Lightning Rod, a new offline-style payments protocol for the Bitcoin Lightning Network, will enable users to make Lightning payments to a payee without their mobile nodes being online at the same time.
Developed by Bitcoin payments startup Breez, Lightning Rod delivers a “Venmo-like user experience” for the Lightning Network, according to Breez CEO Roy Sheinfeld. “There won’t be a need for two mobile nodes (payer and payee) to be online at the same time in order to send or receive Lightning payments,” he told Decrypt. The firm has released the protocol open-source, and is planning to integrate the new functionality into its iOS and Android payment apps by the end of this year.
The new functionality is being developed specifically for payments made on the Lightning Network—a decentralized system for instant and high-volume Bitcoin micropayments. The network allows payments as low as 1 satoshi (worth $0.00008) to be sent across payment channels that distributed across the network today. Over the last few months, the network has surged back into growth with the number of network nodes recently hitting 10,000.
Currently, to make a bitcoin payment across the Lightning network, both the payer and payee need to be online and have their network nodes connected to each other. The new protocol works by routing a Lightning network payment through an intermediate node. This intermediate node is always online and can securely forward a payment without needing that the payer and the payee maintain an active connection to the network.
Sheinfeld said he would not describe the functionality as “offline Lightning payments” but as the “ability to pay someone and go offline right after you’ve sent the payment”—so the payee is offline during the payment. “It’s the difference between a phone call and text messaging,” he said. “One requires both parties to be online at the same time, the other doesn’t.
Although it’s normally not an issue whether both nodes are online in a transaction, if payments can be sent across a protocol where at least the payee is offline, it could open up the door for a much-improved UX for payments made across Bitcoin’s layer-two scaling solution.