There are 180 internationally recognized currencies in circulation, ranging from the Samoan tala to the Burmese kyat. Just like with regular currency, there are multiple cryptocurrencies too. Because it was the first, bitcoin gets all the publicity, but it competes against dozens of aspiring alternatives – one of which is litecoin.
Measured by market capitalization (or the amount of currency on the market), litecoin is the third-largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin and XRP. Litecoin, like its contemporaries, functions in one sense as an online payment system. Like PayPal or a bank’s online network, users can use it to transfer currency to one another. But instead of using U.S. dollars, litecoin conducts transactions in units of litecoin. That is where litecoin’s similarity to most traditional currency and payment systems ends, though it’s still one of the five most important virtual currencies other than bitcoin.
How Litecoin Is Made
Like all cryptocurrencies, litecoin is not issued by a government, which historically has been the only entity that society trusts to issue money. Instead, being regulated by a Federal Reserve and coming off a press at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, litecoins are created by the elaborate procedure called mining, which consists of processing a list of litecoin transactions. Unlike traditional currencies, the supply of litecoins is fixed. There will ultimately be only 84 million litecoins in circulation and not one more. Every 2.5 minutes (as opposed to 10 minutes for bitcoin), the litecoin network generates a what is called a block – a ledger entry of recent litecoin transactions throughout the world. And here is where litecoin’s inherent value derives.
The block is verified by mining software and made visible to any “miner” who wants to see it. Once a miner verifies it, the next block enters the chain, which is a record of every litecoin transaction ever made.
Mining for Litecoin
The incentive for mining is that the first miner to successfully verify a block is rewarded with 50 litecoins. The number of litecoins awarded for such a task reduces with time. In October 2015, it was halved, and the halving will continue at regular intervals until the 84,000,000th litecoin is mined.
But could one unscrupulous miner change the block, enabling the same litecoins to be spent twice? No. The scam would be detected immediately by some other miner, anonymous to the first. The only way to truly game the system would be to get a majority of miners to agree to process the false transaction, which is practically impossible.
Mining cryptocurrency at a rate worthwhile to the miners requires ungodly processing power, courtesy of specialized hardware. To mine most cryptocurrencies, the central processing unit in your Dell Inspiron isn’t anywhere near fast enough to complete the task. Which brings us to another point of differentiation for litecoins; they can be mined with ordinary off-the-shelf computers more so than other cryptocurrencies can. Although the greater a machine’s capacity for mining, the better the chance it’ll earn something of value for a miner.
What Is Litecoin Worth?
Any currency – even the U.S. dollar or gold bullion – is only as valuable as society thinks it is. If the Federal Reserve started circulating too many banknotes, the value of the dollar would plummet in short order. This phenomenon transcends currency. Any good or service becomes less valuable the more readily and cheaply available it is. The creators of litecoin understood from the start that it would be difficult for a new currency to develop a reputation in the marketplace. But by restricting the number of litecoins in circulation, the founders could at least allay people’s fears of overproduction.
There are advantages inherent to litecoin over bitcoin. Litecoin can handle more transactions, given the shorter block generation time. Litecoin also has a barely perceptible transaction fee. It costs 1/1000 of a litecoin to process a transaction, regardless of its size. Contrast that with PayPal’s 3% fee.
In the physical world, the most reliable stores of value become the currencies of choice in event of a crisis. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Zimbabwe became synonymous with hyperinflation. When inflation reached 89.7 sextillion percent (give or take a few points) and rendered the Zimbabwean dollar worthless, that wiped out the fortunes of many people unfortunate enough to have held liquid assets. People had no choice but to use something more stable – primarily the U.S. dollar and South African rand – for daily commerce. Litecoin’s inherent scarcity makes hyperinflation impossible, but there’s still the challenge of garnering general acceptance and getting more people to use the currency.
