Bitcoin Lightning Payments Are Slowly Becoming Less Reckless
Bitcoin Lightning Payments Are Slowly Becoming Less Reckless
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09.05.2018
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You're running a full bitcoin node, know Linux and have decent command line skills. Okay? Cool, go ahead and spin up a Docker instance.

If that sounds intimidating, you're not alone.

But as recently as January, using the lightning network, a layer-two technology for scaling bitcoin, on "mainnet" - ie, with real money - called for these rarified levels of technical expertise. Not to mention a strong stomach - bugs lurked in early implementations, threatening to part users from their funds (early adopters boasted of their prowess with the slogan #reckless).

Luckily, the lightning network, which pushes transactions into off-chain payment channels, allowing the cryptocurrency to be received without waiting for a block to be mined or paying the associated miner's fees, has moved ahead by leaps and bounds in the past few months.

As such, hopes are running high.

For instance, ACINQ, the company behind the "eclair" lightning implementation, unveiled an Android wallet app at the beginning of April that can be used to send mainnet lightning payments. But the app can't receive payments yet.

And Lightning Labs, the company behind the "lnd" implementation of the lightning network, recently published a blog post envisioning non-techy end-user Carol buying a pair of socks using lightning as easily as if she were swiping a credit card.

In short, lightning promises to bring bitcoin back to the days when it could be used to buy a pizza.

Indeed, the newest beta version of Lightning Labs' lnd is, in fact, ready for mainnet use, but the company recently tweeted, "we recommend that users experiment with only small amounts (#craefulgang #craefulgang #craefulgang)!" playing off a joke in John Oliver's recent bit about cryptocurrency.

To minimize the risk for users, Lightning Labs has not released a mobile version, and the desktop app is still restricted to "testnet" - that is, fake money. Same with the lnd wallet for iOS called Zap; the lightning wallet, HTLC.me, developed by well-known developer Alex Bosworth; and another iOS wallet for lightning, called CoinClip, released by developer Kenneth Perry, aka thothonegan.

Still, the frenzy of developer activity on lightning network will continue to push its rapid development, but for noobs - whom polite society calls "inexperienced users" - it's still a waiting game.

Although Jack Mallers, the developer behind a testnet lnd wallet for iOS called Zap, isn't getting discouraged. With optimism, he told CoinDesk, lightning will soon be good enough for more non-technical users, adding:

With that said, though, there's still no official launch date for a lightning network application that everyday people can use.

"We're so used to roadmaps of products where there's a deadline," Mallers continued, but lightning is "a protocol and not a product so there's not a ship date."