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Saturday Reading and Listening

Unstoppable protocols. Plus! Non-obvious problems with Lightning and Bitcoin.

  1. (Very technical) Issues with Bitcoin Lightning by Shinobi. Payments with lightning are quick and cheap, but traction seems weak (value locked is only in the hundreds of millions). The biggest issue I see is that Bitcoin as a currency is too volatile to use for payments, which is not uniquely a Lightning issue. Another practical issue is that – to generate an invoice – a user has to either run a node (which takes a ton of storage), or be connected to a routing node (which current lightning wallets don’t make easy). And managing a node (which involves creating peer to peer payment channels) is complicated and an art rather than a science. So, overall it is hard – as a user or a software provider – to use or to provide access to lightning services in a non-custodial way. Here is some more reading to go deeper on attack-vectors.

  2. Strike is a business (like Venmo or Revolut or Cash App) that uses KYC and fiat in the front end, but Bitcoin Lightning to transfer funds on the back end. A benefit there is that Strike itself can’t get blocked from using Lightning – although the bank accounts/debit cards of its users can get blocked. So, Strike partially reduces censorship risks. Another worthwhile point raised by this article is how crypto transactions – being non-reversible – means that payment providers need to find ways of preventing merchant fraud (whereby the merchant gets paid but doesn’t delivery any product).

  3. A vision for open finance (i.e. DeFi). This article was written by Near protocol back before Ethereum transaction fees were lower than Bitcoin. Bitcoin is presented as the open payment network and Ethereum as the open finance network. Already, at this point (no date in the article, but probably before 2020), Near saw the scaling issues with Ethereum and moved ahead with a sharding roadmap.

  4. (Non-obvious) Problems with Bitcoin. A good way to find out the problems with something is to read the criticisms from someone supporting a competitor that is somewhat similar, in this case Bitcoin SV (Satoshi Vision, which is a protocol that forked from Bitcoin to have larger block sizes and cheaper transactions). It does seem to me that mining will continue to centralise for Bitcoin (although there is some geographic differentiation due to energy sources, that may afford some protection).

  5. Tezos Founder on Odd Lots Podcast. His focus is on being censorship resistant – even though most people don’t and won’t appreciate this.

  6. Unstoppable Protocols by Token Brice. I think this is the real dimension on which protocols are competing right now.

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