Stellar Goes In On Lightning with 2018 Launch Target

FEATURE
Alyssa Hertig
Mar 19, 2018 at 16:00 UTC  |  Updated  Mar 20, 2018 at 08:59 UTC

A lesser-known cryptocurrency with a unique approach to decentralized payments is hopping aboard the Lightning bandwagon.

Making strides on an ambitious roadmap released earlier this year, the non-profit behind the cryptocurrency Stellar has released a formal specification describing how and when it plans to adopt the transaction tech originally invented for bitcoin, in the process providing the latest sign Lightning is spreading as a pressing priority across blockchains.

Overall, the specification describes how Stellar plans to adopt the technology, marking a milestone for a project that's been in-progress since Stellar Development Foundation co-founder and CTO Jed McCaleb first floated the idea back in 2015.

McCaleb told CoinDesk:

"Scalability is one of our primary focuses over the next year. Hype tends to exceed reality in blockchain space – visions are big. The thing is, the tech can't actually realize what people want today."

Most pressing of all, though, according to McCaleb, is that Stellar's partners are pushing for this kind of scale.

When ethereum experienced growing pains, mobile messaging app Kik ditched the platform for the more scalable Stellar. But, if Kik really starts wants to move all of its transactions over to Stellar, the platform simply can't handle that size, McCaleb conceded.

In addition, partners tech giant IBM has "ambitious plans for banks to use the network," which would require Stellar to scale, while micropayment startup SatoshiPay and others "in the pipeline" have also expressed their interest in greater transaction scalability.

"We know if they used Stellar as much as they want to, Stellar would max out," McCaleb said. "Prior to these people using the platform, it needs to be ready. We want it to be more real."

Next steps

And there are signs that Lightning could help here.

The announcement comes days after the first Lightning software for real bitcoin transactions was released by startup Lightning Labs. Though it took years for bitcoin to get to that point, McCaleb believes Stellar will be able to deliver the technology faster than bitcoin was able to.

"Now that it works in bitcoinland, that will make things move faster for us," he said.

That's not to say integrating Lightning on Stellar is an easy feat. Stellar developers can't simply port over the code working on bitcoin today. Rather, they've developed their own unique version. To that end, they enlisted developer Jeremy Rubin, who's contributed actively to bitcoin's most popular node implementation over the years.

Another – admittedly further down the line – advantage McCaleb pointed to is that Lightning makes it easier to make payments across blockchains.

But, as far as the near-term, the specification outlines a roadmap. By April 1, Stellar plans to launch the first elements the technology on a test network, with ambitious plans to release an implementation for real payments by autumn.

McCaleb stressed that the tech team is seeking feedback from developers and researchers in the community so they're not "throwing the tech over the wall."

What comes next is another story.

Bitcoin companies are raining down Lightning announcements, and McCaleb hopes that Stellar won't be far behind.

Lightning image via Shutterstock

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MicropaymentsStellarScalabilityLightning Network