Lightning Network is defined by many as the protocol that will relaunch bitcoin and make it usable as a means of payment for the general public. Today, in fact, Bitcoin has several problems due to the limited capacity of its blockchain that makes it unsuitable for mass adoption, especially for micro-payments.
First and foremost, there is the big problem of scalability and the number of transactions: the network can handle a maximum of 7 transactions per second. Secondly, there is the issue related to fees. During periods of great network congestion, as happened last December 2017, the fees to be paid to the miners for the confirmation increase significantly.
Lightning Network is an additional layer that can be used alongside the bitcoin blockchain to solve these problems by increasing scalability, usability and speed, and by decreasing fees.
Blockstream launches C-lightning 0.71
We're excited to announce #clightning 0.7.1. This point release includes gossip improvements, longer default invoice timeouts, external-wallet channel funding, more powerful plugin support, better peer error handling, and performance improvements! ⚡️🔌 https://t.co/ir9QCXcWKS pic.twitter.com/7LIncSqmdp
— Blockstream (@Blockstream) July 17, 2019
This release introduces several improvements that make the network faster and more efficient. The main innovation concerns the work on the gossip protocol. An important element of communication in distributed systems is the support for sending data to multiple recipients, also known as multicast communication.
The gossip protocol is a well-known epidemic algorithm that allows rapid dissemination of information. It offers high scalability of the system in the presence of a large number of nodes precisely because of the very low level of desynchronisation.
The main objective of these epidemic protocols is the rapid propagation of information in a large set of nodes using only local information: in other words, there is no central component that coordinates the distribution of information.
Thanks to the efforts of developers Joe Netti and Rusty Russell, the gossip algorithm has been refined and improved so that the synchronisation of the various nodes can be managed more quickly.
C-lightning is now also smarter: if peers send messages in an incorrect order it can handle the situation and no longer returns an error message. Support for plugins has been improved with some new features (db_write, htlc_accepted e invoice_payment).
Lightning Network continues to grow
Bitcoin Lightning Network has been in beta testing for over a year and a half and its use is constantly growing. Currently, 3 teams are working on it: Blockstream, ACINQ and Lightning Labs.
To monitor the growth that the entire network is undergoing there is an engine called 1ML, it is a fully-fledged Lightning Network search engine that collects a myriad of network statistics.