On 18th November at 17:45 GMT, litecoin crossed the $10 mark after spiking over 100% in approximately five hours bringing the litecoin market cap to well over $200m.
At the time of writing the price of a single litecoin has retreated to approximately $5.60.
Back in March and April this year, litecoin caught the market’s attention when it spiked approximately 10,000% in a few weeks.
The rise, which happened during the bitcoin bubble when the price of BTC rose from $15 to $266, saw litecoin’s value rise from approximately $0.05 to $5.00, and then correct to around $2.50 a couple of weeks later.
While most of the altcoins have not appreciated quite as consistently as bitcoin in the last few weeks, it seems as if their relative lag might be par for the course, catching up as investors try to diversify their cryptocurrency portfolios in an attempt to protect themselves from what many view as an inevitable crash after an historic high.
Litecoin’s sudden spike in value may be coming on as investors and traders new to the cryptocurrency scene discover a plethora of exotic financial instruments, or it may be the collective voices of the cryptocurrency hardcore who lend their support to litecoin for ideological and technical reasons.
RT’s Max Keiser lead the charge earlier this week with his tweet:
We are initiated coverage of litecoin with an interim target of $50. Newest @KeiserReport features one of the biggest players in LC
— Max Keiser (@maxkeiser) November 18, 2013
The lure of a bitcoin alternative
Litecoin’s pull as an alternative to bitcoin lies partly in its alleged faster confirmation times for transactions, which makes it an attractive prospect for businesses, and partly in its democratic design.
It was formulated by inventor Charles Lee to be resistant to ASIC mining, employing a scrypt encryption algorithm that requires miners to rely on expensive RAM in the mining hardware.
According to Lee, this makes for a broadly fairer playing field and avoids the problem of centralisation that ASICs pose to the bitcoin mining industry, where power is increasingly concentrated in a few hands.
The fundamental premise of litecoin was to keep mining a democratic process, keeping the barrier to entry low and affordable.
Some believe that this is even closer to Satoshi’s original vision than bitcoin and have put their full weight behind it. There have been both criticisms of and praise for litecoin's approach, with one group claiming:
“Litecoin is designed to be inefficient on all common computer components (both CPUs and GPUs) meaning that a malicious entity need only produce a small batch of specialized/custom hardware to overtake all the commodity mining systems combined.”
Another group refutes that argument, claiming:
“Scrypt is not designed to be inefficient, but is instead designed to be highly dependent on memory bandwidth. Since the high-speed cache RAM on modern processors already takes up most of the die space, no sizeable improvement could then be made by creating custom chips.”
It has long been posited that litecoin is silver to bitcoin’s gold, but there’s no clarity on whether this is a fair or reasonable comparison to make at present as litecoin is only just over two years old, and still has an immature market.
The other altcurrency options
Namecoin, the currency that was created to support a censorship resistant peer-to-peer DNS system saw a spike in value in the last two days, as did the recently popular peercoin, which has risen to third place in Coinmarketcap's market capital chart in the last few months.
Peercoin, created by anonymous cypherpunk Sunny King was theoretically designed to be energy efficient and lightweight, relying on a hybrid ‘proof of stake/proof of work’ scheme that incentivises its holders by rewarding them with transaction fees from the network after coins have been mined.
This year has seen a slew of new crypto-currencies entering the market, offering a host of slightly different innovations, each hoping to exploit a different ecological niche in the new crypto-economy.
Another example, primecoin, offers a proof of work algorithm that depends on mining complex arrangements of prime numbers, a function that its anonymous creator (again, Sunny King) argues is broadly useful for science and technology.
Feature image: Flickr