Stellar prepares Lightning Network implementation

Last week, on March 15, 2018, Lightning Labs unveiled their beta for the Lightning Network in a flash of media attention and enthusiasm. The Lightning Network has been heralded as a solution to Bitcoin’s scalability issues, and the developments were greeted by the community with tremendous optimism.

The development team behind blockchain project Stellar has revealed that they intend to launch a mainnet implementation of the Lightning Network (LN) by the end of the year. That makes Stellar among the first projects to formally announce integration of the Lightning Network since the beta release last week.

On Monday, the Stellar team released the technical specifications and roadmap for its implementation of the Lightning Network, a technological upgrade that allows cryptocurrency networks to increase speed and efficiency by moving payments “off-chain” into second-layer payment channels.

Stellar’s developers claim that its LN implementation could prove to be even more robust than those created for Bitcoin and other similar coins, allowing users to complete “any operation you can execute on the Stellar network (such as not only payments, but also creating, deleting, or changing permissions on accounts)…within a payment channel.”

Stellar founder Jed McCaleb believes that the Lightning Network will be integral to the growth of the platform going forward:

“We have a lot of partnerships that have been announced and that will be announced soon that will start pushing the threshold for what Stellar can do. In order to keep the network efficient and stable, we need something like Lightning.”

LN proponents also forecast that, down the road, this technology will be used to allow users to trade cryptocurrencies or make transactions across blockchains using “atomic swaps.”

That an LN implementation will launch on Stellar does not entirely come as a surprise. The project first floated adopting state channels in 2015, and a roadmap released by the cryptocurrency developers in January included Lightning among its development goals for 2018.

Next steps

The announcement comes days after the first Lightning software for real bitcoin transactions was released by startup Lightning Labs. Though it took years for bitcoin to get to that point, McCaleb believes Stellar will be able to deliver the technology faster than bitcoin was able to.

That’s not to say integrating Lightning on Stellar is an easy feat. Stellar developers can’t simply port over the code working on bitcoin today. Rather, they’ve developed their own unique version. To that end, they enlisted developer Jeremy Rubin, who’s contributed actively to bitcoin’s most popular node implementation over the years.

But, as far as the near-term, the specification outlines a roadmap. By April 1, Stellar plans to launch the first elements the technology on a test network, with ambitious plans to release an implementation for real payments by autumn.

However, Stellar has enlisted the efforts of Bitcoin Core developer Jeremy Rubin, and it believes that Stellar’s implementation of the Lightning Network will receive a beta release by Oct.1, with a full release slated for Dec. 1.

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