There’s no denying that as Bitcoin (BTC) became more popular due to insane price spikes, more people became intrigued with the idea of buying and selling it. As more people continued to buy Bitcoin from exchanges and sell them for a profit, the network began to get a little crowded. As a result, transactions could become slower and more expensive.
This turned a lot of people off of BTC. As a result, developers began to look for solutions to this scalability problem—and this is right about the time the Bitcoin Lightning Network changed the paradigm of the entire Bitcoin space.
What is it?
By now, you’ve probably heard of it—but what is the Bitcoin Lightning Network? Simply put, it’s a second layer that’s built on top of the BTC blockchain (also known as a Layer 2 solution). This means that this special network has its own nodes that communicate with the main blockchain. It does this through mini-ledgers called channels.
You can think of the Lightning Network as your own personal highway for BTC transactions, speeding them up and lowering their costs in the process. To give you a better idea of how it works, let’s use a real-world example. Let’s say that you’re trying to send BTC to your friend Mark. To create a channel, both of you would have to fund it. Let’s say that you each put 5 BTC into the channel, totaling 10 BTC.
As soon as your channel is created, you can send as many transactions to each other as you want as long as they don’t exceed the total amount of BTC put into the channel. Let’s say that Mark picked up the tab at a restaurant and you now owe him 0.5 BTC. You can send that over almost instantaneously. After that transaction, Mark would have 5.5 BTC, leaving you with 4.5. Both of you can continue sending BTC to each other until you and Mark decide to close the channel.
Once it’s decided that the channel be closed, the mini-ledger will be published onto the main blockchain, updating it with all the transactions that occurred. This way, you pay less in transactional fees and get faster speeds on your transfers.
Why is the Lightning Network so important?
Since BTC has become extremely popular as the leading cryptocurrency, the network can get a little congested with how many people are transacting at the same time. If everyone were to adopt it, the Lightning Network could free up the main blockchain for larger and more significant transactions.
This is the reason the Lightning Network catches the attention of those looking to make their microtransactions more efficient. By creating channels for their own personal transactions, users can exchange BTC faster than ever and with lower costs.
Think of it as having one of your closest friends on speed dial. If there’s a specific store or person that you’re constantly transacting BTC with, the Lightning Network can provide a cheaper and faster alternative to using the main Bitcoin blockchain.
The potential of the Lightning Network
Now that you have a basic understanding of how the Lightning Network works, you can get an idea of how much it could potentially impact the way we use Bitcoin as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. In real-world scenarios, it could:
- Make remittances even more efficient
Bitcoin, on its own, has already revolutionized the way people can send remittances all over the globe. With the power of the Lightning Network behind them, it could mean an even more streamlined process.
- Provide a new payment model for businesses and content creators
With the Lightning Network making microtransactions even more efficient, businesses and content creators now have a better way to receive payments in Bitcoin. In fact, many businesses have already implemented this method of payment with platforms like Paxful integrating the Lightning Network into their BTC wallets. Even fast-food chains such as McDonald’s use the Lightning Network for BTC payments in El Salvador—so why not pay for your next burger combo with Bitcoin?
These two are just the tip of the iceberg. As more wallets continue to follow in Paxful’s footsteps and integrate the Lightning Network, the more use-cases we’ll see.
A few years ago, the integration of the Lightning Network into a major BTC wallet like the Paxful Wallet was nothing but a dream that many people had. Since then, that dream has turned into a reality that many people can now enjoy. Try it out and see for yourself.