Dubbed the “silver to Bitcoin’s gold,” Litecoin (LTC) has been riding the crytocurrency uptrend as wave after wave of bullish news has driven its spot price over US$45, or 0.017 BTC. But beyond price, the Litecoin development playground is also seeing expansion as far as its codebase is concerned.
The Litecoin blockchain is becoming an experimental playground preceding Bitcoin. Despite having no blocksize congestion like Bitcoin, scaling solutions, such as Segregated Witness, and Layer 2 protocols, such as the Lightning Network, are being tested in production on its live blockchain before ever being integrated into Bitcoin.
Charlie Lee, the veritable “Satoshi Nakamoto” of Litecoin, states that he is “happy to let Litecoin go on without a lot of development.” Besides Lee there is but one full-time developer on the Litecoin Foundation’s payroll, a developer by the alias “Shaolinfry.”
“Litecoin Core is a totally open, opensource project. Anyone can contribute based on their merits alone. People are also welcome to make their own node software.”
In the niche blockchain space, it is a rather common phenomenon to find wholly anonymous individuals with high technical competency work on a given project. Shaolinfry submitted the winning User-Activated Soft-Fork (UASF) proposal in the Segregated Witness (SegWit) Code Bounty held last March by Blockstream CSO, Samson Mow.
It is also common to find individuals external to a blockchain project voluntarily contribute to its ecosystem, as is the case with the alternative implementation of Litecoin, called lcoin. Alternative implementations are consensus code written from scratch that mirror the network’s blockchain model, feature-for-feature, bug-for-bug, but without using any of the original source code.
Litecoin is itself derived from Bitcoin’s source code. Litecoin is a fork of bitcoind, the original Bitcoin Core codebase written in C++. Litecoind, the forked Litecoin software, is technically similar to Bitcoin, with some exceptions.
The primary developer of an alternative Bitcoin implementation called bcoin, Christopher Jeffrey, announced a port of bcoin, called lcoin, on June 17. Separate implementations include ltcd and litecore.
Like bcoin, lcoin features include full node and Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) node capabilities, a wallet backend, mining backend, Layer 2 backend (for protocols like Lightning Network), and a general purpose library.
Yours announced a migration from Bitcoin to Litecoin on May 19, a month prior to the release of lcoin. Yours CEO Ryan X. Charles sited the blockchains combination of economic size and technical similarity to Bitcoin.”On Litecoin, transaction fees are only a few cents. This means users can comfortably load only $1 onto our network while still paying negligible fees,” explained Charles. “This is a radically lower barrier to entry compared to $100 for bitcoin.”
Critics of multiple implementations defer to complexity, arguing that it is challenging enough to have the network come to consensus in lockstep on one implementation, let alone an alternative one. On the other hand, when alternative implementations are successfully maintained, the benefits are fault-tolerance, resiliency, and software diversity. That alone cultivates large network effects to follow.
However, the software landscape in Bitcoin is predominantly a monoculture, which may make it vulnerable to attack.
“Believing there will never again be an inadvertent mistake in Bitcoin Core, or any of the dependent technology, which causes a chain fork is not a realistic expectation and certainly not a solution,” wrote Dave Collins, lead developer of Decred and primary author of another alternative Bitcoin implementation, btcd. “In my opinion, the current state just isn’t good enough for a financial system that we all hope will one day be a major force in the global economy. It is akin to running a data center with critical customer data without disaster recovery mechanisms, such as backups, and hoping for the best.”
To achieve antifragility, multi-implementations can be used as a strategy that Jason Dreyzehner of BitPay termed ‘Defensive Consensus’ to combat software monocultures. The addition of Jeffrey’s lcoin adds a suite of usability changes, giving access to the network where there was none before.
Moreover, on the topic of resiliency against edge cases, paraphrased from Christopher Jeffrey; In the earlier days of Bitcoin, when multiplication/division was still enabled in the scripting system, you could easily cause the nodes to crash.
“If Core had used 64-bit integers without disabling multiplication/division, you could brick every node on the network,” the developer explains. “What’s even more interesting: nodes that are implemented in higher level languages wouldn’t be affected; bcoin nodes would be just fine.”
The lcoin release followed the release of the “Litening,” a Lightning Network implementation that initiated testing on the Litecoin blockchain on May 3. The same day, Litecoin was added to Coinbase. On May 10, Segregated Witness successfully activated on Litecoin, a feat that has not yet been achieved in Bitcoin.
Bitstamp then listed the cryptocurrency on June 19, bumping the Litecoin spot price after a month of sideways trading. In anticipation of this listing, USD transaction volume spiked on June 1, reflecting growing adoption and capital inflow from fiat.
In congruence with such fundamentals, Litecoin is consolidating around its new price of US$45. If cryptocurrency were a race, Litecoin appears to have cemented its spot on the top 5 list of largest currencies by market capitalization. Coming in at fourth place, Litecoin market cap is just shy of $2.6 billion.