Bitcoin Lightning Visualizers Aren't What They Are Thought to Be

Bitcoin lightning network visualizers help depict how the network is growing. Many people use them to tell the story of the growing network, but they do not depict the true picture of the growth and they may not be viable projects in the long term.

Data visualizations are a favorite tool for Bitcoin users and lightning fans who are eager to track the growth of the network and to tell the story of the payments technology. There are very many types of visualizers today, ranging from 3D renderings and historical time series to family trees and experimental animations.

The images are helpful because they help explain unsolved questions about how the network is growing. People just watch as the nodes get more complicated. Thus they help answer the main question of whether Bitcoin is answering its promise of decentralization.

And although some fans now watch lighting network node visualizations on a daily basis as they do Bitcoin prices, developers say these representations do not depict a true story of the Bitcoin network situation.

First, Olaoluwa ‘Laolu’ Osuntokun, a developer at Lightning Labs says most of the snapshots will become increasingly irrelevant. The pictures are on views from a single node which limits access to the entire lightning network.

Lightning Lab has launched a beta for lightning network implementation.

Do not have a bright future

He says the representations do not indicate the longer-term topology. They will become more problematic in the future, he says. Many people have complained of lack of visibility across the whole network thinking it was a code fault. However, it enhances privacy and cuts down on individual node storage costs.

Some channels are not visible to all nodes due to some certain implementation parameters or if they contain a very small amount of funds. Additionally, some channels do not announce themselves at all. He said it is optional for nodes to send out authenticated proofs attesting to the existence a channel.

Hence people will not get a complete picture even with layering views from multiple nodes. In fact, it is similar to having a crowd in a dark room with some groups of people hidden behind others. In such a case, only one working route is needed for someone to send money without having to know everyone in the room. This is according to Tyzbit, an author of lightning visualizers.

About the future of visualizers, he said since lightning adds more privacy, visualizers might be unable to gather specific data about them. While this benefits user, it is at the expense of visualization tools. Again, it might be hard for visualizers to handle the number of overlaps in the network as it grows bigger.

Additionally, the images are the easiest way people can observe the network growth at this point, he says. He said while it is possible that the lightning is not growing as fast as suggested in some images. It is possible also that it is bigger than the images show. Plus there is a possibility that there are many unconnecting lightning networks existing at once since lightning. However, it does not need consensus or global agreement of what the network is.

A developer named Intel said,

“You can visually compare how they looked before and look now, making the network growth really noticeable. It’s much more eye candy than sharing raw numbers of network nodes.”

His explorer grew to 1,337 nodes and 3,798 channels in a matter of weeks.

Do visualizers depict the true picture of a growing Bitcoin network? Let us known on Twitter and Telegram. 

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