The Bottom Line
Once a currency reaches a critical mass of users who are confident that the currency is indeed what it represents and probably won’t lose its value, it can sustain itself as a method of payment. Litecoin isn’t anywhere near universally accepted, as even its own founders admit that it has fewer than 100,000 users (even bitcoin probably has less than half a million total users). But as cryptocurrencies become more readily accepted and their values stabilize, one or two of them – possibly including litecoin – will emerge as the standard currencies of the digital realm.
Huge market growth
On December 18th 2017, Litecoin reached its all-time high, $360.93, which, when compared to the price one year before ($4.40), was an incredible 8200% rise. This is wholly reflective of a booming cryptocurrency marketplace, whose total market cap ballooned from $17.7bn to around $650bn in just one year, an increase of over 3,600%.
Litecoin as a future tool
Litecoin is frequently compared to Bitcoin, which functions almost exactly the same, aside for the cost of transactions, which are around 1/50th of the size. For many cryptocurrency traders and users, Litecoin pricing acts more rationally than Bitcoin, and with a more sustainable future.
As we see some online stores begin to accept cryptocurrencies, we will see it becoming possible to buy jewellery, groceries, clothes, electronics and more. Since the value of Litecoin is determined by demand on currency trading websites like Bitfinex, OKEx, GDAX and Coinbase, it is possible to envision an online shopping platform where the price of products constantly changes to reflect the value of the accepted coins.
In addition to trading and purchasing Litecoin, it is possible to mine it, though this is a very technical activity and requires a decent amount of computer knowledge. A good computer is enough to mine coins very slowly, but a serious miner would use processing units that rapidly solve mathematical equations that support the blockchain.
The rise in popularity of Litecoin and other cryptocurrencies is largely in response to the demand for alternative currency options that separate themselves from centralized banks and governments. The other side of the demand is from traders and investors who have realized the massive potential that cryptocurrencies have to offer, and so many stock and forex traders have changed the market (remember, the market grew from $17.7-650 billion in one year). Cryptocurrency is arguably easier to enter for traders, meaning that in 2017, millions of beginners, as well as seasoned traders, began buying and selling different coins.
Litecoin as a worldwide tool
Litecoins can be used anywhere (though illegally in some nations), by anyone. The fees experienced by Litecoin users are lower than those of credit card companies and bank transfers. As an example, one person in France can send a payment to someone in China in seconds, with both parties receiving proof of the transaction (which will be stored on the blockchain). Litecoin was designed to enable quick and cheap payments that are as simple as sending an email.
84 million Litecoin
There can only ever be 84 million Litecoins, and as it stands, 55.58 million have been released or mined already, meaning almost 30 million coins are still fair game for miners. The figure of 84 million was based on the 21 million limit of Bitcoin, and the fact that Litecoin was designed to be 4x faster than Bitcoin.
A fixed amount of coins also means that inflation will not affect the overall value of the currency, unlike currencies such as the dollar, pound or euro. For forex traders who feel that a currency might drop in value, they may purchase Litecoins and hold on to their investment before selling back into their currency (hopefully at a profit). External influences (such as governments) can manipulate the value of their currency through inflation and quantitative easing, but the same cannot be done with Litecoin, making it more sustainable long term.
Litecoin was created by Charlie Lee in October 2011. Lee is a former employee of Google, who designed it to complement Bitcoin by solving some of its issues, like transaction times, fees, and concentrated mining pools. Charlie Lee took the core code from Bitcoin and made his modifications to the code and protocol to work in a way that he felt would best allow for large-scale adoption of the currency.
One of the main goals for Litecoin was to reduce block confirmation timings from 10 minutes to 2.5 minutes, so that more transactions could be confirmed. This made Litecoin 4x faster than Bitcoin. Each 2.5 minutes, a Litecoin block is mined, and 25 coins are generated. This means that at the moment, 14,400 Litecoins are being mined every day, the maximum amount possible.
Litecoin has so much scope for growth, potential uses, and wide adoption. Right now, we must observe which companies begin adopting it and accepting transactions for their products and services. Other than that, the future of Litecoin is anyone’s guess.