A version of bitcoin’s much-anticipated Lightning Network is finally ready for real users. Announced today, California startup Lightning Labs has officially launched a beta version of its software (LND), making available what investors and project leads say is the first thoroughly tested version of the tech to date. This means that users can now leverage LND to send bitcoin and litecoin to other users, all without settling those transactions on the blockchain.
While this software is one of several seeking to form a combined network that aims to make cryptocurrency transactions faster and cheaper, today’s development effectively takes bitcoin a step closer to new kinds of applications, such as Internet of Things payments and recurring billing. That’s because, similar to bitcoin, the Lightning protocol isn’t managed by any one person or company. It’s a series of compatible technologies. Bitcoin-centric startup Blockstream released a candidate version 1.0 of the Lightning protocol specification in January, and ACINQ, another like-minded startup, already offers a live alpha software that works with bitcoin.