Casa CTO Jameson Lopp was interviewed on a recent episode of the Stephan Livera Podcast, and the conversation quickly turned to Bitcoin’s Lightning Network soon after the discussion began. Casa has a plug-and-play Bitcoin full node available for sale that includes Lightning Network functionality, and Lopp was providing technical support to customers over the holidays. During this time, Lopp was able to gain a better understanding of the current state of the Lightning Network and some of the current issues with the layer-two payment network.
“It definitely still has a number of rough edges to be worked out,” Lopp told Livera, adding that the #reckless hashtag is still very much appropriate for Lightning Network users.
While Lopp briefly mentioned the security issues associated with the Lightning Network due to the requirement to store funds in a hot wallet (a bitcoin wallet connected to the internet), he mainly focused on a usability issue when talking about some of the network’s current limitations.
Maximizing the Usefulness of the Lightning Network
According to Lopp, one of the key issues Casa is trying to help their customers with right now is figuring out how to manage their channels on the Lightning Network.
“The stuff we’re running into more often with our users is trying to figure out how to make it as seamless as possible for a Lightning node operator to maximize the use of their node,” said Lopp.
While the Lightning Network is a powerful improvement in terms of the efficiency of bitcoin payments, a user’s wallet needs to be setup properly to get the most out of those efficiency gains. By opening the right channels with the right amount of bitcoin in them, users can avoid more costly interactions with the blockchain (opening and closing Lightning Network channels) and gain more bitcoin for themselves in the form of routing fees.
According to Lopp, the proper management of Lightning Network liquidity by wallets is where some of the unanswered questions about the Lightning Network remain.
“Of course, we hope that it will mostly be managed by software and done on a sort of autopilot basis, but the autopilot functionality that is out there right now is definitely very early stage,” noted Lopp.
For now, a dedicated human operator will lead to better results than any automated settings, according to Lopp..
The Biggest Node on the Network
Lopp pointed to one Lightning Network user known as LNBIG when talking about the inefficiencies of the network as it exists today. This is the largest node on the network, and Lopp is “pretty sure” it has hundreds of unused channels.
“They’ve seem to have just kind of gone with the spray and pray approach, but hopefully they’ll continue to refine their own logic,” added Lopp.
Although there is work to be done with the autopilot functionality, Lopp still envisions a bright future for the Lightning Network.
“We don’t want it to require someone to be technically proficient or a nerd who is going to be willing to spend a lot of time to actually understand the protocol or how the network works,” noted Lopp. “We’re really trying to build plug-and-play solutions that are usable for your average millenial, and that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges I think.”