Thunder, a project by Blockchain.info, is a collection of alternate nodes that allow users to make bitcoin payments off-chain in seconds, and sync with the standard Bitcoin network later. Unlike traditional payments made with bitcoin that can take up to an hour for a healthy number of confirmations, transactions made on the Thunder network are said to be ideal for quick payments and could lead to an increase of use for businesses that deal primarily in face-to-face transactions with their customers.
Thunder has, according to tests by Blockchain.info, creates a system that will allow for very cheap payments with fees developed by the free market that will be “fundamentally lower than on-chain payments.” All transactions on the Thunder network are encrypted and take place only after authentication, which protects all parties involved with each transaction. Furthermore, payments made on the network are irreversible once they are seen by both parties while being instant in nature.
An off-chain network like this opens up increased utility of the blockchain and could pave the way for further innovation of the technology to create a widely used system of instant, trustless payments between parties. This development in Bitcoin technology could be huge for both business and financial applications. Currently, the Thunder prototype does not support transactions that are enforceable at the Bitcoin protocol level, meaning that testing the system is best for a trusted network of users. Developers and friends are encouraged to test the system but not use it for real payments yet.
Blockchain.info hopes to get the prototype in the hands of users as soon as possible and to gauge the readiness of the network for large-scale adoption from users. By issuing the alpha software to users, people can begin to test and develop extensions for the new technology or perhaps even new products or services. The open source alpha is available on GitHub for anyone to use.
If the system is successful in creating a system of secure, instant transactions with lower fees, it’s likely that Thunder could lead to an increase in Bitcoin transactions and increased usage among the general population that doesn’t yet use the payment system.
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Images courtesy of Blockchain.info.