If you are running a full Bitcoin node then you will know that Linux have a very good line of command at the moment. This alone will make you want to load up Docker instance, but if you are intimidated by this then you are not alone. In January, a company who creates technology to scale Bitcoin with real money made a daring call. It was found that there were bugs in the system and they also threatened to part users from their funds as well. They did all of this while boasting their own slogan, being “reckless”. When you look at the lightning network, this is going to push transactions into the off-chain channels and this will then allow cryptocurrency to be received without having to mine blocks. On top of this, you would also not have to worry about paying the miner’s fees either. This has been moving ahead over the last couple of months and a lot of people have their hopes running high.
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When you look at ACINQ, the company who is behind the Éclair implementation, you’ll find that they have unveiled an Android wallet application. This launched at the start of April and this can be used to send lighting payments. The problem here is that the app cannot receive payments yet. This can cause problems, as you can surely understand.
So let’s look at Lightning Labs. They are the company who are behind the “Ind” addition to the lightning network. They posted a blog post that showed a person called Carol buying some socks using Lighting payments. They made it look as easy as using a credit card and this certainly had a lot of heads turning. Lighting essentially promises to try and bring Bitcoin back to the point where it was once used to buy things like pizza.
When you look at the beta of Lighting Labs you will see that it is ready for use in the mainnet but the problem is that the company themselves have since tweeted that people should only do this with very small payments to begin with. They have stated that this is to try and lower the amount of risk that their users experience. Lightning Labs are yet to come out with a mobile version and the desktop app is still restricted to the testing phase. This means that you can only use fake money at the moment. The same applies to the Ind wallet which is called Zap on IOS. The lighting wallet has been developed by Alex Bosworth who is known for his work.
The frenzy of all this activity will continue to push through rapid development but for those who have no idea what all of this means, you will be waiting for a very long time. Jack Mallers is the developer behind the testing program and he isn’t getting discouraged by any of this. He told CoinDesk that it will soon be good for those who don’t have any technical experience at all. He believes that one day it will be good enough so that it can be used on exchanges and that it may even be good enough for Amazon as well. He wants it to become something that everyone can use.
The question here is that those who want to use Lightning will have to wait for the very technical features to come around. They would also have to wait until some of these strange features are ironed out a little bit more. One of the main things that needs to be smoothed out is Watchtower. When you look at the way that the smart contract is designed, you will soon see that it is entirely possible for any one user to steal the funds from another user. This is risky but it is possible for that user to steal their funds back if they login during a certain space of time. Lighting is going one step further by trying to initiate nodes. These nodes will work by watching the network and it will punish anyone who tries to do this.
There are several things that need to be done before this gets released to the market. Several developers are working on something called splicing and this means that a user can send more Bitcoin than what they have in their channel. They can do this by adding funds from other accounts, to make a single payment. This mechanism may not be necessary but it is going to give Lightning a lot of appeal. Bosworth is going to be working on another feature as well. This is known as being a submarine swap and it is a version of the atomic swap. One side of the swap is done on a chain and the other is done off the chain. When you look at lightning and the ability it has to lock up funds in a contract, it’s easy to see how Lighting could then go on to swap between Litecoin and Bitcoin, or any other currency for that matter. Bosworth believes that this technology could mean that Lightning can be used on decentralised exchanges. A swap provider would have to be present and this provider would not be allowed to take the coins without giving you something back. This would be known as being a lock and it would go a long way in making sure that the whole thing is secure.
The main problem is that this is not the only issue that it faces. This is just the tip of the iceberg and the main issue really does lie with customer experience. Lightning has a ton of challenges ahead and even though it’s easy to be negative, there are exciting times ahead.
One problem is that when a user creates a channel, they actually have to have a certain number of confirmations before they can make sure that it has been accepted. The user then needs to keep on looking at their own channel and even though the Watchtower is going to help with this, it is going to take a very long time to build. A lot of people are concerned that if they drop their phone in some water, what will happen to their lightning channel then?
Lightning’s interfaces are far worse than that of Bitcoin but that being said, Bitcoin has had way more time to try and perfect theirs. There aren’t a ton of people who are working to try and get this sorted out, but a the end of the day, something is better than nothing and this could mean great things for the future of cryptocurrency.