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Lightning: The Bitcoin Scaling Tech You Really Should Know

Asked by sports blogger Dave Portnoy in his inaugural video as a bitcoin investor, the comment cuts to the core of a truism about the network: while it's been billed as a "digital currency," it's actually not all the useful for payments today. In short, you're very unlikely to stumble on a bodega that accepts it (should you even want to spend it). But that's not to say that engineers aren't working on addressing the issue. That's why one of the most talked about technologies currently in development for bitcoin is the Lightning Network. Rather than updating bitcoin's underlying software (which has proven to be a messy process), Lightning essentially adds an extra layer to the tech, one where transactions can be made more cheaply and quickly, but with, hypothetically, the same security backing of the blockchain. Proposed as far back as 2015, Lightning has progressed gradually over the years, migrating from white paper, to prototype, to more advanced prototype. It's the most recent test, however, that has some looking forward to a not-so-distant future when users can at last transact via Lightning, putting to the test long-held assumptions and criticisms.