Did you know? Lightning addresses and bitcoin addresses are not compatible.
What that means is that a user can’t send money from their lightning address directly to a recipient bitcoin address, or vice versa, without going through an additional step to transferring their lightning funds into a bitcoin account of their own.
Seems counterintuitive, especially since the layer-two technology for transacting off-chain, is touted as a way to revolutionize the protocol to scale – more users and more transactions. And yet, there’s this incompatibility between new off-chain lightning transactions and old-school on-chain bitcoin ones.
One developer, though, has been working on a possible solution, and it was inspired by an interoperability technology that’s been slowly gaining steam – atomic swaps.
Lightning Labs developer Alex Bosworth was looking into atomic swaps, a technology that allows the native cryptocurrency of one blockchain to be traded with another with no middleman when it hit him that it could be used to swap lightning for old-style on-chain bitcoins.
Called “submarine swaps,” that technology is now being tested on the live lightning network.
Although, trying it out might actually be dangerous. Much like even transacting on the still-nascent lightning network, Bosworth admitted when he announced the project’s mainnet launch that using submarine swaps at this stage is a risky venture.
“There’s still lots to build, but it’s more fun to try on mainnet,” he tweeted, using the “reckless” hashtag, what’s become a rallying cry for developers utilizing the experimental technology with real money.
For his work, Bosworth has set up a connection between the bitcoin blockchain and the lightning network with the technology. Currently, the tech only supports funds being sent from a blockchain to the lightning network, and not yet the other way around.
But swapping lightning network payments for on-chain coins should be possible one day as well.
And, far beyond that, Bosworth envisions a future when every bitcoin or cryptocurrency wallet someday supports the technology, and as such, it would be just as easy to send litecoin, dogecoin or any coin to a lightning address.