Since Bitcoin’s launch on 3rd January 2009, an estimated 30,000+ altcoins have been created. But only one has survived and thrived for 12 years. With zero downtime, consistent innovation, and dramatic growth of use and adoption year-on-year.
Happy 12th Birthday, Litecoin!
To commemorate Litecoin’s 10th Anniversary, Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin, wrote a very comprehensive thread on Twitter. Rather than rehashing the same milestones, this piece shines a light on lesser known events. Giving particular focus to the months leading up to Litecoin’s creation. A period where Lee was formulating distinct views on Bitcoin and immersing himself in the bitcointalk community. Informing Litecoin’s architecture, and the role Lee foreshadowed $LTC playing in a Bitcoin-dominated world.
In combing through thousands of Lee’s earliest forum posts, one can piece together the thinking behind Litecoin. A currency designed to be easy-to-use. By anyone, anywhere, in a modern world. It’s during this time Lee came to understand Bitcoin’s limitations and - instead of trying to replace it like every ‘Bitcoin Killer’ altcoin promised to do - create a currency to complement it.
Lee explained this best in Litecoin's announcement post 12 years ago:
“Litecoin is the result of some of us who joined together on IRC in an effort to create a real alternative currency similar to Bitcoin. We wanted to make a coin that is silver to Bitcoin's gold. We wanted the best innovations of Bitcoin and these other currencies to create a coin with all of their benefits, but nearly none of their problems.” (Read More)
Enjoy this look into the past and thanks to all who have supported Litecoin along the way!
25th July 2011: coblee’s first, very busy day posting on bitcointalk.
Two weeks after registering on the Bitcoin-focused forum, Charles ‘Charlie’ Lee, aka 'coblee', aka ‘chocobo’, aka SatoshiLite, began posting. A lot. The forum was created by Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s creator, to - as the name suggests - talk about Bitcoin. Not just the 'coin', but consensus-mechanisms, mining and, as time passed, emerging projects, initiatives and altcoins.
From his first day posting on bitcointalk, coblee made it evident he was a Bitcoin believer. At the time, Satoshi’s creation was only 30 months old. In spite of this, coblee was adamant that the nascent technology could be transformational as a currency. That it should be utilized as such, and not just speculated on as an 'alternative investment'. In response to a thread mocking ‘Pizza Guy’, aka Laszlo Hanyecz, coblee made his first public argument that currency - like the forthcoming Litecoin - should be used:
“It's silly to hoard bitcoins. Just spend it if you have something to spend it on and replace the spent bitcoins by converting USD. The fact that bitcoin value can go up is besides the point. Just put however many bitcoins you want to save/hoard aside and get more that you will spend to actually help the bitcoin economy.
And to those people who think that the person who bought the 10,000 BTC pizza was stupid, what if because he was able to make a real world transaction with his mined bitcoins, he figured that bitcoins was worth the investment. So he decided to triple his mining hashrate and made 20,000 BTC more than before. Now tell me if that purchase was worthwhile.” (Read More)
This is an important moment and one that gives insight into Litecoin’s positioning as a currency created to be spent. It also acknowledges that Lee has always believed that using Bitcoin (and eventually Litecoin) is crucial to growth and adoption. A belief that hasn’t faltered since creating Litecoin, aka the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. Here’s Lee more than a decade later, on stage at the 2022 Litecoin Summit in Las Vegas, espousing the same view:
It wasn’t just perspective that coblee contributed to bitcointalk. The user dedicated countless hours to critiquing and assisting peer projects, providing technical assistance to the community, and providing donations (both time and Bitcoin) to support the ecosystem. coblee also cobbled together practical (if not rudimentary) tools for fellow forum users. This Bitcoin Mining Pools spreadsheet (which is still live and updates every 5 minutes) is just one example.
Though it would be in the subsequent months that initial intrigue would morph into all-out dedication, as coblee gained an even deeper understanding of Bitcoin, its strengths and, as important, its limitations.
August 16th 2011: Satoshi admiration; desire for widespread adoption.
In the days leading up to the first official Bitcoin Conference, coblee displays even more praise toward Bitcoin, and its creator, Satoshi.
“What Satoshi was able to come up with on his own was truly remarkable”.
