It's like the early days of bitcoin.
Consisting of discussion channels, alien terminology and warning signs inviting at every turn, the emerging ecosystem around Lightning Network, the scale technology that could have the greatest impact on the Bitcoin's ability, so far is desperately difficult to use.
"To be honest," wrote a developer, "if you do not know how to compile something, you'll probably have a lot more trouble and a lot fewer parts."
Simply put, Lightning in its current state is dangerous to interact with today. But given the big promises of the network – instant transactions and fees that are almost nothing – the risk does not diminish the appeal.
Companies like Blockstream are already launching Lightning-powered stores that send stickers to bitcoin users who successfully spend money across the network, while the so-called "early lightning adopters" are celebrated online for their convenience. "bravery" on the blockchain.
"Show the world that you were one of the first to use Lightning on mainnet for a legitimate purchase, if it works," reads in Blockstream's website.
This is a feeling that, given the risks, has been criticized by some who think it is mistakenly encouraging users to risk real money. That said, there are ways to contribute to the network of the early days without jeopardizing your own funds.
This includes hanging out in the test environment (where most Lightning developers are today) or venturing onto the main network (where there is a set of good practices, even if traps remain).
Below we offer our guide for early adopters who want to get their hands on pioneering technology before it's recommended.
Tests of Testnet
Of the available options, the connection to the testnet is not really intuitive, but it is easier to access than the alternative, with clients designed to work on most systems. # 39; s operating.
It also has the advantage of not requiring the use of real bitcoin. Instead, you will use bitcoin test, which you can find for free on an online faucet and send it to your Lightning wallet.
In total, the use of testnet takes about five steps to navigate:
- For starters, there are a number of wallets you can download, Zap, Lightning Labs for desktop, an Eclair Wallet for Android, and an option that does not require a download at all. If you chose to download a wallet, remember that it will have to sync the bitcoin testnet, which can take several hours.
- After sending the bitcoin test to a wallet address of your choice, you will need to set up a channel, which is a bit unusual for testing. Select a testnet store on which you want to make a purchase. There are several, including a blog site named Yalls, developed by Alex Bosworth of Lightning Lab, a Starbucks-inspired café run by the Lightning ECLAIR development team and a glacier.
- Next, go to the website of your choice and look for a payment address. Note that two addresses are provided, a payment address and a "peer address". (You must add the store as a peer before you can send the payment.)
- Copy the address of the counterpart, go to your wallet and add the address as a contact. You will need to send a small sum to open this string, which on the testnet is something like 0.1 bitcoin test.
- Once you have successfully opened a channel, you can paste the payment address into your wallet with the desired amount and send your bitcoin test (instantly).
Using the above process, CoinDesk was able to send a transaction, only experiencing problems when the majority of the test nodes were offline.
The risk on the mainnet
To rephrase, it's bad advice – if you try to send a bitcoin, you can lose it.
Not only will this hurt your wallet, but it will bother Lightning developers, because the more active people on the mainnet, the more complicated it will be to administer updates.
Although a little more complicated (the process described below may take a few days), the seven steps below give a rough idea of getting started:
- The easiest way to access the main network is to use Blockstream's c-lightning. Blockstream has published a helpful guide that breaks down the various order lines needed to purchase a sticker in their store, and for a more detailed breakdown of the following steps, visit their website. Of the other development teams, Lightning Labs and ECLAIR, have not yet released mainnet clients, however, developers have ensured that it is still possible with a little tweaking code.
- C-lightning requires the ubuntu operating system and a variety of code toolkits that will need to be downloaded before they can begin. Lightning also asks you to sync the entire bitcoin block chain, which can take several days and requires approximately 170 gigabytes of storage.
- Once these steps are completed, install the necessary tools, as shown in the Blockstream breakdown.
- Next, download bitcoind, a complete bitcoin node software that is perhaps the easiest to download – bitcoin.org offers a list of steps to do it safely. Remember that it really takes a lot of time to synchronize the bitcoin blockchain, so let it synchronize overnight – even if it depends on your connection, it can take several days.
- Once you're happily synced with the channel, you're ready to clone the c-lightning code from its GitHub repository. Once the installation is successful, you can use the command line to connect to Blockstream's peer and synchronize the channel graph. You will also need a bitcoin to work with, so use clack-cli, the internal flash client, to generate a bitcoin address to which you can send funds from your normal wallet.
- Once you have done this (and confirmed that the payment has been successfully completed), you can then open a payment channel with the Blockstream peer. First, use the command line to locate Blockstream's public key to open the channel. Just like on testnet, this will require a small fee, about 500 satoshis. You will then need to confirm that the transaction was done by monitoring the logs. Wait three in total before you can open a channel.
- After all three confirmations, you can use lightning-cli to list a new payment channel, which you can then make payments to the Blockstream store.
If the list of actions above shock you, it does not matter, developers are working on methods to facilitate interaction with the network. Remember, Lightning is still in the alpha phase, and as development progresses, a wide variety of simplified interfaces should be released.
The easy-to-use wallets are also likely to be released for mainnet access, so that lightning users will no longer need to become familiar with the command line. Likewise, other interfaces facilitate the integration of micropayments by providing a third party processing service.
Eclair released a first version of his Lightning API. Rather than companies opening their own channels, Eclair will take care of the back end, process payments and send bitcoins to the channel.
Developers such as Alex Bosworth are also working on ways for users to send Lightning payments without setting up a channel on al, creating methods for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to interact. with the Lightning network.
In the end, while the network is now difficult and dangerous for the average user, ongoing development work suggests that soon, Lightning could be as simple to use as existing payment interfaces.
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which owns interests in Blockstream and Lightning Labs.
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