TL;DR: This weekend, enthusiasts, developers, and businesses in support of BTC’s second layer solution, Lightning Network (LN), met in Berlin, Germany for The Lightning Conference. Its speaker line-up features members from Lightning Labs, Blockstream, and others dedicated to finding a low transaction fee, fast confirmation time, off-chain solution to notorious BTC scaling issues.
Lightning Network Advocates Meet in Berlin
Coder Udi Wertheimer urged, “can we please say ‘layer 1 txs’ and ‘layer 2 txs’ instead of ‘on-chain’ and ‘off-chain’ pretty please,” he posted, “we have to stop this ‘blockchain’ addiction.” It’s part of Wertheimer’s personal battle to win the narrative war by defining terms favorable to the LN idea. The network has a slew of other problems, from pushing formal rollout dates 18 months at a time, to critical bugs, and the general public relations nightmare of it being impossible to use for average folk.
Lightning Network has been in development, one way or another, since around 2015. Its white paper was published in 2016 by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja, titled inconveniently enough for Wertheimer, The Bitcoin Lightning Network: Scalable Off-Chain Instant Payments. And as its subtitle implies, it is meant by definition to be off-chain and provide a solution to at least two BTC problems when considering the world’s most popular cryptocurrency as, well, a currency … for use … in the real world … by merchants and ordinary people.
Whereas its precursor, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System by Satoshi Nakamoto is 9 pages and presupposes a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, the LN white paper is 59 pages. Wertheimer, who will be speaking in Berlin (The Perfect Storm: Full-Node Backed Mobile Lightning Wallets), refers to the blockchain aspect as “the undesirable waste that is produced during the useful process of transferring bitcoins.”
To get a sense of how much verbal contortion it takes to be an LN apologist, Wertheimer continues, “It never ceases to amaze me how we continue to promote the positive (almost magical) uses of the word ‘blockchain,’ while virtually all experienced professionals agree that a blockchain is something to avoid.” It’s a very nice sleight-of-hand, attempting to capitalize on Bitcoiners’ well-known distaste for corporate Wall Street speak. Blockchain talk is often so much piffle.
“Saying something is ‘on the blockchain’ (i.e. ‘your funds are secured on the blockchain’), makes no sense. Having something on a block in a chain is *almost never* what you desire. What you want is for people to agree that global state changed: ‘funds are yours by consensus,” he insisted. “For similar reasons, ‘on-chain’ and ‘off-chain’ are terms that put emphasis on hardly-relevant technical details. Better options: ‘polluting transactions’ (produce more chain, more waste), and ‘clean transactions’ (do not create more global waste).”
Lightning powered beer tap by @selberthomas. 402 sats for a pour–that's 3 cents y'all lmao
— Colin Harper (@AsILayHodling) October 19, 2019
It has gotten to the point where BTC maximalists are branching into LN maxis, taking with them a fondness for disregarding foundational documents and key definitions. To be fair, it is also unclear how much of a real influence a conference speaker like Wertheimer has on the broader community or whether anyone is paying attention at all to such wordplay.
Back at the conference proper, however, there are signs cryptocurrency enthusiasts are valiantly trying to square their desire for cash-like BTC properties with Core developer team and influencer insistence, adamant to the point of religious fervor, about not ever spending BTC. Seemingly normal LN enthusiasts are posting their experiences buying macaroons and beer — heresy to BTC maximalists … who also confusingly support LN … even though one should only HODL. At least Lightning Network and BTC maxis are in an interesting city full of enviable sight-seeing destinations. Have a warm lager, snack on some macaroons, and maybe visit Checkpoint Charlie to shake off the contradictions.
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