Lightning Network: Enthusiasm Mixed with Criticisms

The Lightning Network for Bitcoin was officially released in beta recently, but the system remains risky and unstable.

The Lightning Network for Bitcoin at first sight looks like a collection of nodes with arbitrary connections between them. While the network is still considered in the test stage, in fact, it is moving some funds, and has more than 1,500 nodes added in a few weeks.

On March 15, the launch of an official beta version for Lightning Network tools was announced. LIghtning Labs, the engineering force behind the network, released version lnd 0.4-beta.

“With this release, lnd has gained a considerable feature set, deeper cross-implementation compatibility, a new specialized wallet seed, comprehensive fault-tolerance logic, a multitude of bug fixes, and much more! 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,” wrote the Lightning Labs team.

Ind is the Lightning Network Daemon, this time with added features for developers, and this is the first version that can also run on the main net.

“As this is the first mainnet release of lnd, we recommend that users experiment with only small amounts,” warned the developers.

It may be a long time before users get access to the low fees and instant transactions, and at this stage, the Lightning Network comes with warnings.

The Lightning Network Has Fans

The Lightning Network is seen as one of the potential breakthroughs for Bitcoin, and has several prominent backers. The backers in a recent round of funding include Vlad Tenev of Robinhood, and Charlie Lee of Litecoin, among others.

But the biggest support comes from large developer teams donating their time. So even if the LN has glitches, there is a big chance they would be addressed in a timely manner.

The Lightning Network Still Has Critics

The LN has two types of critics. There are the ones simply advising caution, and growing the network gradually. Some remind users that LN connections and nodes may not work for moving funds to and from exchanges, at least for now. But there are critics in principle, and it is no surprise Roger Ver, who is backing Bitcoin Cash above all others, has spoken harshly of the system:

But at this point, the LN has at least dispelled the myth that it is always “18 months ahead in the future”.

Lightning Labs Does the Work

Compared to ICOs seeking above $15 million to create a beta version of an app, the financing for Lightning Labs is small. What is more, the fundraising round came only after a lot of work was done on the protocol:

This may add some positive publicity for Bitcoin, where in fact a lot of innovation happens behind the scenes, with much more concentrated developer talent compared to altcoin projects and recent ICOs.

Other Coins Still Lag Behind

The LN is still not available for other coins – no such structure of nodes and connections exists for Litecoin, Decred, or other assets planning to have this layer of transactions.

And altcoins like Nano (XRB) have their fans, comparing the ease of use in contrast with Bitcoin. Even with the LN in place, there are many hurdles in sending Bitcoin, and fees make small transactions non viable.

The Future is Still Uncertain

Bitcoin transaction levels continue dropping, now to levels recalling the summer of 2015. The exact reasons for this are unknown, and the drop came sharply after the prices went down from the December peak.

So the usage of the LN will be uncertain, and years may pass again before the system is stable enough.

The view of Andreas Antonopoulos, one of the most famous ambassadors for Bitcoin, remains cautiously favorable.

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