If you have been paying attention to the news at all in recent months, you know one of the biggest roadblocks preventing Bitcoin from becoming completely and entirely mainstream is the fact that transaction times are egregious, at minimum. Retailers are shying away from adopting Bitcoin due to the fact that it takes, hours, days, and sometimes even weeks for payments to be confirmed on he blockchain.
In this digital age, there is no advantage to be gained from waiting longer to receive payments. From the consumer side of things, the elongated transaction times are less attractive than the instant payment methods that have become so familiar.
The Lightning Network is something that can help speed up Bitcoin transactions by, in a sense, taking them off the Bitcoin blockchain entirely. While this will undoubtedly speed up transaction times, it inherently alters the security governing Bitcoin transactions, which is one of the biggest draws to Bitcoin in the first place.
The way Lightning Network functions can become very confusing if you begin reading about it for more than 5 minutes. It takes a deep understanding of the finer details of the Bitcoin blockchain, and blockchain technology in general, but the way it works is quite simple. In so many words, Lightning Network is a P2P network that allows Bitcoin transactions between 2 parties to be conducted off the blockchain, via smart contracts.
This will speed up transaction times drastically by not forcing them to be posted on the public ledger, the Bitcoin blockchain. The posting of transactions to the ledger is currently a large part of the reason why Bitcoin transactions take so long to be executed.
Before we can see how Lightning works, it first needs to be rolled out full-scale. There is a lot of debate, with some people guaranteeing it will revolutionize Bitcoin while others argue it will be largely ignored. If no one even gives Lightning Network a try, there is no way it will change Bitcoin forever.
If Lightning Network is able to work, one has to assume that it will become quite popular, quickly. After all, it will create a world where people can utilize Bitcoin to pay for everyday purchases, such as gas, groceries, or even bills. With the utilization of smart contracts, the network will be secure as well, quelling the fears of many.
In an ideal world, traditional Bitcoin transactions and those that exist on Lightning Network can coexist. For those that want to have transactions posted on the global, public Bitcoin ledger, they can opt for that if time is not of the essence. For the user (whether it be a retailer or consumer), the ability to transact in real time will finally be achieved, thus allowing Bitcoin to compete with faster transaction methods such as credit cards and even cash.
Right now, how Lightning Network will fare is something we can only guess about. It sounds great and looks great too, but unforeseen complications have been known to plague the cryptocurrency world through its infancy, so what happens with Lightning is something that remains to be seen. As it stands, it does seem like a simple, intelligent solution to the Bitcoin scalability problem.
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