Litecoin is the name of both a cryptocurrency and the decentralized blockchain network on which it transacts. The protocol borrows much of Bitcoin's source code but has a larger total supply, shorter block times and a different hashing algorithm.
Launched in October 2011, just three years after Satoshi Nakamoto published Bitcoin's white paper, Litecoin is one of the earliest public blockchain networks. Unlike many later cryptocurrencies, its design does not stray far from Bitcoin's.
Litecoin uses proof-of-work to arrive at consensus among nodes. The network's miners must solve a computationally intensive task to determine which can add the next block of transactions to the Litecoin blockchain.
Miners receive LTC coins as part of a block reward when they add transactions that abide by network rules. The network rejects blocks containing invalid transactions, and the dishonest miner forfeits their reward.
One of the most significant differences between Litecoin and Bitcoin is the hashing algorithm. Instead of Bitcoin's SHA-256, Litecoin uses an algorithm called Scrypt.
Scrypt was chosen because its initial resistance to high-powered ASIC mining hardware would encourage greater decentralization of Litecoin mining. However, ASICs capable of hashing with Scrypt have been developed, rendering GPU miners obsolete.
Litecoin also has a history of implementing upgrades much faster than Bitcoin. Since both networks share very similar code, it has served as a sort of live testnet for the longer-running cryptocurrency. For example, Litecoin introduced the scaling protocols SegWit and Lightning Network months before Bitcoin.