We hear more and more talk these days about alt coins like ethereum, litecoin, dash, monero and others. All these coins do something slightly different than bitcoin which gives them a certain level of unique value that makes people want to use them for that unique reason.
Ethereum is a blockchain API. Litecoin is like bitcoin with less network congestion and minor speed changes. Dash has masternodes that allow for instant and private transactions. Monero is bitcoin with a built in mixer. So all these alt coins are built on the same proof of work blockchain as bitcoin but they do things slightly differently.
By this stage we all know that bitcoin is having some scaling issues. We've already had 2 bitcoin
dividends chinese knockoffs forks that attempt to address this problem and there are most likely more on the horizon. Bitcoin transactions are quite pricey and it is arguably a bit of an issue for the future of bitcoin. So what can we do about it?
Well, that's where the lightning network comes in. We already had segwit and nobody has really integrated it yet, but I suspect a lot of people are holding out for lightning in order to do a big bitcoin performance update. Lightning network will create a 2nd layer on top of the blockchain that will allow for millions of transactions per second. It's basically a possible solution for fixing the transaction fee / throughput issues of bitcoin.
So when will bitcoin integrate this? Probably not for a while. Bitcoin has a lot at stake and it doesn't want to risk causing issues to what it currently has going. Nobody is going to start running the new lightning code unless it has been fully tested and used in a production environment.
But that leads us to the main question: how do you test lightning in a production environment?
Litecoin to the rescue!
That's where litecoin comes in. Litecoin is smaller and more nimble than bitcoin. And litecoin is like the little brother always trying to impress the older brother by doing cool, new things.
By your powers combined, I am... wait, what?
Litecoin be like, "Hey bro, check out this new lightning network I'm running! I'm cool like you too now, huh?"
Bitcoin: "Yes little brother, you've done good."
Litecoin: "Ah gee, thanks bro! You're the best!"
So lightning network will be deployed on the litecoin network first since it is much easier to reach a consensus on how to implement these features into litecoin, aka the dev version of bitcoin.
We have to understand that because of this workflow litecoin is basically acting as the dev branch for bitcoin. When a new technology like lightning comes around it involves much risk and testing. It is really hard to test this with bitcoin. But with litecoin it is a bit easier. It is easier to integrate into litecoin due to the smaller size of the project. And since litecoin works 99.9% the same as bitcoin we know if it works well in litecoin then it will work well in bitcoin.
So litecoin is the dev version. Litecoin is the dev version for lightning network. It will be the first to adopt it and the first to verify that it is indeed ready for a production environment. And once lightning is ready for production it will be deployed to bitcoin.
Not just litecoin
And it's like this with not just litecoin. Other coins like dash and monero have technological pieces that can also be deployed to bitcoin if they prove themselves as valuable and necessary.
You have to understand that we are still super early in the crypto space. Most people don't even know how bitcoin works let alone what features would improve it. So most people don't even know what makes a good crypto.
So we have all these other coin projects trying unique things that bitcoin isn't doing. Each coin changes a few variables and tries something different, well at least the ones worth paying attention to.
But nobody fully knows the right way to do crypto, just as nobody knows the right way to tackle any new industry. You let people get in there and compete. Through competition and experimentation we will slowly start to discover what makes the most sense for what we are trying to accomplish. And with time the best utility will win.
You only make bitcoin stronger
But there is something we have to understand to all this and most people completely miss it:
Most of these alt coins are an argument for bitcoin.
All of these alt coins only make bitcoin stronger, for a number of reasons. One of the reasons that people tend to gloss over is that most of these variations that alt coins do can simply be copied over to bitcoin.
If it turns out that having a masternodes network on top of a blockchain is key to running a successful blockchain then bitcoin will just copy this over from dash and built it into its protocol. There is nothing that stops bitcoin from implementing the good ideas from other coins (give or take).
If it turns out that having built in privacy features like mixing of coins then bitcoin can build this into its protocol.
And if it turns out that this lightning network goes smoothly with litecoin then bitcoin will build it into its protocol.
This only makes bitcoin stronger and it makes all the dev alts weaker. Bitcoin already has all the attention and the first mover advantage. People are already behind bitcoin and know and trust the brand. People already have bitcoin built into their shopping carts and stores. People already have bitcoin on their phone and know how to use it.
All bitcoin has to do is pick and choose which features and technologies to use from other alt coins and it just keeps eating up the competition.
This is a huge advantage which makes it really hard for other coins to compete, especially in the currency space.
But muh exceptions
Now sure, there are some alt coins like Ethereum and IOTA that are foundationally different than bitcoin, but most aren't. Litecoin, Dash and Monero are all alts that can be merged into bitcoin when the new features have been accepted by the community and tested fully. Coins like Ethereum and IOTA are much harder to merge into bitcoin because they differ in more fundamental ways.
Nevertheless, even with these coins it is still possible to learn from and take parts of these different coins. If Ethereum shifts to a hybrid proof of stake system bitcoin can sit back and watch how it goes. If IOTA does really well because the only transaction costs are the energy of solving a simple hash itself, well then bitcoin knows it better figure out how to bring those transaction costs down. And if IOTA does really well because using a Tangle/DAG is better than a blockchain, well then, bitcoin may be in a bit of a tangle ?.
Filed under:Internet / Tech, Litecoin, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, Spicy Coins, Spicy Internets, Dem Alts