BitcoinKnowledge Center

What Is Lightning Network?

The Lightning Network is a solution designed to solve the problem of transaction speed on the Bitcoin blockchain. It was introduced in a white paper by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in February 2015.

Problems With Bitcoin

When Bitcoin was launched in January 2009, transaction speed was not a major concern. In fact, for the first eight years of its existence, it operated quite well. As Bitcoin entered a raging bull market in 2017, it became abundantly clear that transaction speed was becoming a major detriment to the long-term sustainability of the crypto network.

Some experts believe that Nakamoto poorly designed the process for validating transactions on the blockchain network.

As we discussed in previous sections of Blockademy, a consensus algorithm known as proof of work (PoW) is used to validate Bitcoin transactions. Unfortunately, PoW can be a slow and cumbersome process. The transaction processing capacity is limited in terms of size and frequency.

The average block creation time is 10 minutes, and the block size is limited to 1 megabyte. Therefore, the average time to process a transaction on the network is three to seven seconds.

Lightning Network Solution

Lightning Network was never intended to replace PoW. It is used to reduce the burden on the Bitcoin blockchain. The key ingredient of the Lightning Network is the fact that all transactions occur off-chain.

It operates on top of the Bitcoin blockchain known as a ‘layer 2’ protocol. By adding another layer to the blockchain, it enables users to create payment channels between any two parties. These payment channels have no expiry, allowing both parties to conduct multiple transactions.

When all activity between the two parties completes, the information is transferred to the main network. All transactions between the two parties are recorded as a single transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain for efficiency.

A large portion of the Bitcoin community has never endorsed the Lightning Network because transactions occur outside of the main blockchain. They argue that decentralization is being compromised each time a transaction is conducted off-chain.

Even though the Lightning Network has not been well received by the entire Bitcoin community, it holds a great deal of promise in terms of solving Bitcoin’s scalability problem. Therefore, the network will continue to play an important role in managing Bitcoin’s ever-increasing volume of transactions.

Brief Summary of Lightning Network

  • Lightning Network is designed to solve the problem of Bitcoin transaction speed.
  • It was introduced by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja in February 2015.
  • In 2017, transaction speed became detrimental to the long-term viability of BTC.
  • Lightning Network removed some of the burden from the Bitcoin blockchain.
  • All transactions on the Lightning Network occur off-chain.
  • The transactions occur outside of the Bitcoin blockchain network.
  • The Lightning Network is known as a ‘layer 2’ protocol.
  • Many Bitcoiners believe that the Lightning Network reduces decentralization.
  • They argue that off-chain transactions compromise decentralization.
  • Overall, the Lightning Network is still very popular within the Bitcoin community.
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