Blockchain, maker of the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet, announced last Monday the alpha release of its Thunder Network, described in a corporate blog post as “the first usable implementation of the Lightning network for off chain bitcoin payments that settles back to the main bitcoin blockchain.”
Excited by research and development into payment channel technology on the bitcoin network, Blockchain said in its blog it was particularly interested in the concept of using smart contracts to develop what are essentially super-charged payment networks, as outlined in a white paper published by the lightning.network team. Blockchain recruited engineer Mats Jerratsch last year to work with its engineering team and lead R&D on a network based around these concepts.
“Thunder has the potential to facilitate secure, trustless, and instant payments,” said Blockchain CEO Peter Smith in the blog post. “It has the ability to unleash the power of microtransactions, to allow the bitcoin network to handle heavy loads, and to increase user privacy.”
Speaking with Forbes, Smith said, “It looks like we’ll be able to use the technology to reach near-Visa scale and do transactions for somewhere in the region of a hundredth to a thousandth of a penny.”
The magazine explained the cost will be virtually nil because, for example, if you and a friend produce 200 transactions on Thunder, you will only pay a fee when you interact with the bitcoin blockchain again. “It’s like taking an Uber Pool for your transactions,” Smith said.
Given that Thunder is at an early alpha phase, it won’t likely be widely available for at least another year, said Forbes; the main bitcoin protocol will need updates, while other software needs to be built.
Once Thunder or similar technology rolls out, Smith envisions it driving micropayments, maybe to surf the Internet ad-free, and machine-to-machine payments.
“People usually trust new systems with lower amounts of value,” he said to Forbes. “So there’s a consumer behavior that we need to work on – even after the tech rolls out and is upgraded, we need to start the long process of technological adoption … If you say to someone, Do you want to move $500, they’ll probably say, I don’t think so, but if you say, Do you want to move 5 cents, they’ll say, hey, why not?”
Image via a press release CoinReport received earlier