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The Bitcoin Lightning Network has a problem: people are already using it

The fake money is boring.

This is at least the opinion of many micropayment enthusiasts, whose impatience for the Lightning Network has caused an influx of real bitcoins on the network, even though developers warn people of do not do it because they are still in the testing phase.

"The testnet just does not have the same adrenaline rush," TorGuard VPN service representatives told CoinDesk after announcing that it would accept Lightning payments.

And they're not the only ones – Blockstream has launched a Lightning merchandise store only using its own Lightning implementation, c-lightning, and a leading Net Lightning Explorer suggests over $ 33,000 in bitcoin via Lightning Networks.

The excitement is not difficult to explain – off-channel technology promises near-instant transaction speeds with significantly reduced costs – and many enthusiasts believe that the use of the network on the bitcoin network will speed up the time it takes to prepare the Lightning network for prime time.

"I think it's time for [Lightning Network] to be put online, even though it's still buggy, but that's the best way to toughen it up," wrote a Twitter user

Yet the use of the network while it is still developing has not only led to confusion as to its readiness, but it has also caused many people to lose real bitcoin funds. For this reason, Blockstream's decision has been criticized, and others have called the opening of Lightning Channels with hundreds and thousands of dollars of "crazy" bitcoin.

Despite persistent warnings, however, Lightning mainnet implementations already have more than 205 nodes and 548 channels, at the time of release, with no sign of blocking.

Yet, according to the developers, the slowing down of this dynamic is the speed at which Lightning can be safely used on the bitcoin backbone.

As Pierre-Marie Paidou, who develops Lightning at ACINQ, told CoinDesk:

"Recently, we've seen more and more users set up their mainnet software, with some thinking it would make Lightning Network's deployment faster."

Distract the devs

But this is not the case.

In a recent interview, Elizabeth Stark, CEO of Lightning Labs, estimated that the number of developers on the Lightning network could be as low as ten individuals – a factor that, as CoinDesk points out, could slow the release of technology . Perhaps because of this shortage, Lightning Labs has asked users to stop sending money to the system, stating that "it has become a useless distraction for our developers."

"A lot of people want to access mainnet and it's hard to tell them that it's not quite ready and that they should test on testnet," said Alex Bosworth, a Lightning developer . "I would not recommend using mainnet unless you explicitly test and know exactly what you are doing."

According to Bosworth, who runs two of his own mainnet nodes, a major issue that Lightning developers might encounter when moving to launch an implementation of mainnet must be backward compatible, so the next version would interact with the current one . prototypes under development.

If the nascentnetnet continues to mature – it has doubled the number of nodes in the last 72 hours – it could "reduce the speed of development" because devs "should be concerned about maintaining compatibility with previous versions ". said.

Yet even with all this in mind, there is no sign that active use will stop.

"We plan to permanently maintain our Lightning Network nodes to support the network," said Ben Van Pelt, CEO of TorGuard.

Bugs Search

And this corresponds to the defense by David R. Sterry of Lightning's adoption of the active use of the developing network, claiming that the criticism "is not unanimous" and adding that the developers "would have made the task more difficult if [they were] really against it. "

He continued, "There are problems that you will only find with real money."

Mainnet tests have discovered several bugs.

According to the International Business Times, the deployment of technology by Blockstream led to the discovery of 20 bugs in the first 14 hours after its launch. And TorGuard CEO Ben Van Pelt told CoinDesk that the company had encountered some bugs along the way, but none that caused the company or its users to lose money.

In the same vein, CSO Blockstream's Samsom Mow tweeted: "Using Lightning Network on Mainnet is not just a bug fix, some stickers and errors, but also some problems. Usability that we do not consider. "

But Paidou think this does not take into account one important point, saying that once the network is operational, "Every bug encountered will potentially be more expensive in terms of development resources." will not make us go faster. "

The active network "just puts more pressure and adds more distraction to the small number of people doing the development," he added, adding:

"Let's not forget that [developers] is the rarest resource of all."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which owns an interest in Blockstream.

Lightning on palm trees image via Shutterstock

Leader in blockchain information, CoinDesk is an independent media company that strives to achieve the highest journalistic standards and adheres to a strict set of editorial policies. Do you want to offer your expertise or ideas for our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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