Bitcoin may have been in existence since 2009, but the search for a solution to its scaling problems continues. If Bitcoin is to become a reliable payment option, then it needs to enable faster payments option without sacrificing security, privacy and availability. The answer, many believe, is the Lightning Network.
When Bitcoin arrived, it was introduced as a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash” that “would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” But that idea is largely dead, unless there is a means to scale Bitcoin and thus resurrect it.
The Lightning Network is an overlay network powered by Bitcoin smart contracts that enable instantaneous Bitcoin payments. It was launched in 2018 and has been growing steadily since, with the node count and network capacity steadily increasing. Without a tool like Lightning, Bitcoin is too slow and expensive to be used for everyday spending, which is exactly what it is supposed to be used for. Furthermore, as more users join the Bitcoin ecosystem, the more expensive using Bitcoin becomes. This is a scalability problem that needs to be overcome.
What a Coindesk Research Study says
A recently published Coindesk Research Study provides an in-depth view of the Lightning Network and its capabilities. It looks at the Lightning technology, the node capacity, and especially its weaknesses, including the different forms of attack it may be vulnerable to, as explained by developers interviewed for the report. It also asked developers about their prime concerns for the network and what needs to happen in order for Lightning to be adopted going forward. Although many had different answers, there were some common themes, such as methodical and careful development of the network, the need for more users to test the network and a need to consider the fact that in the end, Lightning may not end up working at very large scale, because in its present form, it may not scale to billions of users.