What are lumens?
Lumens are the native asset of the Stellar network.
Native means that lumens are built into the network. Asset is how the network refers to an item of value that is stored on the ledger.
One lumen is a unit of digital currency, like a bitcoin.
While you can’t hold a lumen in your hand, they are essential to the Stellar network—they contribute to the ability to move money around the world and to conduct transactions between different currencies quickly and securely.
Where did lumens come from?
In 2014 the Stellar network launched with 100 billion stellars, the original name of the network’s native asset.
In 2015, with the launch of the upgraded network, the name of the native asset changed from stellar to lumen to distinguish it from the Stellar network itself and Stellar.org, the nonprofit organization that contributes to development of the network.
Why does the Stellar network need a native asset?
The Stellar network offers all of the innovative features of a shared public ledger on a distributed database—often referred to as blockchain technology. The Stellar network’s built-in currency, the lumen, serves two purposes:
First, lumens play a small anti-spam role.
Each transaction has a minor fee—0.00001 lumens—associated with it. This fee prevents users with malicious intentions from flooding the network (otherwise known as a DoS attack). Lumens work as a security token, mitigating DoS attacks that attempt to generate large numbers of transactions or consume large amounts of space in the ledger.
Similarly, the Stellar network requires all accounts to hold a minimum balance of 20 lumens. This requirement ensures that accounts are authentic, which helps the network maintain a seamless flow of transactions.
Second, lumens may facilitate multi-currency transactions.
Lumens sometimes facilitate trades between pairs of currencies between which there is not a large direct market, acting as a bridge. This function is possible when there is a liquid market between the lumen and each currency involved.
What is XLM?
XLM is shorthand for lumen. Most currencies have 3-letter codes (USD, EUR, AUD, BTC) as an international standard.
The technical term for these shorthand codes is ISO 4217. Learn more about ISO codes.