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Litecoin is a proof of work cryptocurrency created by Charlie Lee in 2011 to be a “silver” compared to the “gold” of bitcoin. Designed for everyday use, Litecoin features an average block time of 2.5 minutes, as opposed to Bitcoin’s 10, and as a consequence, has a maximum total supply that will cap out at 84 million as opposed to 21 million for Bitcoin.
Litecoin is mined using the Scrypt algorithm, which is more memory intensive as opposed to Bitcoin’s SHA256’s. Furthermore, Scrypt requires a lower hashrate, which allows for Litecoin’s faster block times.
In creating Litecoin, Charlie Lee didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Drawing inspiration from bitcoin and other bitcoin successors, Lee crafted Litecoin to stand on the shoulders of bitcoin. Perhaps the first surviving fork of Bitcoin, Litecoin was designed to be complimentary, rather than antagonistic, to Bitcoin. The usage of Scrypt instead of SHA256 was the key difference, but Litecoin was still a blockchain secured by proof-of-work. In using a different algorithm that rewarded different computing resources - miners could choose to mine both Bitcoin and Litecoin, rather than stick with just one.
With the shorter block period, Litecoin is more functional for everyday payments, as a merchant doesn’t want to wait 10 minutes to confirm whether or not they have received their payment. The reduction in hashrate intensity also gave Litecoin an opportunity to be mined by individuals with less computing power, but today, companies and teams have created ASICs for Litecoin, albeit at a higher cost than creating ASICs for Bitcoin.
Rather than just a simple fork, Litecoin also works to adopt developments and additions inspired from discussions surrounding the bitcoin network, and has actually adopted several key features such as Segregated Witness (SegWit) and Lightning Network.