Technology Meant to Make Bitcoin Money Again Is Now Live

A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday.

The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.

Bitcoin has become digital gold — or a viable investment alternative — to many, but it has been harder for it to fulfill its original purpose of becoming digital money, as transaction fees have skyrocketed to as high as $50, while confirmation times took as long as a week at their peak. Enthusiasts say the Lightning Network will solve these problems with fees at a fraction of a cent and instantaneous transactions.

Lightning Labs also announced it raised $2.5 million of seed financing from investors including Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, head of Square Capital Jacqueline Reses and Tesla Inc. investor Bill Lee.

As the Lightning Network rolls out, another technology meant to speed up transactions, Segregated Witness, gains traction. The number of transactions using it doubled to more than 30 percent of the total in the past month. Bitcoin transaction fees have plummeted in part thanks to this, but the total number of transactions has also declined. Lightning Network is also meant to help lower fees on the main Bitcoin network…

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