The biggest challenge for bitcoin this far has been becoming more mainstream in the financial world which in many ways stems from the fact that it has always had issues with scalability. Before bitcoin can reach the heights of mainstream adoption and use, it will certainly need to deal with the very pressing issue of scalability which has always been a core concern of enthusiasts.
This is where the Lightning Network comes in – this new technology, though fairly young, has facilitated thousands of new payment channels which signals a bright future for bitcoin as well as many other digital currencies.
The Lightning Network allows bitcoin users to open direct payment channels for transactions between one another on a global scale. As of January 19 this year, the Lightning Network only had 89 channels but this has since grown immensely – by May 24, the network had grown to over 6,600 direct connections which might seem small in comparison to the mainstream financial sector but represents a huge leap forward.
While there is a significant level of genuine interest in the technology, the fact that the Lightning Network is yet to be fully developed makes the adoption of the revolutionary technology relatively low. Among the issues that need to be addressed by the developers are double-sided funding and no watching for offline transfers. However, a more pressing one lies within the Lightning Network itself and the developers are quite keen on this one.
A Major Upgrade
The platform has just begun its journey towards global adoption but the developers are already considering a significant upgrade that will involve major architectural changes to the technology.
The key issue is that the Lightning Network requires the users to store a significant amount of data which, in turn, makes it very difficult to download and run it. In an effort to provide a viable solution to this problem, the developers have recently published a new proposal that presents an alternative and simplified way of making the off-chain transactions. The proposed alternative, called “eltoo”, was co-authored by several lightning developers including Lightning Labs co-founder ‘Laolu’ Osuntokun and Blockstream’s Christian Decker and Rusty Russell.
Eltoo not only aims to condense the amount of data the users are required to provide but also ensures that their bitcoin is safe. A major setback for the existing Lightning Network is that it depends on “toxic information” which means that in the case that a user broadcasts older data, there is a possibility that they will lose money.
“This actually happened to me,” Decker said. “I had an old lightning node on my laptop. I restored it. I didn’t know I didn’t have the newest state. The guy closed the connection because they knew it was an old state! Because he could steal it. Which he did, by the way.”
With eltoo, only the most recent off-chain transaction data is stored thus solving the “data symmetry” problem. Eltoo is a phonetic spelling of “L2” which stands for layer-two and is used to describe technologies like the Lightning Network which offer off-chain transactions.