U.S. exchanges where you can buy Litecoin are:

  • Coinbase
  • eToro
  • Kraken
  • Binance.US
  • Robinhood
  • Gemini

How to Sell Litecoin

You can sell your Litecoin on the same exchanges where you can purchase it. However, selling your crypto on a centralized exchange is different than selling it on a decentralized one. For example, if you're selling your Litecoin on an exchange like Kraken, you'll need to send your LTC to your Kraken address. From there, the exchange facilitates the sales of your Litecoin.

If you're using a decentralized exchange like Kucoin or, you connect your wallet to the exchange and go through the "know your customer (or client)" registration process. Once approved, you can deposit your Litecoin and begin selling it.

Some exchanges may let you withdraw fiat currency, so if you're looking to exchange your LTC for fiat, you'll have to find an exchange that allows it.

How is Litecoin Different from Bitcoin?

The first difference between Litecoin and Bitcoin lies in their maximum supply cap. Bitcoin has a supply capped at 21 million, while Litecoin’s supply is constrained to 84 million. 

Another distinction between Litecoin and Bitcoin lies in the protocols to mine coins. As mentioned earlier, Bitcoin uses SHA-256 and Litecoin relies on a modified version of Scrypt to generate coins. The difference in protocols has implications on transaction processing times for both coins. Litecoin is four times as fast as Bitcoin in processing and confirming transactions. 

The speed in processing transactions can come at the expense of security because fewer rounds of transaction verification are involved. Litecoin’s confirmation time of 2.5 minutes (as opposed to the roughly 10 minutes that Bitcoin takes to confirm transactions) is convenient for small merchants who do not want or need their transactions to be super secure.

Will Litecoin Have a Future?

It is difficult to determine how investors, traders, cryptocurrency fans, governments, and the general public will treat Litecoin in the future. Cryptocurrency is being scrutinized by governments, more cryptocurrencies are being created every day, and the markets are volatile.

Is Litecoin Still a Good Investment?

Litecoin wasn't intended to be a speculative investment or a method of storing value. However, some investors use LTC this way, and some don't. It's best to consult a professional advisor to see if Litecoin is a good investment for you.

What Is Better, Litecoin or Ethereum?

Litecoin is a cryptocurrency designed for peer-to-peer transactions. Ethereum is an ecosystem that runs on a global virtual machine that powers many different cryptography-based technologies. Ethereum has a token, ether (ETH), used to facilitate transactions within the Ethereum blockchain. In terms of value, ETH generally ranks in the top five and has more trading volume. Which is better depends on your interests, goals, and intended uses.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other initial coin offerings (ICOs) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual’s situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author does not own Litecoins.

Article Sources
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  1. Twitter. "Charlie Lee."

  2. CoinMarketCap. "Litecoin."

  3. "Litecoin Pools."

  4. CoinMarketCap. "Top 100 Crypto Coins by Market Capitalization."

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