SegWit Activation Complete, Litecoin Charts a Course for the Future

Riding on a wave of recent successes, the Litecoin Foundation in combination with Litecoin Core, has released a new roadmap that outlines plans for the next 12 months – and beyond.

The roadmap arrives a time when litecoin, the fifth-largest cryptocurrency network by market capitalization, is basking in the limelight after a long dormancy.

Earlier this month, the project activated a scaling solution called SegWit, bringing renewed focus on the cryptocurrency. Also this month, Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange, added support for litecoin, another win for the cryptocurrency that has long been under the shadows of bigger players like bitcoin and ethereum.

And with this technical and commercial progress, the price of LTC, the token that powers the litecoin blockchain, is now up to $30, compared to a year ago, when it was hovering around $5.

Capitalizing on this momentum, the litecoin roadmap spells out plans to expand the project’s development community and encourage broader user adoption with new tools that make the cryptocurrency more accessible to newcomers. Also detailed in the document, are goals to implement several cutting-edge technologies originally intended for bitcoin.

CoinDesk spoke with Charlie Lee, the founder of litecoin and the managing director of Lightcoin Foundation, to get a rundown on what he felt were the highlights of the roadmap.

At the top of his list: smart contracts and atomic swaps.

Smarter contracts

Perhaps not a surprising addition to the list, litecoin’s quest for smart contracts comes at a time when attention on ethereum (the platform most associated with this capability) continues to remain strong.

Smart contracts, which allow cryptocurrency users to stipulate if-then conditions around how they want money to be paid out, are also much sought-after on bitcoin, where several projects have laid out plans to attempt to upgrade the network for this capability.

Litecoin, based on a fork of the bitcoin code, already allows for simple smart contracts like multi-signatures, where two parties need to sign off on a payment. But the activation of SegWit has opened the door for more complex scripts.

Namely, ‘smart crypt vault’ was one item on the roadmap Lee was particularly excited about. The technology combines MAST (an acronym for Merkelized abstract syntax trees) and covenants – script combinations that restrict how coins are spent.

Together, they could allow litecoin users to add more complex conditions on payments, similar to what is achieved by ethereum.

Spearheaded by the former bitcoin developer Johnson Lau who switched to litecoin after SegWit activated on litecoin, MAST also improves scalability and increases privacy. As the story goes, Lau had been trying for some time to get MAST implemented on bitcoin, but frustrated by the bitcoin political divide, he joined litecoin.

Room for Lightning

Beyond smart contracts, Lee also stressed intentions to do “whatever is needed” to speed the deployment of Lightning Network on litecoin. Progress is being made. In the last month, several groups have actively begun testing the off-chain payment solution, originally designed for bitcoin, on the litecoin network.

But, with an eye on the bigger picture, Lee indicated that he sees Lightning as setting the stage for another long anticipated technology: atomic cross-chain swaps.

Once Lightning is operating on a second blockchain – in this case vertcoin, which has already activated SegWit – cross-chain atomic swaps between the two chains will be possible. (Atomic swaps allow two people on different blockchains to exchange tokens without an intermediary.)

As part of that, Lee envisions a day when all coins (bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum, monero and more) will work together seamlessly. “All these technologies will be in the background, and you won’t really care what you are using,” he said.

But change won’t happen overnight.

Lee remarked:

“It is a slow process. Most of the Lightning teams don’t have incentive yet to test on another altcoin. Once they get Lightning working really well on litecoin, we will work to see if we can get an atomic cross-chain swap.”

Wallet support

Litecoin is also planning to build out its consumer infrastructure to enable users to send and receive litecoin more easily.

As part of that, and this will come as good news to many, litecoin plans to update its standalone Android mobile wallet.

Developed in cooperation with the team that produced bitcoin’s Breadwallet, LoafWallet will soon be adding support for the Coinbase Buy Widget. LoafWallet is a simple payment verification (SPV) wallet designed for easy mobile use.

The widget will allow newcomers to digital currencies to purchase small amounts of litecoin on the fly, without having to go through the work of setting up a Coinbase account.

Another update in the works is a new release of the popular Electrum LTC desktop wallet for litecoin. Litecoin also supports other hardware wallets, like Ledger and Trezor.

Building the future

Critical to the success of any cryptocurrency, though, is having key developers focused on the code. Along that lines, the aim of the Litecoin Foundation, which was established earlier this year to replace the Litecoin Association, is to continue to look for more ways to raise money.

Lee indicated more people are donating to the Foundation, and they are doing things to raise money, like selling litecoin-branded items.

The group already has enough funds to hire two new full-time developers.

“We are in effect going to pay people to work on litecoin,” Lee said.

Looking ahead, with SegWith now activated, litecoin has put together a new wishlist, including Schnorr signatures and confidential transactions, solutions that promise to improve scalability, efficiency and privacy. Both are still in the research and development stage, but the hope is to deploy them, at some point, along with other scaling solutions.

Lee said:

“Litecoin does not need a scaling solution right now, but we are looking into it. Currently the most promising way to scale is with flex cap. It is all up in the air right now, but we are keeping are eyes on it. Flexcap, as the name suggests, are flexible caps on the block size.”

True, maybe litecoin does not need a scaling solution now, but it will if continues along its current growth path, it may.

And, planning ahead is not a bad strategy.

Tunnel, blurred lights image via Shutterstock

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