Grasping Lightning: Mapping the Key Players in Bitcoin’s Next Phase

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Lightning is one among the foremost promising technologies within the space immediately , even drawing in Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Given current technical constraints, blockchains don’t support many users, including the world’s population. Lightning could multiply the transactions possible, while making transactions faster (like a millisecond) and cheaper.

Nerds have eagerly been putting the technology to the test. a variety of lightning games has begin , like one channeling the hit game Fortnite. And it’s possible to shop for Domino’s pizza and Amazon gift cards with this new internet money.

But while, yes, lightning kind of works, there is a lot of labor to be done. The technology remains risky and tough to use. Although the theory’s there, how it plays call at practice remains to be seen.

Here’s a breakdown of the large players across the world tinkering with the underlying technology a day , trying to enhance it so it doesn’t “suck” anymore.

Bringing the thought to life
The lowest-level coders are performing on so-called lightning implementations, the code that puts the payment network into practice. Each has its own approach to the network.

The best-known of those is LND, created by Lightning Labs, with CEO Elizabeth Stark at the helm. Dorsey invested within the firm early in 2018.

Behind the scenes, there are more developers performing on implementations like Blockstream’s c-lightning and France-based Acinq’s Eclair. While the developers behind each of those softwares tend to specialise in different features, and they are written in several programming languages, all three are interoperable, meaning transactions are often sent between them with no bumps. to the present day, developers from these three groups still hold bi-weekly IRC chats to debate future changes to the protocol specifications.

To confuse matters further, there are still other lightning implementations on the perimeter . With a decentralized payment network, anyone can make their own version.

Rust-lightning may be a security-minded implementation headed by Square Crypto engineer Matt Corallo, who’s been writing bitcoin code since he was an adolescent . Japan-based startup Nayuta has built a lightning implementation specifically geared toward the web of Things. As more and more devices, whether toasters or TVs, hook up with the web and gather data, these same devices may have to form tiny payments, too, to say, automatically charge an electrical car, the corporate contends. And bitcoin’s lightning could also be the sole payment system within the world that permits for payments that tiny .

elizabeth-stark
Elizabeth Stark onstage at Consensus 2018.
None of those coders is flashy. They put out announcements about how they’ve successfully created “multi-path payments” or “watchtowers” from time to time. While clouded in esoteric tech-speak, these announcements essentially mean that the technology is improving, and hopefully getting easier to use.

Wallets
This is all happening within the background. But what about actually using lightning, albeit it’s risky?

Right now it isn’t easy. Most of the most-used wallets out there, like Coinbase and Blockchain.info, don’t support lightning payments yet because the technology remains experimental. (There are exceptions, like Electrum, a long-standing light-client wallet that added support for lightning last year.)

For the foremost part, a parallel ecosystem of daredevil developers are creating completely separate bitcoin wallets that allow users to send and receive lightning payments.

There’s a lot to settle on from. Acinq’s mobile wallet Phoenix is one among the oldest and most-employed non-custodial wallets, meaning users have full control of their private keys.

Lightning desktop wallet Zap started as a one-person side project by young developer Jack Mallers. One feature of the wallet power users love is that it hooks up with what’s referred to as a “bitcoin node.” This stores every on-chain bitcoin transaction made in its 11 years, the foremost secure way of using bitcoin. Zap allows you to make lightning transactions from your smartphone, while running one among these clunky full nodes reception .

Wallets like Breez and BlueWallet are taking different approaches to putting together a slicker interface for lightning.

And that’s just the tip of the lighting bolt.

Getting lightning
All this assumes users have already got bitcoin.

If they do, they will use one among these wallets to send to a lightning “channel,” sort of a separate specialized bitcoin account secured by a sensible contract that allows you to start making lightning payments.

acinq-2
acinq
But if users want to shop for lightning-powered bitcoins directly with USD, skipping a step, they enter a highly experimental realm.

Most other major exchanges like Binance, Coinbase and Huobi do not have that capability yet while the technology remains maturing. BTCC, for instance , told CoinDesk that “[m]ost people don’t understand Lightning Network at the present . we’ll support Lightning Network a touch later to accumulate more user adoption.”

Exchange Bitfinex is that the largest exchange thus far to adopt lightning, meaning users can deposit or withdraw payments within the experimental sort of the digital currency. But this makes up alittle overall percentage of its transactions thus far . Meanwhile, Breez lets users in 35 countries buy and sell lightning directly with a mastercard .

While adoption across bitcoin companies is minimal for now, the goal for several of those players on the vanguard fringe of bitcoin is that when lightning is mature enough, most bitcoin wallets and exchanges will absorb it.

If user experience challenges aren’t getting within the way, lightning could at some point become the dominant method of bitcoin payments. It offers cheaper and faster payments, after all.

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