Lightning Labs has unveiled the first release of its Lightning App for desktop users, which will allow anyone to use the Lightning Network for Bitcoin payments. Since this is an alpha version targeted at testers, the app is fairly limited. However, the app’s release means that anyone can experiment with Lightning without going to great lengths.

Features of the App

In this release, the Lightning App handles real funds for the first time. Previous versions of the app only handled testnet BTC, but this version now works with mainnet BTC—that is, real Bitcoin. Nevertheless, since this is an alpha version, there may be critical bugs, so the app should not yet be used for large or important transactions.

The app is powered by Neutrino, a Lightning technology that is also being built into a new wallet for Bitcoin Cash. Neutrino basically allows light wallets to provide most of the privacy features that full node wallets enjoy. The advantage is that, unlike full node wallets, Neutrino-based light wallets do not need to spend time syncing a large amount of data.

The Lightning App is fairly limited in some regards. Right now, it is mostly capable of sending Bitcoin over the Lightning Network—it is not optimized to receive payments. Lightning Labs says that there are “UX challenges” when it comes to automatically getting inbound channel capacities. Eventually, the app will use Lightning Loop to solve this problem.

Will Lightning Gain Traction?

The Lightning Network is now over a year old, and it has always promoted itself as a fast and inexpensive way to transfer Bitcoin. However, this has also been limited by its extremely complex set-up process. This new desktop app means that Lightning will be accessible even to basic users thanks to an “autopilot” feature. Lightning Labs writes:

“For everyone to truly explore what is possible with the Lightning Network, we needed to build a wallet that knocks down these barriers-to-entry and demonstrates what is possible when technology fights for the user.”

Lightning Labs is also gaining ground thanks to community-run campaigns like the Lightning Torch. However, it is not universally loved: Peter Rizun of Bitcoin Unlimited has recently criticized Lightning on many fronts. And as different projects pursue their own way to scale Bitcoin for mass adoption, there is no telling who will come out on top.


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