Lightning Network Implementation ‘Amiko Pay’ Currently in Development

Bitcoin Magazine
Lightning Network Implementation ‘Amiko Pay’ Currently in Development
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The Lightning Network is a design improvement for Bitcoin that could allow users to make micropayments in a decentralized manner and help the entire network scale more efficiently over time. While this proposal has received a large amount of attention in the Bitcoin community, there is another, similar option currently in development by C.J. Plooy.

Plooy recently gave a presentation on his alternative implementation, Amiko Pay, at Scaling Bitcoin Montreal. During his talk, Plooy noted:

“If you look at the basic design of the Lightning Network — a network of payment channels. This is actually quite an old idea. There have been several variations of this, and the Lightning Network just happens to be the best so far.”

Different Types of Payment Channels Within the Same Network

Although there are strong similarities between Amiko Pay and the Lightning Network, Plooy was quick to point out some key differences between the two payment channel networks during his Scaling Bitcoin Montreal presentation. One of Plooy’s first points had to do with Amiko Pay’s ability to offer more flexibility when it comes to the types of payment channels that can be found on the network:

This kind of design makes it possible to have different kinds of channels within the same network, and that opens up a couple of possibilities. One thing is these channels can be different in technology, so they can offer different tradeoffs in terms of security versus convenience.”

Plooy went on to add:

Another difference is they could actually be running on different blockchains.”

The ability to construct a blockchain-agnostic network of payment channels is noteworthy when applied to sidechains. That sort of setup would allow transfers between sidechains to take place instantaneously. Plooy also added that nodes on Amiko Pay could essentially act as a decentralized exchange as different assets could be found on the same network.

Ripple-Style IOU Channel Already Implemented

Although Amiko Pay is still very much a work-in-progress, a channel prototype already is available. Plooy described this channel during his presentation:

What has been implemented right now is a Ripple-style IOU channel that is not a real microtransaction channel. It is just an object that fills in the place of a microtransaction channel and only does some bookkeeping of who owes what. Of course, this gives no protection or security whatsoever, but for software testing it is really useful because it is trivial to implement.”

Although the currently available channel is essentially used only for software testing right now, Plooy added that it could also be useful for connections between trusted parties in the future.

What About a True Lightning Channel?

The developers behind the Lightning Network currently are working on a sidechain implementation of the concept because the network requires some changes to Bitcoin Core. Plooy decided to take a different approach with his system. He noted, “I don’t want to depend on the Bitcoin developers to give me those new features.”

Plooy described his alternative approach to implementing a lightning channel in Amiko Pay:

I designed a different channel type that emulates these missing features with an escrow service, so now you sort of have to depend on the escrow service to correctly evaluate all of the things that are not evaluated by a Bitcoin script.”

Plooy has written a white paper, which explains his escrow-based approach in greater detail.

I think it is actually good enough for real-world usage,” he said.

Plooy closed his talk by discussing a few of the remaining issues with payment channel networks, such as unresolved security holes and economic modeling that could hinder development over the near term. For now, it does not appear that these problems will prevent Amiko Pay or the Lightning Network from existing in the real world.

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Bitcoin Mining Pool F2Pool (Discus Fish) Maintains: BIP 101 Not an Option
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F2Pool, the world’s largest Bitcoin mining pool, maintains that changing its code to allow bigger blocks through BIP 101 or Bitcoin XT is not an option.

Wang Chun, the operator of the China-based pool controlling some 20 percent of hashing power, dismissed the idea of an exponential growth rate of the maximum block size for 20 years leading to 8-gigabyte blocks.

Asked by Bitcoin Magazine, Chun said: “We cannot predict what will happen years into the future, and we think a first step to 2 megabytes should be enough for now.”

The block-size dispute – which represents a tradeoff between thenumber of transactions the Bitcoin network can handle and its decentralization – might reach a critical juncture over the next weeks. A large segment of Bitcoin’s development community will discuss the issue at the upcoming Scaling Bitcoin workshop in Hong Kong in the first week of December, while several prominent Bitcoin companies have stated they intend to change their code to allow for bigger blocks that same month.

Chun, too, believes that raising the block-size limit is an urgent matter, explaining:

“I think it is urgent, because the transaction volume is increasing on the blockchain, and if the price rises in near future, it will push the transaction volume to be even higher. I think the max block size should be raised as soon as possible, but it should not be raised too much. Two megabytes is preferred as the first step.”

One possible solution, BIP 101, is programmed to increase the maximum block size to 8 megabytes if a threshold of 75 percent of mining power accepts the change. Once activated, this limit is set to double every two years for 20 years, ultimately leading to an 8-gigabyte block-size limit.

This patch, which is designed by former Bitcoin Core lead developer Gavin Andresen, was implemented in Bitcoin XT, the alternative Bitcoin implementation run by Google veteran Mike Hearn. BIP 101 is also favored byseveral prominent Bitcoin companies, as well as Slush Pool.

Switching to BIP 101 or Bitcoin XT is a bad idea; we will never do that,” Chun reiterated his earlier position. “After a meeting with some other Chinese pools earlier this year, we proposed an 8-megabyte limit, because we thought Gavin’s initial 20 megabyte proposal was too big for us. I always thought 2 megabytes would be better as a first step, but I did not want to offend Gavin with a 10 times smaller proposal. Gavin then answered us with BIP 101, which due to its steep growth curve is essentially 8 gigabytes, so it’s done. I don’t trust Gavin anymore – nor Hearn for that matter.”

On the Bitcoin development mailing list, Chun recently suggested raising the maximum block size in accordance with the block halving. As such, the block-size limit would be raised to 2 megabytes as soon as possible, followed by an increase to 4 megabytes halfway through 2016, up to 32 megabytes by 2028.

Alternatively, Chun said he would be willing to implement an incremental increase to 8 megabytes over four years, as proposed by Blockstream CEO and hashcash inventor Dr. Adam Back. This “2-4-8” option seems acceptable to a significant segment of the Bitcoin Core development team, as well as some prominent industry members.

And even though Back proposed 2-4-8 as a temporary solution, Chun suggested that it could even be more than that.

We do not necessarily consider an 8 megabyte block-size limit a temporary solution. We don’t know what will happen moving forward. But we definitely think 8 megabytes is enough for the foreseeable future. Presumably, at least for the next three to four years.”

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