Lightspark launches tool to fix Bitcoin’s Lightning Network in key test for Facebook vet David Marcus



The Lightning Network uses peer-to-peer technology to rapidly accelerate Bitcoin payments, letting users carry out rapid transactions for just a few pennies. It’s a promising idea that could finally vault Bitcoin into the mainstream but for one problem: Lightning doesn’t really work.

That’s the view of David Marcus, who oversaw messaging at Facebook (now Meta) and then led the company’s failed crypto project called Diem, which was snuffed out by hostile politicians and regulators. Today he is the CEO of Lightspark, a startup that’s raised $175 million, and which gives Marcus—also a former president of PayPal—a second chance to preside over a breakthrough moment for crypto.

On Tuesday, Lightspark announced it has launched a software package that the company says will make it easy for businesses to harness the Lightning network’s potential benefits.

In an interview with Fortune, Marcus and his team made the case that Lightspark’s new service—which offers three different pricing tiers based on volume—will make Lightning viable by making the network easy to use and supplying adequate liquidity.

According to Lightspark, the current process for using Lightning is too daunting and technical, even for many companies familiar with crypto and payment operations. And even when users do manage to get set up on Lightning, which relies on a series of peer-to-peer “channels” connecting to nodes, the network often doesn’t work because many node operators do not have enough Bitcoins on hand to immediately process transactions, Marcus claims.

Lightspark claims its solution relies on data science to constantly move liquidity to where it’s most needed, making the Lightning network more reliable. It has also created software tools that the firm says will make it practical and easy for businesses to use—a development that Marcus compares to letting people use the internet via a browser rather than the underlying TCP protocol.

“We’ve made our interface simple, removing all complexity,” the company said in a statement. “It will be familiar to people in businesses who need to integrate payments into their products and services…Lightspark discovers the best-performing nodes and predicts their ability to successfully route transitions. Our infrastructure is up to 15 times more capital efficient than most alternatives.”

The upshot of all this is that Lightspark believes people soon will be able to avail themselves of a wide variety of nearly instant Bitcoin-based payments. The company says that, for practical purposes, this means it will become possible to buy a wide variety of online services—from music to news articles to Wi-Fi access—quickly and cheaply, with little friction.

Marcus says Lightspark is already working with a number of clients, including crypto wallet providers and the Bitcoin bank and storage firm Xapo, to deploy its service.

Lightspark is not the only well-funded company to bet on turning the Lightning network into a mainstream payment tool. Earlier this year, Block (formerly Square), announced a series of initiatives that it says will help solve the network’s liquidity woes.

These initiatives come after more than a decade of Bitcoin failing to become part of everyday commerce, despite proponents hailing it as a superior payment technology. Marcus, however, believes that this moment will finally arrive, and that Lightspark will play a key role in delivering it.

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