Bitcoin users have high expectations for the Lightning Network. It is a scaling solution unlike any we have seen to date. Faster transactions and near-zero fees are of great interest. However, current testing of this technology is not going according to plan. A couple users have reported the loss of coins due to various bugs found in the code. It’s a worrisome development, but this is why such solutions are deployed on the testnet first.
Lightning Network Payment Channel Issues
There is a genuine interest in exploring what the Lightning Network has to offer for average Bitcoin users. The idea of opening direct payment channels between individual parties is certainly something to look forward to. That’s because it will become possible to complete transactions nearly instantly, and fees will be kept to a bare minimum. All of this is still very far away, though, as the Lightning Network still needs to be tested thoroughly on the Bitcoin testnet.
So far, these tests have yielded mixed results. While the concept of payment channels appears to be working fine, multiple users have reported losing their money. Several bugs have been identified when it comes to closing the payment channels again, which is a critical part of the Lightning Network. Issues like these need to be sorted out as soon as possible, and they confirm that this technology isn’t production ready in the slightest.
With a Bitcoin payment channel, two users can transfer value back and forth without any problems. Connecting hundreds, thousands, or millions of these payment channels together will result in what we have come to know as the Lightning Network. However, if one channel can’t be closed properly, there’s a good chance other users will suffer from similar issues as well. So far, these incidents seem rather isolated, but that doesn’t mean there is no underlying cause.
Happened to my node too. It didn't claim its own auto-close tx. Anyway, I manually tried to close the channel. cli said 'it's already ONCHAIND_OUR_UNILATERAL`, BUT it created another transaction (i/p from auto-close tx) and claimed the o/p of new tx.
— Samrat Gupta (@samratgupta) January 22, 2018
There have been many warnings that the Lightning Network may not necessarily be the end-all solution so many people expect it to be. In fact, we have seen multiple warnings regarding this technology in its current state. Even Lightning Labs’ CTO has cautioned the public about lingering bugs and noted that the code is not complete. That is the main reason why it shouldn’t be used on the Bitcoin mainnet as of right now.
Unfortunately, some cryptocurrency enthusiasts decided to use the technology with their actual Bitcoin balances and are now suffering the consequences. In a way, it is their own fault for using incomplete technology which isn’t even supposed to be used on the mainnet until the developers give it the green light. People who ignore warnings like these always risk losing their funds, which is exactly what happened in these two incidents. Sadly, recovering the lost money will be virtually impossible.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. It seems both users had issues claiming their own auto-close transaction for the payment channel. Manually closing the channel resulted in an error, even though it did successfully create a new transaction. So far, neither of the transactions have been claimed properly despite numerous network confirmations. We can only hope the developers find a way to address these issues, even though no one should run the LN on the mainnet as of right now.