The Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) at the MIT Media Lab on Wednesday unveiled a lightweight Lightning Network software called “Lit”. This new client does not require its own full Bitcoin node to run like other Lightning clients do and it even has a handy wallet built in.
“This is the first alpha v0.1 release of lit,” its Github page states, describing the software as “a Lightning node you can run on your own.” The project started in November last year and currently has 12 developers contributing to it.
In a blog post, MIT DCI open-source developer and research scientist Tadge Dryja introduced Lit and urged everyone to test the software. The co-author of the original Lightning Network paper and former CEO of Lightning Labs wrote:
We encourage people to try out lit, make channels, and see how it works.
While admitting that Lit is not yet reliable enough to move real money around safely, he said “it is at a state where it can be fun and informative to try it out with test networks to get a feel for what it can do.”
How is Lit ‘Lightweight’?
Lightning Network nodes require running a full Bitcoin node which can be cumbersome and costly, Dryja explained. Citing that Lit can connect to existing full nodes, he noted:
Lit differs from some of the other Lightning Network implementations: it has its own wallet software and doesn’t require a full node, making it easier to run.
The software can be especially useful when used to test a new system with testnet coins. “Who wants to download gigabytes of data just for testing?” he questioned. The developer hopes that the added ease of setup will help get more people into building lightning networks.
Other Use Cases of Lightning Network
The Lightning Network was designed with blockchain scalability in mind but there are also many other use cases, Dryja explained. “Some of the first enthusiastic responses to the design were that it removes the 10+ minute wait for transactions to be confirmed.”
In addition, he noted that the Lightning Network channels have an important feature, the cross-chain atomic swap, which enables payment channels to start and end on separate blockchains. “They can be on any chain as long as they support some similar functionality.”
While Lit will only connect to test networks currently, there are already multiple testnets for Lit to deploy on, since several altcoins have now activated Segregated Witness (Segwit). Early on Wednesday, Segwit successfully activated on Litecoin. Within hours of Segwit activation, a Lightning payment took place on Litecoin’s main network.
“Today, Lit operates concurrently on multiple blockchains: Bitcoin’s testnet3 and Litecoin’s testnet4,” Dryja explained, adding that “it also can connect to local regtest networks for faster testing.” He detailed:
Lit can simultaneously connect to multiple networks, and create independent channels on each. This is a step towards being able to exchange coins without centralized exchanges, by directly connecting to peers on the network.
At this stage, Lit is rough code primarily made for developers to experiment with lightning networks. “The code is still under construction and new features are being added all the time. There is lots of work needed to strengthen the wallet and channel capabilities, and open-source contributions are welcomed,” Dryja concluded.
A developer’s walkthrough of Lit is available here.
What do you think of Lit? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and MIT Media Lab
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