BitMEX has published a new analysis on the growth of the Lightning Network and its nodes, which shows the trend for the last two years including also those private channels produced by mobile wallets that are not normally included in traditional metrics.
The analysis focuses on transactions for opening and closing channels on the blockchain, revealing that 60,000 non-cooperative channel closures resulted in over 1,000 BTC in fees spent on blockchain transactions.
Typically, traditional analyses are based on node figures, such as those from TXStats.com according to which at the end of December 2019 there were 36,335 public channels containing a total of 871 BTC.
These figures show that over the last two years the number of open LN channels and the total number of BTC stored in them has grown very rapidly since November 2018, peaking in May 2019 when a decline began. This phase of decline seems to have stopped in October 2019, and now the trend started to rise again.
However, according to BitMEX, this data would be incomplete because it concerns only the public channels that are known thanks to the disclosure of the nodes. There are many mobile wallets that keep their channels private, which means that they end up being ignored by traditional statistics.
The analysis of BitMEX is based on an evaluation of the data recorded directly on the Bitcoin blockchain, which includes also private channels.
In particular, it does not only take into account the transactions opening the LN channels, since it would not be possible to reliably and directly identify these types of transactions on the blockchain. Non-cooperative closing transactions, on the other hand, can be identified with a greater degree of certainty, and it is precisely on these that BitMEX’s analysis focuses.
In total, at least 59,508 closing channel transactions have been identified, with a total spending of 1,074 bitcoins, although an estimate with less stringent criteria would have identified 90,667, with 1,405 BTC spent.
The time graph of these transactions shows a trend very similar to that of TXStats.com’s public data until March 2019, after which it starts to deviate a bit.
According to BitMEX analysts, this may be due to the fact that the non-cooperative closing rate is decreasing as users become more familiar with LN-based tools.
Another information extracted from this analysis concerns non-cooperative closures with violations, which are often followed by penalty transactions. These penalty transactions are very rare, accounting for only 0.30% of all non-cooperative closures.
The total number of transactions involving non-cooperative closures, over 60,000, was found to be much higher than expected, but the fact that they are decreasing may indicate that they were largely due to LN wallet opening tests, particularly via mobile, or that they are more common than cooperative closures.
In addition, it was found that monitoring and analyzing the blockchain for these non-cooperative closures actually reduces the privacy and scalability of the Lightning Network, although as users learn more about how to use LN, the prevalence of non-cooperative closures may decrease.
Finally, BitMEX analysts point out that significant flows on the LN are not yet determined by the need or actual use for bitcoin payments, suggesting that today LN is still used mainly by “hobbyists and technologists”.