Speed modulates the technological landscape: it converts dynamic flows into conditions of relative stasis; it overruns emerging developments with a history that has left it behind; and it transforms the clarity of steady mobilization into a series of blurs.

Speed, once again, is at the center of the competitive cryptocurrency space.

Enter Lightning:

Dubbed a potential game-changer, the Lightning Network is a “secondary” payment protocol that potentially allows for instantaneous micropayments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As transactions would be grafted onto a layer above the blockchain, significantly increasing its speed while decreasing its cost, the Lightning Network may serve as a solution to Bitcoin’s scalability problem.

Scalability is an industry-wide issue, as size and frequency limitations compromise the transactional capacities of just about every functioning cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin in a position to charge ahead with the new protocol, other cryptocurrencies are preparing to test or implement comparable versions of their own.

  • Litecoin, whose protocol is perhaps the most similar to Bitcoin’s, has been working with Lightning Labs to launch the network simultaneously with Bitcoin.
  • Stellar added lightning implementation to its 2018 Stellar Roadmap; Jeremy Rubin, who currently leads Stellar’s lightning network development, states that “It’s fairly close to working to the point where the public can test with real money, but not necessarily at the point where people can operate a business on it quite yet.”
  • Ethereum is working to implement Raiden, their own secondary payment protocol solution to scale transactions and microtransactions.
  • NEO’s scaling solution is called Trinity (Trinity State Channels), a payment channel functionality that will increase its capacity well beyond its already exceptional velocity of 10.000 tps.
  • ZCash plans to introduce BOLT, a micropayment system that works in alignment with ZCash’s anonymity features.
  • Ripple and Monero are reputed to have begun exploring similar second-level payment technologies.
  • And alternative solutions are also in the works, as in the case of Grin (to be launched later this year) which according to Coinbase “uses clever cryptography to construct a blockchain that eats up old, unneeded data as it grows larger, so it requires much less space in the long term,” and IOTA which claims to have created a “blockchain-less blockchain.”

When most people first heard about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they were under the impression that transactions could be made across the globe cheaply and instantaneously. It didn’t take long for most users to realize that this wasn’t the case.

Lightning-like payment networks aim to achieve this state of transactional efficiency, one that remains an overdue promise.


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