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Digital currency surges in value – and it’s not Bitcoin

As the value of Bitcoin balloons towards $1000, an alternative digital currency called Litecoin is experiencing a mini boom of its own.

Currently valued at just over $28 (£17), Litecoin (opens in new tab) has nearly doubled its value in the last 24 hours alone. Less than one month ago, one litecoin was worth just $2 (£1.20).

It is not the first digital currency to emerge from the shadow of Bitcoin. Coinmarketcap (opens in new tab)lists 37 other virtual currencies on its website, the majority of which have seen their value increase in recent months. However, Litecoin's $657 million market cap is nearly 10 times that of its nearest rivals Peercoin and Namecoin.

The currency was created in 2011, two years after Bitcoin's inception, designed by its creator Charlie Lee to be more accessible, faster and more abundant than the currency that inspired it.

"(Litecoin) differs from Bitcoin in that it can be efficiently mined with consumer-grade hardware," The currency claims on its website. "Litecoin provides faster transaction confirmations (2.5 minutes on average) and uses a memory-hard, scrypt-based mining proof-of-work algorithm to target the regular computers and GPUs most people already have."

Billed as the silver to Bitcoin's gold, Litecoin has been labelled as redundant by some sceptics, as the number of retailers that accepts it still remains very low.

Speculators have suggested that Bitcoin's value could soon exceed $1000 (£614) (opens in new tab), however such an inflated price may damage the currency by making it less accessible to mainstream users. Some financial analysts have also suggested that this soaring value is due to a market bubble.

Bitcoin's radically fluctuating value in recent months has led to a hearing with the US Senate's Homeland Security and Banking Committee (opens in new tab) to examine the behaviour of the bitcoin market and its viability as a competitor to traditional currencies.

Meanwhile, Amazon announced last week the introduction of its own virtual currency (opens in new tab), 'Amazon Coins', which can be used to buy digital products like apps and games.

Image credit: Btckeychain/ Flickr