Flare, Bitfury’s algorithm for payment routing on the Lightning Network, has completed its first test and trial run with flying colors. Courtesy of ACINQ, a French startup offering products and services for the Bitcoin ecosystem, who tested the routing algorithm with 2,500 Amazon Web Services nodes and found that the Flare algorithm was able to find a route in half a second with an 80 percent success rate.
The Lightning Network has been touted as a major implementation required to handle scaling of Bitcoin, in particular for increasing amounts of microtransactions. The time required to wait for one confirmation is simply too slow for everyday purchases, and accepting zero confirmation transactions requires trust and opens up vulnerabilities to “double-spend” attacks.
The only problem with the Lightning Network is there is no clear method on how to find payment routes. The Lightning Network works as a two-way street of payment channels, layered on top of the bitcoin blockchain. It would not require confirmations, allowing for near instantaneous off-blockchain transactions.
The Lightning Network could also be deployed on other blockchains, and between blockchains with cross-ledger transactions; a lot of potential rides on the Lightning Network. The one caveat is that the Lightning Network is designed whereby either the entire transaction succeeds or fails, hence the importance of finding appropriate payment channel routes. Thanks to ACINQ, we now know that we have at least one static method of satisfying this requirement, with their Eclair implementation, a small modification of BitFury’s Flare algorithm.
Valery Vavilov, CEO of the BitFury Group, states that the successful first test brings us one step closer to actual implementation of the Lightning Network and addressing the scalability issue in Bitcoin:
“This test of Flare, with small modifications made by the ACINQ team, shows that our solution is not only theoretically feasible, but successful. We are now one step closer to bringing the Lightning Network into reality and solving the scalability issue of the Bitcoin Blockchain.”
With a design goal of developing an algorithm that finds routes as quickly as possible and keeping the amount of data stored on devices to a minimum to maintain decentralization, The Flare algorithm is one of the most sophisticated routing methods conceived due to how it handles privacy. As a result of maintaining decentralization, each node only sees a fraction of the network topology and has connections with local nodes as well as random nodes, with the latter acting as beacons.
As a result of maintaining decentralization, each node only sees a fraction of the network topology and has connections with local nodes as well as random nodes, which act as beacons. The combinations of local and beacon nodes means that a node can minimize its routing state, while finding routes to any given nodes with a high likelihood.
The accomplishment by ACINQ puts to rest criticism that the Lightning Network would be difficult to implement. With further development, it would not be surprising to see a more complex version with higher accuracy.
With this first step of shifting the Lightning Network from a theoretical construct to reality, the potential to skyrocket Bitcoin’s transaction per second capabilities way above that of Visa’s and other traditional payment networks looks promising. However, ACINQ’s test was only concerned with static routing, whereby dynamic routing, which requires nodes to maintain channels that are changing with each payment, and encryption features are also required for the Lightning Network to become ready for everyday use.