At Blockchain, we’re on a mission to create an open, accessible, and equitable financial future. Since our inception, we have focused on building products that make it easy for everyday people to use bitcoin to store and transfer value all over the world. We make Bitcoin usable and useful. We’ve been able to do that because we develop with a user-focused mandate.
A faster, cheaper, and more functional network would deliver real value to our users, so we were excited by the growth of research into payment channel technology on the bitcoin network and innovative uses of this technology. We were particularly interested in the idea of using smart contracts to build what are basically super-charged payments networks, as outlined in a white paper by the lightning.network team. Last year, we hired a talented engineer, Mats Jerratsch, who had been pioneering innovation in this vertical to work with our engineering team and lead research and development on a network based around these ideas.
Lightning networks have been purely conceptual, research based, and only in test nets and labs – until now. Today, we release the alpha version of our Thunder Network, the first usable implementation of the Lightning network for off chain bitcoin payments that settles back to the main bitcoin blockchain.
We used it internally a few days ago. Click here to learn all about Transaction 0 between Mats and me.
Thunder has the potential to facilitate secure, trustless, and instant payments. It has the ability to unleash the power of microtransactions, to allow the bitcoin network to handle heavy loads, and to increase user privacy. In this Alpha version, we prove that it can be done. From a feature perspective, there is both a node and a wallet (with GUI) present. Even more importantly:
- Settlement to the bitcoin blockchain
- Scale: According to our tests so far, we can achieve better-than-Visa scale (100,000 TPS) with only a few thousand nodes on the network
- Extremely cheap payments: fees will develop naturally, due to the free market in an open and permissionless network and will fundamentally be lower than on-chain payments
- Encryption and Authentication: All communications between all nodes and wallets are encrypted using AES-CTR and take place only after completing authentication.
- Seed Peers and automatically provide them with network topology using a basic gossip protocol similar to the one used in the bitcoin network, which allows complex routes over multiple hops
- Payment Channels can be opened and closed at will, with transactions settling onto the bitcoin blockchain
- Payment Debate: Across the route each hop will renegotiate a new status with the next hop, as a payment makes its way through the network with cryptography in place to prevent fraud
- Relaying Payments: TN will relay payments over multiple nodes in the network automatically, using encrypted routing. No one knows who made a payment, allowing for more privacy
- Settle payments automatically, no manual intervention needed. The settlement will ripple back through the network to provide proof-of-payment
- Instant Payments that are irrevocable the moment you see them
Until both CSV and SegWit are implemented on the bitcoin blockchain, transactions are not enforceable at the bitcoin protocol level. So, the current Thunder prototype is best suited for transactions among a trusted network of users. Try this amongst your dev team or amongst your trusted internet friends, but don’t use it for real payments. Remember: this is alpha testing software.
So why release this now? We believe it is critical to get something in the hands of users as soon as possible to gain feedback that will enable us to be ready when the network is. So review it, test it out, open an issue on GitHub, or send us an email. If you want to work on tech like this full time, head here and apply to join our team.
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