Readers may remember our coverage of a Roger Ver interview from a few days ago where the veteran Bitcoiner and entrepreneur told Bitcoin Uncensored that Lightning Network was still untested and could take a long time to get off the ground. At the time, he was right. But this morning CCN can report that a successful test, using Bitcoin testnet coins, has been conducted by developers at Blockstream.
In the test, the developers used an ASCII cat picture as a demo product. The developer below can be seen manipulating a combination of bitcoind and lightningd, the Bitcoin daemon and Lightning daemon respectively, to instantly purchase a cat picture that developer Rusty Russell has up for sale. Some of the information in the video may be hard to understand, so we’ll do our best here to make it simpler.
To begin with, Christian Decker has to fund his instance of Lightning with some testnet bitcoins. This requires an initial confirmation from the Bitcoin network itself. Presumably, the same coins can be used at multiple destinations on the Lightning Network. (The whole point of the Lightning Network is faster transactions by doing them off of the main chain.) Once his Lightning Network instance is funded, he is able to open a “channel” with the prospective recipient’s wares and send the required funds. In the future, Lightning Network sellers will have the ability to utilize other stable nodes in order to relay payment and further decrease congestion. But as noted in the video, this test transaction requires “just one hop.”
The Lightning client itself provides confirmation that the transaction has succeeded. If a company like Newegg were using the software in sales, they would presumably send additional confirmations by e-mail. However, immediate applications would tend to more financial purposes, such as exchanges, who could use the network to both send and receive bitcoins for fundings and withdrawals. This could lead to increased arbitrage opportunities for Bitcoin traders.
In the near future, web developers will be able to begin work on Lightning Network store frameworks, according to a post to the Lightning developer mailing list.
We found a few bugs in corner cases and hit some known FIXMEs, but also made lightningd more robust against misconfiguration. There are a few rough edges that we’d still like to smooth and some documentation that we’d like to write before the 0.5 release. Then, we want to create libraries to allow web developers to play with constructing their own cat picture stores!
The possibilities of Lightning network to help scale the capacity and speed of the Bitcoin network are many and have far-reaching implications. Currently, Blockstream is in a race with other competing scaling solutions to provide the best way for Bitcoin to handle its current congestion and future, incoming users. For everyday users, all of these developments, devoid of politicking, present a brighter future.
The Bitcoin blockchain currently sits at around 100 gigabytes, and certainly, any solution which can keep its rate of bloat in check is going to gain serious traction. There may, however, be initial technical debt as exchanges, shopkeepers, and other developers learn how to utilize it.
Watch the demo below.
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