“I actually believe what Satoshi came up with IS brilliant. And that's why I think he may not be one person. It takes someone who is great at math, economics, and computer science to come up with this. And his solution is also very thorough. I'm really surprised to see such a complete solution in a version 1 product. Know what I mean? When someone comes up with something this novel, normally, the first attempt will crash and burn. So I give Satoshi a lot of credit. He deserves every single bitcoin he owns.” (Read More)
Litecoin seeds were also being planted, as the soon-to-be founder expressed a desire to see Bitcoin’s technology gain adoption beyond the technical elite. The best technology is invisible; people adopt and use it without friction in their lives. This seemed of great importance to coblee:
“I disagree that Bitcoin is only for the computer literate. It's true that Today, if you were not computer literate, you may run into issues like losing wallets or mybitcoin fiasco. I believe in the near future, using bitcoins will be as easy as using cash and credit cards. Banks will come up with a safe and easy way for people to store bitcoins. And you will be able to use your smartphone to easily pay merchants and send money to people without needing to know how bitcoins work. For example, right now people use credit cards every day. How many of those understand how Visa charges merchants, how Visa confirms transactions, how chargeback works, or how fraud detection works. And we also use cash every day. How many understand why money is debt, how the Fed can just print money, or even that money can be created by writing a number on a computer without even printing out that money. So people will using bitcoins without having to understand block chains, elliptical cryptography, and hashing” (Read More)
30th August 2011: Post Bitcoin Conference buzz!
After the first Bitcoin Conference in NYC, coblee returned to the forums with clear determination. Hardly surprising, given that he was one of only ~75 attendees at the seminal conference. The intimate gathering heard from speakers including prominent Bitcoin developer and recipient of Satoshi’s last known email, Gavin Andresen, the now infamous Bruce Wagner, and early Bitcoin developer and co-founder of Bloq, Jeff Garzik.
Prior to the Bitcoin Conference, coblee was overwhelmingly positive on bitcointalk. That was until 30th August 2011, when a user, Coinhunter, posited that Bitcoin was going to tank in value, as miners (and their attention) turned toward the now defunct SolidCoin. It’s through this critical commentary that we see - for the first time publicly - coblee show disdain for laziness, and a desire for the community to build, rather than bullshit. To let their project do the talking.
“So, my advice is to give less rhetoric and do more. Go and actually add real improvements to the SolidCoin codebase and let the software do the talking.”
13th September 2011: Fair launches, the way to go.
From the hundreds of forum posts to this point coblee made it very clear they favored fair launches. So it’s hardly surprising that when Litecoin launched exactly one month later, it was as fair as possible. Amidst the buzz around fellow bitcointalk user Lolcust’s GeistGeld project, was a clear perspective on pre-mined coins. And the need for transparency and integrity should a project conduct a pre-mine:
“Here's your first post. Now explain how you can conveniently "forget" to mention this important thing about 7 million pre-mined coins. I mean I'm ok with pre-mined used to benefit a coin with bounties and the laundry idea. And 7 million might be a bit excessive. But not mentioning it before you got people to mine your coin is unacceptable.“
“So instead of being open and telling people about your 7 mil pre-mined coins, you expect people to deduce that you mined some coins by the fact that you said "bounty" and using "100% squeaky clean" coins. Well, bounty coins can be mined after the coin has been published. And 100% squeaky clean coins can be mined afterwards for your laundry also. It doesn't necessarily mean you had to pre-mine them. But that's besides the point. You purposely did not mention that you pre-mined 7 million coins because you knew people would not mine your coins if you did that. Tell me that's not true.” (Read More)
2nd October 2011: coblee leads his first cryptocurrency project, Fairbrix.
By early October 2011, coblee had built a reputation on bitcointalk. Consequently, he was asked to take over cryptocurrency project Fairbrix, by michaelmclees. This would be, to our knowledge, coblee’s first major role in a cryptocurrency project. And, less than 24 hours after announcing his involvement, coblee had reworked, and relaunched, Fairbrix:
“Fairbrix is a GPU-unfriendly coin based on Lolcust's Tenebrix. The main difference between Fairbrix and Tenebrix is that Fairbrix does not come with 7.7 million premined coins. In fact, only 100 blocks were premined. Like Tenebrix, Fairbrix uses scrypt for proof of work. This makes it hard for GPUs to calculate proof of work. So it's more cost effective to use CPUs for Fairbrix mining.” (Read More)
4th October 2011: Litecoin gets a name and a few domain(s)!
In his 10th Anniversary thread, Charlie Lee confessed that the name ‘Litecoin’ had come easily. Thankfully Lee didn’t choose the alternative: ‘Elitecoin’. As it would have undermined the philosophy of a currency designed to be easy-to-use for anyone, anywhere. Almost the antithesis of ‘elite’. Of course, like me, everyone has an opinion, and the name ‘Litecoin’ didn’t resonate with all his contemporaries. Here’s a 17-year-old Vitalik Buterin's two sats:
On researching, Lee discovered that no one had any claim to, or ownership over, ‘Litecoin’ in the public domain! This also meant securing domain names (usually an arduous task) was fairly straightforward. Here’s a screenshot of Litecoin domain names Lee registered on a whim.
As you can see, the Litecoin Foundations’ website is hosted on www.litecoin.net. Once you’re done reading, please explore the resources and site further!
