Blockstream Developer Says Lightning Not To Replace Bitcoin, Explains Its Difference From SegWit
Some of the points made about the Lightning Network in a recent article published on 8btc “builds on a number of very common misconceptions about Lightning” says one of the developers with Montreal-based Blockstream which runs the protocol.
Christian Decker in an email highlights some of these misconceptions as including the assumption that
Lightning will eventually replace classical Bitcoin transactions completely, making Bitcoin itself obsolete; that it interprets the fact that it can potentially be built on top of other blockchains is detrimental to Bitcoin itself; and that it equates SegWit with activation of Lightning.
While addressing each of the points individually, especially the parts of the article that described Lightning as a payment network that overrides Bitcoin network, Decker says: “Lightning relies heavily on Bitcoin as the base layer that is used to set up channels and settle them after we made a number of updates. We need the strong guarantees that Bitcoin provides us with, namely the double-spend protection, the fungibility of bitcoins and the finality of transactions in the blockchain. Without them it would not be possible to create a Lightning channel, and coins on the channel would be without value. Lightning will not replace Bitcoin, and users will always have the option to transact directly on the blockchain.”
There are however use-cases for which Bitcoin is not fit, he explains further. They include small transactions, with low fees, that have to be confirmed in a matter of seconds. It is for these use-cases that Lightning is being created as a complementary technology that expands the reach of Bitcoin.
“Lightning is a new tool in our toolbox, why would you retire a hammer, just because you got a new screwdriver?”
Despite admitting that Lightning can potentially be built on top of various blockchains, Decker maintains that all the Lightning implementations are currently concentrating on Bitcoin.
“We are deeply committed to the Bitcoin ecosystem, and are heavily invested in the future of Bitcoin. Yes,
Lightning can be used as a layer to transfer between various blockchains, however this happens through intermediaries, such as exchanges, on the boundaries of the network, which provide an exchange service between the base currencies. Any coins denominated in a currency are always bound to the corresponding blockchain, so bitcoins never leave the Bitcoin blockchain.”
On the article – a translated version as written by an opinion leader in China’s Bitcoin community, Huang Shiliang – portraying the deployment of SegWit as equal to the deployment of Lightning, Decker says the claim is not true for a reason: SegWit includes a number of fixes that are unrelated to Lightning and opens the possibility of new features, improves the security of the Bitcoin network and help create some headroom for a higher transaction rate.
“On the other hand, Lightning does not need SegWit strictly speaking, the needed changes to the Bitcoin protocol can be implemented in a number of ways. The article attempts to dissuade people from adopting SegWit in order to delay the deployment of Lightning, but not deploying SegWit would only result in a weaker Bitcoin network now, and slightly delay Lightning, potentially giving other blockchains an advantage, because they can deploy Lightning.
“So I can confidently say that not deploying SegWit for the sake of delaying Lightning is a mistake. In fact there is no reason to delay Lightning in the first place, it is a complementary technology to the main Bitcoin network, and furthers Bitcoin’s reach into a number of use-cases that were so far unreachable.”
In October, Blockstream announced it sent the first end-to-end transaction over the Lightning Network to another party through a process that included invoicing a party for Bitcoin and routing the payment through multiple nodes. The test also showed that Lightning moved from the concept to the implementation stage.