Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim to have co-created a competitor to Bitcoin’s Lightning Network with four times the capacity. Named ‘Spider’, the “cryptocurrency-routing scheme”, which was created in conjunction with students from other prestigious universities, promises to “speed up notoriously slow blockchain transactions” and create a more efficient Layer 2 solution to Bitcoin’s capacity problem.
Beating Blockchain Bottlenecks
The issues that Layer 2 scaling solutions like Lightning Network set out to address are well known, especially by anybody who tried to buy or send BTC at the height of crypto’s 2017 boom. Transactions were painfully slow, sometimes taking hours, and were much more expensive during these busy times.
Lightning Network, which was first proposed in 2016, has the ability to improve the transaction issue to a certain extent, but it suffers from unreliability and needs regular connections to the blockchain to process the payments. It also requires a certain amount of funds to be present in payment channels at all times, which can get eaten up even if the transaction is unsuccessful.
75% Cheaper than Lightning Network
Spider researchers claim that their solution, which uses the same kind of packet switching technology seen in internet protocols, is able to process 95% of transactions with just 25% of the funds used in existing payment channel networks. This makes it a more financially viable option than Lightning Network, while rebalancing the accounts requires just one on-chain connection for every 10,000 transactions.
Vibhaalakshmi Sivaraman, a graduate student at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) who is working on the project, explained the benefits of Spider:
It’s important to have balanced, high-throughput routing in PCNs (Payment Channel Networks) to ensure the money that users put into joint accounts is used efficiently. This should be efficient and a lucrative business. That means routing as many transactions as possible, with as little funds as possible, to give PCNs the best bang for their buck.
Spider Races Towards Conquering DAG
While Spider is still in its test phase, the developers are not resting on their laurels – the next stage is to make the system more robust to Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) payments, which can cause bottlenecks, as well as improving privacy aspects in order to incentivize users of the final product.
The emergence of Spider should be of concern to Lightning Network developers, who have had little such competition since they began work on the solution over three years ago. Hopefully however it will drive them on to improve their offering, which would benefit everyone.