The Lightning Network is developing faster than the elemental speed intrinsic to its name. Each week, it seems, brings not just one but multiple announcements from the leaders driving Lightning innovation, from wallet releases to network tools and implementation improvements.
While not every incremental improvement or addition is worth dissecting, we would be remiss if we failed to cover some of the most recent advancements making real improvements to Bitcoin’s second layer. So here are the highlights from this past week in Lightning.
Zap Enters Mainnet
Jack Mallers’s Zap desktop wallet has hit mainnet.
Mallers heralded the 0.5.0-beta release at the beginning of the week. The first fully operational version comes on the tailwind of some serious momentum for Zap’s testnet version, which has over a million downloads.
Before this update, users could only interact with Lightning Network’s testnet, unless they connected the wallet to their own nodes. Now, leveraging Lightning Labs’ latest LND implementation (which we’ll get to later) and the Neutrino protocol, those who don’t run their own nodes can launch a noncustodial Lightning wallet within minutes.
And this wallet will come loaded with customization features that users clambered for in feedback after the last release. The preference menu option will now give Zap users the flexibility to set their own fees when transferring funds on-chain, and other features include a feedback option to rate payment channel/hub providers and the ability to customize invoice expiration time, among other things. It also includes a revamped channels submenu. With it, users can manage and create new payment channels and even track the activity of each channel they are connected to — rebalancing and other advanced metrics are coming later.
“Your imagination is your only limitation. Create neutrino powered wallets, connect to your remote node, manage your channels, drive your BTCPay server, and more from one application,” Mallers writes in the post.
Lightning Labs Strikes Again With Latest LND Release
2019 has been a productive year for Lightning Labs. Just a year after the Lightning Network’s debut, the development hub has rolled out its mobile and desktop apps, watchtowers and its Lightning Loop features. (Loop Out allows users to send bitcoin from their Lightning wallets on-chain without closing channels, while Loop In allows them to top off their balances without closing channels.)
In its LND v0.7-beta release, Lightning Labs’ Lightning Network software implementation adds on to Lightning Loop and watchtowers, along with beefing up some of its other features.
Notably, the update includes payment tracking and management improvements. A new set of protocols allows for payment tracking, with the expressed aim of better representing the accurate state of channels should a Lightning node go down in the midst of processing a payment.
“This information is particularly useful for services that use lnd’s ‘hodl invoice’ functionality, including Lightning Loop In. With these services, payments can stay in intermediate states for longer periods of time, so proper tracking of payment states in case of shutdown is even more important,” the blog post reads.
The new version comes with LND’s Mission Control payment channel routing system to help users find the most reliable route to peers on the network, as well as a fee management tool for sending bitcoin on-chain and other general UX/UI improvements.
Casa’s New Mobile App Wants You to Stack Sats
This week, Bitcoin hardware and key management company Casa announced that it is rolling a Lightning wallet and a Lolli-like, bitcoin-back reward system into one app.
The Sats App is a Lightning Network wallet that syncs directly with Casa’s plug-and-play Lightning Network and Bitcoin full node. It runs Tor and can be used anywhere to make full use of a Casa node, from the comfort of your own home.
It also comes with ease-of-use features, sticking to Casa’s mission to bring Bitcoin’s bleeding edge tech to its least technical users. Its SatsTag, for instance, lets you customize a pseudonymous handle (think Venmo) to represent your identity on Lightning, instead of your public key and node’s IP/Tor address. This address scheme, Casa believes, will whittle down the awkward string of numbers that denotes a receiving address to something more palatable to the average user. It also enables users to send payments without receiving an invoice first.
“We realize that not everyone will want to link their node with a SatsTag, so we will always fully support invoice- and address-based payments as well. Simplifying experience for new users is important, but only if we can do so while respecting user sovereignty by including full existing Lightning payment methods,” the company post reads.
The application will also come with a SatsBack feature, which will reward its users for executing “simple, everyday actions.” For instance, the first of these entails a 20,000 sat reward for connecting the app to a Casa node, and the company said it will announce more as the application hits the market.
Speaking of which, you can try out the Sats App in testnet right now, but you’ll have to sign up for the private beta to get a feel for the real thing. Casa will begin clearing applicants for its iOS release next week and Android “soon after.” The full release will be a few weeks coming.
Colin is an associate editor and staff writer for Bitcoin Magazine. He's proud to call Nashville his home, where he spends his days shouting at peddle taverns and trying to find affordable parking downtown. If it wasn't already obvious, he holds bitcoin.