An alpha version of the new Lightning desktop app has been released. The application includes a redesigned and optimized backend for light clients, as well as a simplified interface for users with little to no cryptocurrency experience.
Lead application developer at Lightning Labs Tankred Hase joined the company in January 2018 and was assigned to oversee the app’s redesign. Speaking with Bitcoin Magazine, Hase explains that the application preceding the current design was very much a prototype and built before his time with the company.
“The aim was to expose the core functionality of Lightning, which would have otherwise been available only via the command line,” he said. “This new redesigned version was developed with the average user in mind. We applied the design sprint methodology to prototype and test the user’s interface before writing the application code. This allowed us to validate some core assumptions about our user personas and get feedback from real users by doing research with both experienced and novice bitcoin users.”
Sprint methodology refers to a five-day process in which critical business questions are resolved through designing, prototyping and testing ideas with customers. According to Hase, this is what caused the team to simplify the interface and make it easier to understand for those who are new to crypto. He says that the updated interface is “less cluttered” than other bitcoin wallets, tacking design and UX cues from more mainstream payment apps like PayPal or Venmo.
To make a payment, all a user must do is paste a bitcoin address or a Lightning invoice into the payment screen. The app then takes the appropriate next steps for the customer.
“We’re working on making the routing of payments more reliable, and I think this process will keep us busy for some time since this is a fundamentally hard problem,” Hase said. “Once we have solved it, many of the technical details that are still visible to the user today will hopefully disappear, or at least be available only under advanced settings. This should make things much more seamless for newcomers and non-technical users,” Hase stated.
“I’m really optimistic that this will allow us to make bitcoin and Lightning more accessible,” he continued.
One of the main issues surrounding the Lightning app is that it’s a hot wallet, meaning a user’s private keys are stored in the wallet and not in offline cold storage. Thus, the application is vulnerable to cyber theft. Looking to mitigate the risk of such events, Hase says the maximum amount of BTC the wallet can hold is limited to 0.16, making it a “small target” for criminals.
Hase says they also employ auto-updates to keep vulnerabilities to a minimum. The app undergoes a rigorous engineering process that involves a high level of testing, and Hase explains they wouldn’t put an application out unless they felt extremely sure its security was airtight. The wallet’s code has also undergone heavy peer review, and a third-party security audit will occur before the wallet leaves its beta stage.
The alpha release of the wallet is now available to try on testnet. Interested users can download the latest release here.