Lightning Labs announced the beta release of their highly-anticipated Lightning Network Daemon (LND) in a blog post published today. This is a developer-friendly software client used to access Bitcoin’s Lightning Network.
The Lightning Network has long been viewed as a tremendous breakthrough in terms of enabling faster, cheaper payments on top of the base Bitcoin blockchain and helping the cryptocurrency scale to many millions of new users in the coming years. This means that users can now leverage LND to send bitcoin and litecoin to other users, all without settling those transactions on the blockchain.
While this software is one of several seeking to form a combined network that aims to make cryptocurrency transactions faster and cheaper, today’s development effectively takes bitcoin a step closer to new kinds of applications, such as Internet of Things payments and recurring billing.
This release from Lightning Labs comes after more than a year of extensive testing from thousands of developers and other volunteers around the world. There are also other implementations of the Lightning Network in development; however, LND is the first one to see a beta release. All major Lightning Network implementations are intended to be compatible with each other.
That’s because, similar to bitcoin, the Lightning protocol isn’t managed by any one person or company. It’s a series of compatible technologies. Bitcoin-centric startup Blockstream released a candidate version 1.0 of the Lightning protocol specification in January, and ACINQ, another like-minded startup, already offers a live, yet unpredictable beta software that works with bitcoin.
Lightning Labs also announced seed financing from some of the biggest names in cryptocurrency and tech. Some of the most notable investors in Lightning Labs now include Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, former PayPal COO David Sacks and Robinhood co-founder Vlad Tenev.
Litecoin creator Charlie Lee participated in the recent seed financing round as well. In addition to Bitcoin, the LND beta has also launched with support for Litecoin.
An absolutely historic day for #bitcoin indeed. The first release of @lightning on #mainnet will be looked back in history as the day #LightningNetwork went live. We're going from 7 tx/second to literally infinite. This is the future. This is bitcoin. pic.twitter.com/boDzYHsgNu
— Vortex (@theonevortex) March 15, 2018
Jack Mallers, who is developing a user-friendly Lightning wallet called Zap on top of LND, said:
“This release is a step forward for the network itself. What I mean by that is: Before all the apps, we need to build a healthy network that has liquidity, reliability, high-uptime nodes, healthy channels, etc. We need to onboard an entire industry onto a new layer and build a healthy topology. This release kinda marks the ‘start’ so to speak.”
After countless late nights, lines of code, bug fixes, and memes…
We finally released Lightning for bitcoin mainnet!!! ⚡️⚡️⚡️https://t.co/EsyXWpxIUY
— elizabeth stark (@starkness) March 15, 2018
Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth said that she plans to keep the software freely accessible:
“The community engagement around Lightning has been amazing. The protocol will always be open source and right now everything we are making will be open source,”
But it’s important to note that even this beta should be used with caution.
Stark’s team built in a few safety measures to limit the amount of cryptocurrency people can send for now to roughly $1,400 worth per channel, or around $400 per payment. The target demographic for the release is developers and “advanced users” who are able to run a full node and use LND’s command-line interface.
Stark went on to warn that users should not experiment with more money than they are willing to lose.
“We were not recommending use on the main bitcoin network before this beta because there are certain features, such as a wallet seed backup, that were not there previously. There are new features included as well, there are bug fixes and stability improvements,”
As such, Stark now expects people with the skills to host their own bitcoin or litecoin node to add Lightning Labs’ free software to the mix for quicker, cheaper transactions. Already, there are already roughly a 1,000 nodes implementing Lightning software. Investors in the project believe the release will boost that growing number.
A list of more Lightning-focused apps can be found on the LND developer website.
While this is being referred to as the beginning of the Lightning Network on Bitcoin, Lightning Labs does not recommend users put large amounts of money into the system quite yet. Having said that, this release is mainly for developers, such as Mallers, and more advanced users who have no problem with command-line interfaces.
Lightning Labs plans to make user-friendly Lightning-enabled wallets for desktop and mobile available later this year.