ACINQ, the company behind the development of the Phoenix and Eclair wallets, is promoting the use of “springboard payments” from the Bitcoin Lightning developers’ mailing list. According to company details, all the network nodes could function as intermediaries in this payment service.
The email that approves the diffusion of the trampoline payments for the Lightning Network of Bitcoin is published in the list of the Linux Foundation. As detailed both in the email and in an ACINQ publication, the company has proposed the creation of a network of “springboard” nodes that simplifies payments for users who use the payment network in their day-to-day activities.
To understand the repercussions of this proposal, it is necessary to understand that Springboard payments make it possible for a Lightning user to make payments without the need to fully sync with the network. For example, if a person wants to pay for a coffee with Lightning in the traditional way, they will first need to sync their wallet to the network and then find an easy payment path that takes them to the coffee shop node.
Each of these steps consumes bandwidth, drains your phone’s battery, and takes time to complete. Due to this, payments with bitcoin through Lightning become cumbersome and very slow to be used in a daily purchase. For this reason, ACINQ through the Phoenix wallet introduced springboard payments in 2019.
These do not require the user’s wallet to synchronize with all nodes on the network before routing a transaction. In contrast, just by locating those nodes that are close to each other, or remote nodes that function as “springboards”, a third party may calculate the most suitable route for the customer’s payment.
A brilliant payments idea for Lightning, but centralized
The springboard payments service was being carried out solely and exclusively by the main ACINQ node. As CriptoNoticias has explained, the wallet automatically reviews the user’s channels, divides the payment to be sent and transfers it to the central node, which is in charge of calculating the route for said money to reach the final recipient.
In other words, like a “springboard”, the node is in charge of promoting a customer’s payment in the most appropriate route for said transaction to arrive instantly. In this way, a user saves several steps when transferring bitcoins on the Lightning network and the time it takes to carry out this action is considerably reduced.
ACINQ proposes creating a network with springboard nodes, which could help route transactions to users and charge for their service. Source: ACINQ.
Although the feature greatly simplifies user interaction with the Bitcoin Lightning Network, the reality is that this model centralized transactions, as the ACINQ node functions as a kind of custodian that knows the origin and destination of all payments. In a network that has been widely scrutinized for levels of decentralization, the applications of the Bitcoin payment network are increasingly focused on promoting greater participation among users and distribution of functions.
The opening of springboard payments to all audiences would solve this problem, since it would not be a single central node that operates as an intermediary, but rather a network of nodes capable of routing user transactions. According to the ACINQ company statement, node owners would be interested in collaborating on this project not only because of the growth of the network, but also because they could earn extra money by carrying out these functions.
Springboard payments can be up to 10 times more expensive than a normal Phoenix transaction. The company explains that the nodes charge approximately 1 satoshi, plus 0.01% of the total amount sent, to route third-party transactions. However, this new methodology also adds the extra work of having to calculate a satisfactory route so that the user’s payment arrives as soon as possible with the lowest cost. In this sense, the additional service is also charged by the nodes.
Although ACINQ does not specify how much the average fee could be that a stepping stone node could charge in the Lightning network – since they are calculations that can vary daily – they do point out that this incentive could motivate the adoption of this new methodology. Due to this, they have arranged in a GitHub entry all the technical specifications for the nodes to implement this service to their operation.