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Thunderstruck: Bitcoin’s Lightning Network Experiences ‘Explosive’ Growth




The Bitcoin scaling solution has gotten bigger.

Over 450 bitcoin (BTC) is held among more than 12,000 Lightning Network channels on the Bitcoin mainnet, according to data from analysis engine 1ML. Channel capacity for BTC is 100 times greater than it was in February 2018.

Between November and December alone, over 300 BTC was added to Lightning Network channels. Before this recent jump in channel capacity, the amount of BTC across the network remained below 125 for several months. Further, 1ML currently reports over 4,000 nodes on the network.

Although Lightning has experienced meteoric growth since launching on the mainnet this past January, the technology is still in testing. The concept was introduced by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in their white paper as a scaling solution for Bitcoin. At its core, Lightning is a web of payment channels built on top of the Bitcoin network that allows transactions to occur off-chain. Within this framework, only net transaction results are posted to the mainchain.

Since the concept's introduction, different groups in the Bitcoin space have started development on Lightning Network-focused projects. A couple of examples include Lightning Labs and the Elements Project. A similar initiative on the Ethereum blockchain is the Raiden Network.

When compared to Ethereum second-layer research and development, it seems that Lightning has grown at a much quicker rate. For example, there have been Lightning integrations with Poketoshi, the Twitch Pokémon game that uses a Lightning-enabled controller, as well as with the cryptocurrency-payment service CoinGate.

However, it's important to recognize the sundry concerns that Ethereum developers face. For one, Ethereum includes many Dapps that run on storage-heavy EDCCs (aka smart contracts), whereas Bitcoin, although it has been expanding, is still largely dedicated to payments.

Moreover, the Ethereum community is arguably much more concerned with governance, including issues such as diversity and inclusion, meaning there are more considerations at play when addressing improvements to the network and how it operates. If Ethereum is cultivating a community as much as it is building the technology itself (lest there be technocracy), development will likely be slower.

Comparisons aside, the Lightning Network's growth is notable considering that cryptocurrency prices have been plummeting across the board. Perhaps the increased capacity and number of channels on the network, especially in the last month, represent faith on the part of the Bitcoin community – faith that not only the crypto winter will soon end but also that Bitcoin has the potential to be successfully scaled.

Dani Putney

Dani is a full-time writer for ETHNews. They received their bachelor's degree in English writing from the University of Nevada, Reno, where they also studied journalism and queer theory. In their free time, they write poetry, play the piano, and fangirl over fictional characters. They live with their partner, three dogs, and two cats in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.

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