Remember that layer two scaling solution they promised for Bitcoin back in the day? Does anyone know what happened to it? It feels like we've been waiting for a finished Lightning Network longer than Mt. Gox victims have been awaiting restitution. For now, Lightning is accessible to users with the skills to navigate its quirks and complexities, but for beginners, LN can be bewildering – and its challenges don't end there.
Scaling Solution or Solution in Search of a Problem?
As the first major layer two project to be built on Bitcoin Core, Lightning is literally a lightning rod for critics of offchain scaling. Building a second layer solution as ambitious as LN was always going to be a huge undertaking, even with millions of dollars of investment and the support and goodwill of a vast swathe of the BTC community. Regardless of whether Lightning sinks, swims or treads water, its development will not have been entirely in vain.
At the time of publication, LN has a capacity of 949 BTC, down from its peak of over 1,000. The number of nodes and channels has also dropped in the last 24 hours, resulting in a current total of 8,780 nodes, around 60% of which have active channels. The average channel capacity stands at 0.027 BTC, while the average node capacity is 0.216. Lightning Network is presently capturing just 0.0045% of all available BTC. Critics have seized upon this as evidence that Bitcoin's much-vaunted scaling and micropayment solution isn't seeing use. Defenders have stressed that as an instant payment rail for small purchases, the amount of BTC locked up in the network is immaterial; provided there's enough liquidity to easily send and receive sub-$100 payments, LN is fit for purpose.