The Curious Case of Gregory Maxwell & The Lightning Network
The Bitcoin world never shies away from a good conversation, although some of the discussions may turn out quite differently from what people originally anticipated. Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell recently engaged in quite an interesting debate about the Lightning Network, and whether or not it will be decentralized, or how transactions will be routed. […]
The Bitcoin world never shies away from a good conversation, although some of the discussions may turn out quite differently from what people originally anticipated. Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell recently engaged in quite an interesting debate about the Lightning Network, and whether or not it will be decentralized, or how transactions will be routed. Or that is what he wanted to get across, but his answers indicate a far bigger problem.
Gregory Maxwell on The Lightning Network
Discussions about the Lightning Network tend to get very technical in nature, and people with little to no coding knowledge might get lost along the way. Luckily, this particular Reddit discussion managed to keep things relatively simple, although words like “decentralized” and “trustless” still seem to be a source of confusion for some people.
Among those confused people appears to be Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell himself, or so it seems. When one particular Reddit user goes into a thorough discussion with him regarding the Lightning Network, things go from bad to worse as far as Maxwell’s replies are concerned. Granted, it is not easy to build a trustless and decentralized protocol from scratch, especially when the Lightning Network whitepaper offers no help regarding transaction routing.
That being said, there is a trustless aspect to the whitepaper, where it touches upon the subject of executing payments across multiple parties. However, performing a payment and routing a transaction are two entirely different things. Without a proper path, payments will not go from individual A to individual B, which renders the entire concept completely moot.
A new transaction route is not just created out of thin air, as it requires a ton of research and development even before words can be put on a paper and called a concept. However, according to Gregory Maxwell, one of his developers is actively working on this problem, which would be quite a magnanimous breakthrough.
Needless to say, this statement by Maxwell is being questioned by the Reddit community. At the time of publication, there was no feasible foundation for a solution to the routing problem, and it has to be tackled from scratch. In fact, most people have no idea how such a solution would even work on paper, let alone in a developmental sandbox. However, Maxwell does not provide any shred of evidence that something along those lines is being worked on in the first place, which only adds fuel to the fire.
Maxwell stated on Reddit:
If you try to produce a bright line test, and are accurate about it , everything will fail, because there is no such thing in the physical world as absolute trustless absolute decentralization, or absolute freedom. There is always some limitation or compromise.
To make matters even worse, Maxwell poses the question as to how “trustless” should be defined precisely. For most people, trustless is the same as decentralized, with no oversight or entity controlling everything. However, the Bitcoin Core developer shrugs this off as “another insufficiently meaningful generality.”
What is Blockstream Really Working On, and Where’s the Proof?
Assuming the statements by Gregory Maxwell have some truth in them, the question then becomes what his company Blockstream is working on. If their CTO has no idea how to tackle the problem and is incapable of rebutting several relevant comments made regarding his statements, things are not looking all that great all of a sudden.
Keeping in mind how Blockstream is “promoting” the Lightning Network as a trustless and decentralized layer on top of the Bitcoin network, but fails to explain how the routing will not be centralized, things are not adding up at all. Sometimes it is just better to admit you have bitten off more than you can chew, rather than becoming the laughing stock of the Bitcoin community.
It is possible Blockstream is actively working on a solution to the routing problem. Ripple has done the same in the past but failed to provide a decentralized approach to this issue. Right now, there is no evidence saying Blockstream is even attempting to do things differently, and Maxwell remains tightlipped on what is going on behind the scenes if anything at all.
The company did raise another $55 million USD in funding, allowing Blockstream to further development on the Bitcoin code for commercial purposes.
What are your thoughts on Blockstream and the Lightning Network? Do any of the comments made by Maxwell make sense? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Blockstream, Gregory Maxwell, Shutterstock