Dear Mr. Antonopoulos,
In an effort to learn more about the Lightning Network, I watched a recent video you posted (link at the end of this article). I've highlighted some of the statements that caught my attention with my questions/responses to those statements below.
0:27 - "A block size increase can push the can down the road, but you don't change scaling by orders of magnitudes with block size increases. It's not possible to do order of magnitude block size increases without fundamentally destroying the decentralization principles of Bitcoin, at least not yet."
This is the most common argument I've heard from small blockers, and I've only highlighted this here because I want to point to it later in my article.
5:10 – "Yeah 2nd layer does make it harder to do hard forks. It makes it harder for hard forks to be beneficial to those who hold. It makes it harder for the air drop to be successful."
I've often heard from Lightning Network proponents that if they eventually need to hard fork to increase block size, they will. I acknowledge that you're not saying the Lightning Network will make hard forking impossible, but thank you for pointing out that this is just something else to consider.
10:10 - "Now Lightning Network uses source routing for now. And the reason for that is because it's one of the simplest implementations you can have. There are some criticisms that source routing won't scale, and that's absolutely right, source routing will not scale, but Lightning Network is not committed to using just source routing. There are a number of other routing algorithms that could be used, and in fact many could be used simultaneously on the network to optimize for different things. Maybe a routing algorithm that optimizes for privacy, or for fees, or for the minimum amount of hops, or for large payments, or small payments. Who knows? This is still an area of active research."
12:12 - "So when people say how surmountable are Lightning scaling challenges, and is Lightning Network viable, and does routing scale, that to me is a matter of engineering optimization. Meaning that it is naive to say at this stage that, because the routing that we have today doesn't scale to billions of nodes, that means that no routing can ever scale to billions of nodes or without centralizing the network, or creating a hub-and-spoke system, or destroying privacy, etc. etc. To say that it is not possible ever because it is not done today is to misunderstand how engineering works, and to me I think this is an area of active research. The routing algorithm that exists today works for the Lightning Network that exists today. And one of the key tenets of engineering is that you don't optimize something before it's necessary to optimize something. Premature optimization is a bad engineering practice. There's no reason to introduce, or waste resources trying to build a routing algorithm that today scales to millions of nodes when we have thousands of nodes. Because there are other more interesting engineering problems to solve at this point. I would argue that issues of user interface design, or ease of use for end users, is far more important to solve at this stage of the Lightning Network, and solving problems of routing at scale will happen when it needs to happen and not yet. Is the Lightning Network really viable? Yes, it is, it works, today, and I think there is far far more research and development than most people realize is happening in this exciting space.
You admit the routing method currently used by Lightning Network won't scale, but maintain that there is still a ton of research being done in this area. Then you go on to say that just because something isn't possible because it isn't done today is to misunderstand how engineering works. Well, by that same token, can't I argue that just because you can't do order of magnitude block size increases today doesn't mean it can't EVER happen. Finally, when you say the routing method used today works for the Lightning Network that exists today, wouldn't Bitcoin with 32 megabyte blocks WORK TODAY FOR THE NUMBER OF USERS WE HAVE TODAY? The last part of your statement is just as infuriating. Isn't the Lightning Network the very thing you're arguing against? Isn't it an optimization of something before it's necessary? PREMATURE OPTIMIZATION IS A BAD ENGINEERING PRACTICE! Your words, not mine. And yes, I completely agree that there are other more interesting engineering problems to solve like user interface design, or ease of use for end users, which is what the developers in the Bitcoin Cash community are focused on.
It's almost as if you're making the case for Bitcoin Cash instead of the Lightning Network. Do you disagree?
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