Bitcoin platform Blockchain has announced the release of the alpha version of its Thunder Network, the first usable implementation of the Lightning network for off-chain bitcoin payments that settle back to the main bitcoin blockchain. So far Lightning networks have been mostly conceptual, research based, and only found in test nets and labs. Blockchain used it internally a few days ago and is now releasing this alpha version to gain feedback that will help preparation for the final network. The company is encouraging people to review it, test it out, open an issue on GitHub and to contact them with their views or if they are interested in being a part of the project.
Thunder has the potential to facilitate secure, trustless and instant payments and provides the opportunity to facilitate micro-transactions, allowing the bitcoin network to handle heavy loads, and increase user privacy. Blockchain hopes that this alpha will prove the feasibility of the network succeeding.
Features of this network include:
• A wallet (with GUI) present.
• Settlement to the bitcoin blockchain.
• Scale, with 100,000 TPS using a network with a few thousand nodes.
• Extremely cheap payments.
• AES-CTR Encryption and Authentication.
• Seed Peers and automatically provide them with network topology using a basic gossip protocol similar to the one used in the bitcoin network, allowing complex routes over multiple hops.
• Payment Channels that can be opened and closed at will, with transactions settling onto the bitcoin blockchain.
• Payment Debate. Across the route each hop will renegotiate a new status with the next hop, as a payment makes its way through the network with cryptography in place to prevent fraud.
• Relaying of payments over multiple nodes in the network automatically, using encrypted routing, increasing privacy.
• Automatic payments settlement.
• Instant and irrevocable payments.
Blockchain has a particular interest in the idea of using smart contracts to build super-charged payments networks, as outlined in a white paper by the lightning.network team. Last year, Blockchain hired engineer Mats Jerratsch, who had been pioneering innovation in this, to work with its engineering team and lead research and development on a network based around these ideas.
Until both CSV and SegWit are implemented on the bitcoin blockchain, transactions are not enforceable at the bitcoin protocol level. Therefore, blockchain advise that the current Thunder prototype is best suited for transactions among a trusted network of users i.. amongst a dev team or trusted internet friends, but not for real payments.