Lightning Only? Scaling Bitcoin Might Require A Whole ‘Nother Layer

Researchers are putting new effort into developing bitcoin’s Lightning Network.

With the Segwit2x hard fork – which looked to increase the bitcoin block size parameter to 2MB – suspended, ETH Zurich researchers Conrad Burchert and Roger Wattenhofer and Blockstream engineer Christian Decker have proposed a more scalable version of the payments channel scheme, believed by developers to be the best way to expand bitcoin to accommodate more users.

Sometimes called bitcoin’s “layer two,” Lightning hasn’t yet been pushed live onto the bitcoin blockchain, but proponents of the idea see it as a way to boost bitcoin’s transaction capacity without increasing the block size (as bitcoin cash, which forked off bitcoin in August did).

In a new paper called “Scalable Funding of Bitcoin Micropayment Channel Networks,” however, the three developers now envision even another layer, one that would be sandwiched between the bitcoin blockchain and Lightning, which they think would overcome Lightning’s existing limits.

Perhaps most notably, the researchers argue that limit is somewhat defined by the bitcoin blockchain itself, which, capped at 1MB, can’t support infinite Lightning channels. After all, users must complete bitcoin transactions and record them on the blockchain each time channels are opened and closed.

In this way, Decker, pointing to existing research, suggests there’s an upward bound on just how many Lightning Network transactions are feasible today.

He writes:

“It turns out, it’s not that many. It’s a few million every week, which is still a long ways from serving the full Earth’s population.”

And while this isn’t a problem right now, it could lead to issues in the future – scaling issues that continue to be a hot, and contentious topic in the crypto community…

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