5-8th October 2011: Jobs dies; Lee’s work has just begun.
Steve Jobs died on the 5th October 2011. Either as a kooky homage, or more likely to serve as an irrefutable timestamp, Lee wrote a headline of Jobs’ passing into Litecoin’s Genesis hash.
“@NY Times 05/Oct/2011 Steve Jobs, Apple’s Visionary, Dies at 56”
Unbelievable? See for yourself: https://blockchair.com/litecoin/block/0.
If you’ve ever heard Lee speak - or had the pleasure of meeting him - you’ll know him to be subdued and humble. This humility makes it tough to gauge the accuracy of Litecoin’s creation story. Was it really as straightforward as Lee makes out? Or was this another attempt to obscure his genius? Regardless, only a handful of altcoins had been created to this point, and none are still active today! There was also no Satoshi to hit up for advice, and certainly no instruction manual or allen key. But Lee insists it was relatively easy to create Litecoin in just a few days, on top of his full-time employment at Google:
“I worked on the code for a few days. To be honest, Litecoin was not hard to code up. The hardest part was actually to create the genesis block. Satoshi never documented how he did it and the code to do that was not checked in with the Bitcoin source code. So I had to do some reverse engineering and managed to create the genesis block on 10/7/11” @SatoshiLite on Twitter / X
9th October 2011: Lessons Learned; Litecoin Announced.
In his first 76 days of active posting on bitcointalk, coblee made clear his views on altcoins, and the values he believed made for a currency worthy of complementing Bitcoin. A quick recap for those whose caffeine has worn off:
- coblee was (and to this writer’s knowledge, still is) a big fan of Satoshi and their work. Whilst acknowledging Bitcoin - at that time in 2011 - was not perfect, and had its limitations. However, this critique was tempered by the fact that Satoshi did not have the benefit of hindsight, nor a technology like Bitcoin to study, reference and learn from. For these reasons coblee rebuked those who hadn’t dedicated time to studying Bitcoin. Since they were afforded the luxury of a precedent in Bitcoin, when Satoshi had no such opportunity. An example:
“And for those that claim that satoshi's 10 mins was also a stab in the dark... you are probably right. But satoshi released bitcoin with nothing like it at all. So he had nothing else to copy and make better. There's now 2 years of bitcoin network data that you can study.” (Read More)
- Bitcoin confirmation times and mining difficulty were topics of regular discussion. The idea of creating a ‘faster’ and ‘lighter’ (lite) version seemed inevitable;
- And, again, 'coblee' was adamant that Bitcoin should not be reserved for the tech elite, as it would inhibit organic growth and adoption.
With all the above in-mind, on 9th October 2011 coblee announced a new project: Litecoin. It was in his initial post that Litecoin’s soon-to-be creator outlined the specifics of the forthcoming launch; orchestrated to be one of the fairest launches in crypto history.
Litecoin’s source code and binaries were released ahead of time; even a poll was created for the ‘go live’ date. With 42.9% of the 91 voters selecting 3:00 GMT Thursday 13th October 2011 for Litecoin’s launch. The announcement also included information about the currency's features and attributes, transparency over how the 150 pre-mined Litecoins would be utilized, mining difficulty, its proof-of-work consensus mechanism and use of scrypt algorithm, transaction(s) speeds, and specifics around ‘coin generation’, including capping the maximum circulating supply to 84 million Litecoin.
When asked how Litecoin differed from other altcoins, coblee replied:
“One of the goals of Litecoin is to not change what's working (from Bitcoin) unless there was a good reason to. Litecoin is also forked directly form (.sic) the Bitcoin source code, so it won't have any new security holes that doesn't plague Bitcoin also. One of the reason why the first Fairbrix launch failed so miserable is because it is a fork of Tenebrix, a fork of Multicoin, a fork of Bitcoin. And somewhere in those forks, a nasty bug crept in that caused things to go horribly wrong.”
And, unlike previous projects that had been launched and speculated on heavily, Litecoin was created, from the outset, to be used. Because, after all, what’s the point of a currency if it can’t be spent?
“The point of a currency is to buy goods. If it's just to exchange for another currency, then it's doom(ed) to fail.” (Read More)
13th October 2011. Litecoin launches fairly, without incident!
At 3:00AM GMT, Litecoin is launched, mining starts and the story begins!
Given Litecoin's intention was “to make a coin that is silver to Bitcoin's gold”, it’s safe to say that’s been accomplished to some extent - though there's always room for improvement. And, if the last 12 years is anything to go by, innovation and development of Litecoin will continue in line with the needs of users in this ever-changing world.
Note: a big thank you to all those who took the time to read this piece, and who have supported Litecoin and the ecosystem over the last 12 years!