Litecoin is a peer-to-peer decentralized payment network with many characteristics similar to Bitcoin, along with a number of refinements that have contributed to the evolution of a range of cryptocurrencies. The currency resembles Bitcoin in terms of its structure as a UTXO open-source cryptographically secured Proof-of-Work coin. Its unique attributes were initiated primarily to address scaling and speed issues in the Bitcoin protocol.
In 2011, Litecoin launched as a step forward in cryptocurrency technology, forking from Bitcoin. Charlie Lee, a former Google and Coinbase employee created the currency to solve efficiency problems in the early years of cryptocurrency implementation.
First and foremost, Litecoin was designed to transact more quickly via shorter block times of 2.5 minutes as compared to the Bitcoin protocol's ten minute block times. Additionally, Litecoin quadrupled the maximum supply of coins from Bitcoin's 21 million to 84 million. Instead of using SHA-256 to secure the network, Litecoin opts for scrypt, an algorithm that tends to be more demanding for ASICs in terms of complexity.
Like Bitcoin, Litecoin is SegWit and lightning-compatible, yet is also capable of delivering faster and cheaper transactions on-chain when compared to the slower and more costly Bitcoin. As a faster, cheaper currency designed to be used for smaller transactions, Litecoin is often touted as a "digital silver" when compared to the "digital gold" currency, Bitcoin.
Litecoin has acted as a key pioneer of cryptocurrency technology in the testing of lightning network transactions, successfully executing the first such transaction in May 2017, consisting of 0.00000001 LTC (a tiny fraction of a single cent in fiat terms) being transmitted from Zürich to San Francisco in less than a second.