Lighting Labs has announced their beta Lightning Network implementation has been released on the main-net for the first time today. They say:
“This release is also the first release of lnd that has an option to run on Bitcoin’s mainnet, with the necessary safety, security, and fault-tolerance features required for real-world, real money usage.”
However, the release does not come with a wallet, aimed only at developers for now who are comfortable with using the Command Line Interface (CLI).
“Right now CLI-only, [User Interfaces] coming as soon as possible (with neutrino light client support),” they say.
This therefore can not easily be usable by ordinary bitcoiners, but developers who provide wallet infrastructure or exchanges can perhaps start incorporating it. The announcement says:
“Lnd-0.4 beta is targeted at technical users, but we believe that Lightning Apps that are simple and intuitive for non-technical users will be essential to the growth of the network.
To that end, we’ll be updating our alpha Lightning App to be compatible with lnd-0.4 beta over the coming weeks, and will follow with mobile versions as well.”
They also plan to integrate “watchtowers,” an intermediary of sorts that aims to address the fact that Lightning nodes need to be online. They say:
“In order to provide maximum safety for the funds of Lightning users, “watchtowers” will monitor the blockchain for invalid channel transactions.
Typically Lightning nodes need to be online in order to protect against these events, however watchtowers relax this constraint by outsourcing the vigilance of nodes that may have intermittent connectivity, e.g. mobile phones.
Even for nodes with adequate availability, watchtowers can serve as a secondary line of defense in the face of unplanned service outages.”
They say they have incorporated smarter path-finding as well as node metrics which provide “tools to track fees and payments at high-volume.”
It remains unclear at this stage when the wallets themselves will be released as testing the protocol to gain a pulse for average experience is otherwise quite difficult.
But the Lightning Network seems to be finally coming after years of development. It promises to in effect bundle many transactions into one on-chain transaction.
So that instead of making say 10,000 on-chain transactions, you use script contracts to bind the transactions to on-chain verification without using the chain itself. Then eventually you settle it all.
In this way, one on-chain transaction can be scaled to thousands or more coin movements between different parties, increasing the network’s capacity.
This is one part of how blockchain scalability will be addressed probably by all public and private blockchains, with an article we wrote on Truebit probably giving you a better taste of how it would really work.
There are many other different versions of it, with another different aspect of increasing scalability being sharding. Where instead of bundling transactions, you bundle nodes so that instead of all nodes verifying all transactions, 100 nodes verify 10,000 and another 100, verify another 10,000 in such a way that it is as if they all verified all transactions. Otherwise said, parallelization.
Both approaches have their own strength and weaknesses, but in combination they can allow public blockchains to scale to as good as an unlimited number of transactions while remaining fully decentralized and uncontrollable by any man or group.