Bitcoin. You either love it or hate it.
I don’t know anybody who sits in between.
But that’s an improvement on a year ago. Back then you’d either heard of it or you hadn’t. The crypto boom of 2017 put an end to that.
Now everyone has an opinion on it.
What I’ve found is that people who love cryptocurrency tend to focus on everything that makes it great. They’re usually optimistic about ideas of the future, and technology in general.
Those who fear cryptocurrencies tend to whine about the potential drawbacks…
Here are a few of the objections you’ve probably heard:
‘Bitcoin’s not secure enough.’
‘It’s too complicated to use.’
‘It’s only used by criminals.’
‘The price is too volatile to be useful.’
And even louder in recent times:
‘Crypto transactions are taking too long!’
But for those who sit on the ‘love’ side of the spectrum (like myself), these objections aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, they’re vital. Because they create opportunities.
They pave the way for solutions.
We don’t ignore the fear-mongering. In fact, we listen to it. All of the above are valid concerns. Anyone who denies that is just being a purist.
It’s a bit like politics. Extremism on either side is bound to fail.
For blockchain technology to thrive, we need to approach it even-handedly.
We can love it, use it and invest in it, but we also need to develop it with an eye on improving it.
A la Daft Punk, we make it Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.
Which is actually the same for, well, every new technology.
The first design is not supposed to be the final one.
If that were the case, your only source of entertainment from your mobile phone would be Snake. (Although, how addictive was that game?!)
Technology’s supposed to start something special. To inspire. To promise a bright new tomorrow.
Luckily, most in the cryptocurrency community have long since realised this.
A new protocol to make bitcoin even better has just been born into the world…
The launch of Lightning
You may have heard of the Lightning Network.
It’s actually been in development since 2015.
Lightning Network technology is a layer that sits on top of the main bitcoin blockchain to make transactions a whole lot faster.
This is a common solution you find in technology. It’s called building the stack.
A stack is exactly what it sounds like — layers of different software sitting on top of each other specialising in doing different things.
You and I don’t see the stack. We just see the end product.
But it’s the same approach lightening developers are using with bitcoin.
Lightning is a peer-to-peer solution that relies on a smart contract between two parties who wish to exchange micropayments.
It works like this…
A log of the transactions is kept ‘off-chain’ between the two parties and netted out. The transactions are only put ‘on-chain’ (that is put in a block on the bitcoin blockchain) if one of the parties wishes to.
I’ll try that again in English: Lightning makes crypto move faster between hands without compromising on security. And it’s ultra-cheap.
Ta-da! Problem solved.
Well, in theory, at least…
It’s only out in the wild in beta testing since early this year, but it’s fast beginning to gather speed in tech circles and the wider community.
This is because it’s a great example of an objection inspiring a solution. And that’s what ground-breaking technology does.
Some are saying that Lightning single-handedly solves the bitcoin scalability problem.
Others are talking about how Lightning technology could be leveraged in other mediums outside of the crypto universe.
We’ll never know exactly what the future holds, but one thing’s for sure: with Lightning, bitcoin users won’t have to wait around anymore for their money. Gone are the days of bitcoin transactions taking minutes, hours or even weeks to clear.
The future’s all about fast money, fast technology, fast connections…
I’m of the firm opinion bitcoin is in the box seat for this future.
But like I said at the start, there’s certainly those who disagree.
In November 2017, one of those viral list writers who publish articles like ‘10 Reasons Bitcoin Will Destroy Your life’ or something to that effect, wrote of bitcoin’s time problem:
‘There is no guarantee that it will ever improve. In fact, it’s likely to keep getting worse.’
This is an interesting perspective to take on any sort of technology.
Technology doesn’t work like that. It persistently evolves into better iterations of itself, forever and ever. And that’s what the ‘haters’ need to remember.
It doesn’t have to weather the storm alone.
Bitcoin is not a lone rider
Bitcoin haters can make the mistake of discounting cryptocurrency because bitcoin isn’t perfect.
What they need to realise is that blockchain technology is a foundation. Bitcoin is a foundation. As a concept, it’s fertile ground for add-ons and complementary developments to grow and flourish.
Altcoins, second layer solutions, new and faster consensus mechanisms — there is progress being made every single day on the whole concept of cryptocurrency.
Each one tackling a perceived flaw. Each one solving a problem.
That’s what makes it so great.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that safe ideas don’t see astronomical success.
Ideas that revolutionise the way we live do. Better yet if the idea is a work of collaboration. A movement.
The Lightning Network is relatively new and it’s still in the test phase. Expect attacks, criticisms and problems. But I’d be keeping a very close eye on it if I were you.
One day, one of these breakthroughs is going to be the proverbial straw that opens the floodgates for bitcoin.
Contributing Editor, Tech Insider