Blockchain.com, the creators of the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet have announced today the alpha release of Thunder, the first usable implementation of the Lightning network a platform that lets one make off-chain bitcoin payments in seconds and settle back to the Bitcoin Blockchain sporatically.
“Blockchain is committed to bringing our block chain technology and the power of open finance to every corner of the world,” said Blockchain CEO Peter Smith. “This release takes us one step closer to realizing that ambition.”
Lightning networks have been purely conceptual – until now. Even in the prototype phase, Thunder has the potential to facilitate secure, trustless and nearly instant payments, unleash the power of microtransactions, allow the network to handle heavy loads, and increase user privacy.
According to Romain Dillet at Techcrunch, with Thunder, a transaction is so fast that the network can process 100,000 transactions per second. On average, Visa handles 2,000 transactions per second and the Visa network is capable of processing 56,000 transactions per second.
From a feature perspective, there is both a node and a wallet (with GUI) present. Even more importantly:
- Thunder settles to the Bitcoin Blockchain.
- The network can achieve better-than-Visa scale (100,000 TPS) with only a few thousand nodes on the network.
- Fees will develop naturally, due to the free market in an open and permissionless network and will fundamentally be lower than on-chain payments.
- All communications between all nodes and wallets are encrypted using AES-CTR and take place only after completing authentication.
- Payment Channels can be opened and closed at will, with transactions settling onto the bitcoin blockchain.
- Thunder will relay payments over multiple nodes in the network automatically, using encrypted routing. No one knows who made a payment, allowing for more privacy.
- Payments can be settled automatically with no manual intervention needed.
- Instant Payments that are irrevocable the moment you see them.
- Until both CSV and SegWit are implemented on the bitcoin blockchain, transactions are not enforceable at the bitcoin protocol level. So, the current Thunder prototype is best suited for transactions among a trusted network of users and should not be used for real payments.
“Off-chain payment networks are, at this point, highly experimental,” said Blockchain developer and Thunder creator Mats Jerratsch. “However, it’s important to begin these projects and collaborate with the community, because our ability to scale bitcoin or another virtual currency depends on a launch and learn approach.”