Who can use the Lightning Network?
The Lightning Network is a layer-2 payment protocol built on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. One of the primary benefits of the Lightning Network is that it allows for near-instant transactions that are processed off-chain, meaning they don't require the full verification process of the blockchain.
Transactions on the Lightning Network are executed using payment channels, allowing multiple payments to be made without requiring each payment to be recorded on the blockchain. The payment channel can be closed at any time by either party, at which point the final balance is settled on the blockchain. This makes the Lightning Network ideal for small, frequent transactions, such as buying a cup of coffee or paying for a ride-sharing service.
The Lightning Network is based upon an open source software protocol and can be used by anyone who can use that software. In the early years of the Lightning Network development, users needed to have the necessary technical knowledge and access to the appropriate software. Users needed to download an implementation of the open source software and run that software on their own hardware. They needed to set up one or more payment channels to start sending and receiving bitcoin payments on the Lightning Network. Opening a channel involves depositing bitcoin into a multi-signature address, which is essentially a shared wallet between the two parties. Once the payment channel was set up, the two parties could begin transacting with each other.
Today companies like Lightspark have built enterprise-ready services that make it easier and more instant to start to send transactions on the Lightning Network. Which means that businesses of all sizes and with different technical capabilities will be able to access near-instant, open payments.