TL;DR: Newer folks to bitcoin core (BTC) can be excused for being a little confused. What’s this Lightning Network (LN) solution so in the news, so hyped? That Jack guy, head of Twitter, is all for it, so LN can’t be too bad. And when they do even a modest amount of investigation, LN turns out to be not quite ready. Lots of things in technology over promise and under deliver, of course, but what those new to the space might not realize is how Lightning has been the new-new thing for BTC since 2015. A new video by Collin Enstad puts it all in perspective.
Bitcoin Core (BTC) Scaling Solution, Lightning Network, is a Mere 18 Months Away from Being Ready
Collin Enstad once again drops an easily digestible video explanation surrounding the recent hype and marketing of Lightning Network (transcript here). His tutorials and takedowns are quick and painless, always humorous, ways in getting newer folks up to speed on all the fuss. His previous video, which took an honest look what’s under the LN hood, became an instant classic.
For many years, the broader Bitcoin community debated how to increase interest through adoption. A healthy slice of Bitcoiners believed keys to the entire affair revolved around regular, everyday people embracing the technology, using it in commerce. Wallets, hot and cold, developed under this idea, as did a push to get merchants accepting decentralized digital money.
That same group worried BTC’s network capacity for traffic, however, wasn’t really suitable for hordes of new people to begin using BTC in the manner hoped. In fact, arbitrary code limits were in place to punish mass adoption, a perhaps unintentional disincentive. The digital cash, mass adoption segment of the community openly advocated modest changes to the code be made in order to help the Bitcoin network meet potential demand at scale. If such obvious improvements were not implemented, this same crowd insisted, transaction fees would rise, confirmation times would slow, and whatever gains made over the years to promote BTC among newer users would be lost in a frustratingly expensive, horrible user experience.
At least two camps formed during the debate over adoption and its importance, solidifying by mid 2017: those who wished for BTC to be a settlement layer, perhaps for banks, a kind of digital gold, and those who believed peer-to-peer, digital cash for the world is what made BTC exciting and potentially liberating for everyone. Digital gold came to mean “small blocks,” and digital cash then meant “large blocks.”
The small block crew doubled down, refusing to make the BTC network a better overall user experience, rejecting pleas to scale in the manner necessary for adoption by normal people, as Enstad documents. The larger blockers forked away ultimately from BTC, forming Bitcoin Cash (BCH) in August of 2017. Predictably, only a few months later, all hell broke loose.
It’s rare history gives observers a control, a real life side-by-side comparison. By late 2017, cryptocurrencies were the rage, and BTC began to skyrocket in speculative price. As to be expected, a curious public rushed to crypto’s most popular and well known iteration, BTC, pushing the network beyond capacity, far from what it was ready to receive. Transaction times sludged to, in some cases, days at a time, trapped in congestion, unconfirmed. Fees were astronomically high, shocking even skeptics. Those initially attracted to BTC and who attempted to use it were utterly turned-off altogether, left in disgust, and ridiculed the entire crypto market into a tailspin … from which it has not recovered.
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