Litecoin, a Bitcoin-like Internet currency has seen its network gain significant hashing power in recent weeks, but the currency's long-term prospects remain unclear. This post aims to provide more information about the Litecoin network and currency.
In early to mid 2013, Bitcoin mining is likely to become largely unprofitable for GPU-miners due to the rise of efficient Bitcoin mining ASICs. It is expected that many GPUs will be removed from securing the Bitcoin network and will be redeployed for other purposes. Besides Bitcoin mining, there are three such uses for these GPUs: 1) gaming, 2) password recovery and security testing and 3) non-Bitcoin cryptocurrency mining. Since Litecoin is the cryptocurrency with the next greatest hashing power and is most efficiently mined with GPUs, understanding the current status of the Litecoin network and economy is desirable for those studying the options. Below, I have gathered information to help inform a decision on whether to commit resources to Litecoin.Miners
The current hashrate of the network is roughly 3 gigahashes per second (GH/s). Due to Litecoin's scrypt-based mining algorithm, Litecoin hashrates are generally 1000 times slower than when mining Bitcoin on comparable hardware. Therefore, this hash rate is produced by an amount of hardware that would produce 3 terahashes per second (TH/s) on the Bitcoin newtork. The current 15-day window estimate for Bitcoin hashrate is 40 TH/s meaning the Litecoin network is roughly 7% the strength of the Bitcoin network.
Litecoin's genesis block was mined on Thursday Oct 13, 2011 at 03:00 GMT. Since then, over 15.5 million litecoins have been mined in the first 310,000 blocks. The network releases 50 litecoins per block which are targeted to be found evey 2.5 minutes on average. The block reward will halve every 840,000 blocks which will cause the network to produce 84 million litecoins in total.
The currency has traded in the 1.22 mBTC to 17.3 mBTC range since its birth. Trading is highly volatile with 40-50% changes occuring on a daily basis. Most trading volume can be found on the BTC-e exchange (https://btc-e.com
) in the LTC/BTC market by a margin of 2:1 over the next highest volume of LTC/USD also at BTC-e. Other supporting LTC/BTC exchanges include Vircurex (https://vircurex.com
) and BitParking (https://ltcexchange.bitparking.com
All-time price statistics
BTC - high: 17.69 mBTC on 3/12/2013 low: 1.22 mBTC on 8/15/2012
USD - high: $0.75 on 3/7/2013 low: $0.015 on 8/15/2012
The current exchange rate for Litecoin at BTC-e is 12.3 mBTC or $0.55 for one litecoin.
, http://explorer.litecoin.netEarly-adopter advantage
The ability to acquire currency units cheaply through purchase or mining provided an important incentive to Bitcoin's earlier-adopters. By risking the loss of their time and money they have shared in financial gains proportional to the exchange rate and, by extension, the success of the system. Litecoin has a similar early-adopter incentive with one difference. Its launch into an already-sizeable community meant that a greater number of stakeholders existed from the beginning than were aware of Bitcoin in 2009.
A large proportion of early bitcoins were mined when it was extremely unclear if Bitcoin would last beyond a brief experiment. It is then reasonable to expect that many early users did not keep their wallet files or private keys and that a large proportion of early coins will never be spent. While it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of this effect, it provides a potential source of volatility in the future. In contrast, early Litecoin users, most of which were familiar with Bitcoin, could expect that Litecoin's success would make their coins worth keeping. The %-days-destroyed metric tracks what fraction of the money supply has moved since it was mined and for Litecoin is 61.6% versus Bitcoin's 43.7%.
Diversification helps to reduce risk and increase reliability of investments and technological systems respectively. Since Litecoin is the second-most established cryptocurrency and is also blockchain-based it may be used easily to diversify Bitcoin-denominated investments. The unique ease of currency exchange beween this currency pair results from each currency's decentralized management and low transfer fees. While current trading volumes and high volatiltiy limit Litecoin's use for significant and stable diversification, more research into LTC/BTC, LTC/USD, and BTC/USD exchange rate relationships is advised.
From a technical standpoint, Litecoin shares many features and the vast majority of its codebase with Bitcoin. Litecoin therefor provides little additional security benefit to the cryptocurrency ecosphere as bugs found in Bitcoin are likely to apply to Litecoin. Mining infrastructure is probably where Litecoin offers the greatest independence from Bitcoin due to Litecoin's use of the scrypt mining algorithm.
Since Litecoin is very similar in use, Bitcoin-accepting merchants and payment processors can support Litecoin payments with minor modifications to the software they are using though at this time only a small number of businesses accept Litecoin.Development
The core client Litecoin-qt/litecoind is based on Bitcoin-qt/bitcoind. It is currently at version 0.6.3 and is based on the same Bitcoin software version. It is 8 months behind the current Bitcoin client. The Litecoin codebase is maintained at https://github.com/litecoin-project/litecoin
as a fork of the https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin
project. While the same revision control system is in use, the current development model lacks the formal testing and release verification of bitcoin-qt/bitcoind.
Outside the core client codebase, many of the documents and websites created when Litecoin was launched remain untouched, display incorrect information, or have disappeared completely though a number of new sites and services have appeared in recent weeks.Service Availability
While Litecoin services such as a block explorer, historical charts, and an Instawallet-like web wallet do exist, there are a number of important services that are not yet available. There is no client-side encrypted web-based wallet comparable to Blockchain.info/wallet or the extensive macroeconomic charts at that same site. Mobile software is also limited to a few mining programs with no mobile wallet or exchange rate monitor apps available. Finally, exchange volume is highly centralized on the BTC-e exchange and there is no payment processor that provides any functionality similar to Bit-Pay or Coinbase.Conclusion
This report has provided information on the Litecoin peer to peer Internet currency and will likely be obsolete within hours of its release in many of the figures quoted. The reader is encouraged to retrieve updated information from the sources included in the report as they will undoubtedly affect any decision on whether to support Litecoin.
This was also posted to https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=154633.msg1639131