by Joseph Young
On June 3, an insider source told Chinese cryptocurrency news agency CnLedger that two of the largest Chinese bitcoin exchanges Huobi and OKCoin are currently working on the development of an off-chain payment channel similar to the Lightning network to lower transaction fees.
“Chinese exchanges Huobi and OKCoin are working on building a Lightning Network-like channel, to lower transaction fee and alleviate congestion.”
The utilization of private blockchain networks and off-chain solutions is not a new concept. Popular platforms such as Coinbase and many mobile applications such as BTCC’s Mobi have utilized private blockchains to increase the flexibility of their applications.
On March 20, BTCC released a mobile app called Mobi designed to increase liquidity and ease trading for casual traders and users. The app offers a bitcoin debit card service that allows users to purchase items and service from both online and offline merchants.
In its official press release, BTCC emphasized that Mobi operates on top of a private blockchain which can be used to send money instantly to 2 billion smartphone users. If the money is sent as a bitcoin transaction, it is first processed within Mobi’s private blockchain network and then broadcasted onto the Bitcoin public blockchain.
“Mobi accounts are linked to users’ mobile numbers; all that is needed to use Mobi is a smartphone. Mobi users can instantly transfer funds to any of the two billion other global smartphone users using Mobi’s private blockchain. Mobi also supports bitcoin transfers on the Bitcoin public blockchain,” explained the BTCC development team.
There exist many reasons why companies including Coinbase and Mobi utilize private blockchains, but the major factor is speed and functionality. The presence of an off-chain solution and a private blockchain allows apps to operate on top of a more flexible platform.
For instance, Coinbase serves just over seven and a half million users on its platform. In April, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong highlighted that Coinbase stored ten percent of all bitcoins in circulation. The sheer magnitude of bitcoin transactions and trades Coinbase deals with makes it impractical for the platform to process all transactions on-chain. Thus, to deal with the increasing activities, Coinbase stores and processes transactions in a separate ledger.
On non-custodial bitcoin wallet platforms such as Blockchain, only users have access to private keys, and therefore, even if accounts are hacked, hackers cannot gain access to user funds. However, on platforms like Coinbase and other exchanges as seen in the case of Bitfinex, the circumstances are different. In fact, Armstrong encouraged users to log all activities in the event of a breach of an efficient auditing process.
“It is critical to have a good audit trail if there ever is an incident. The only thing worse than being hacked, is being hacked but not knowing how it happened,” said Armstrong.
CnLedger’s inside source stated that the two Chinese exchanges are working hard to create a Lightning-like payment channel that will likely operate similarly to Coinbase and Mobi’s private blockchains to address increasing demand for bitcoin and trading activities.
“Details are still unknown. But one insider told me that they've been working hard on this. The result will be only one settlement each day,” revealed CnLedger.
Some experts including Andrew Keys of Consensus Systems (ConsenSys) recommended networks like the Raiden Network, a high-speed asset transfer platform for Ethereum, to go with the two exchanges’ recent Ethereum integration.
The activation of Segregated Witness (SegWit) is expected to drastically improve the infrastructure for two-layer solutions like Lightning and also, the Lightning-like payment channels that are being built by companies like Huobi and OKCoin.