Created in October 2011 by ex Google and Coinbase engineer, Charlie Lee, Litecoin is a fork of Bitcoin’s source code that posits itself as “a silver to Bitcoin’s gold.” Technically, Litecoin is nearly identical to Bitcoin with key differences relating to block time, supply, hashing algorithm, and initial distribution. Litecoin aimed to keep the best aspects of Bitcoin while making some optimizations for its use as a medium of exchange.
Notably, Litecoin implements 2.5 minute block times and an 84 million max supply. Charlie Lee’s original thinking was that quicker block confirmations would increase transaction throughput and reduce the amount of time merchants would need for block confirmations. Additionally, he thought the 84 million max supply would prevent the coin from becoming too scarce and expensive. Litecoin uses Scrypt, a memory intensive hashing algorithm, in order to better allow individuals to mine Litecoin with commodity hardware (although ASICs have been developed for Litecoin mining over the past few years). Finally, Charlie Lee, recognizing the mistakes of the few altcoins launched prior to Litecoin, wanted Litecoin to be launched in a fair manner, electing to only do a 150 coin (3 block) premine to allow people to get in early.
Charlie Lee left Coinbase in June 2017 to head the Litecoin foundation, which stewards the Litecoin project, and finances Litecoin Core development.