What is the Lightning Network?

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those kicks were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightening
But they did it with expert timing

In short, the lightning network is Bitcoin’s answer to the problem of scalability on the Bitcoin blockchain.  It’s a ‘2nd layer’ solution that creates a network of peer-to-peer payment channels that facilitate and record transactions off chain and then settle or sync back up with the main chain.

The idea is that by creating this second layer the transactions can occur much faster in real-time without having to be processed through the congestion and cost of the main chain.

To make it simple—it’s kind of like running an excel spreadsheet on your computer where random access memory (‘lightning network’) keeps track of the changes you’re making to a file.  This makes your experience faster and more efficient because your computer is using a faster temporary memory space to track the changes.  Then when you’re done making changes you save that file to your hard drive which makes all of the changes permanent by recording/updating the file to your hard drive (the Bitcoin blockchain).

In general scalability is a big problem for blockchain developers to address and there are many approaches to scaling and increasing ‘throughput’ (the number and rate of transactions).

Who’s Kung Fu will be strongest?

Here’s a video that explains the Kung Fu of Lightning in simple terms: