Bitcoin: Lightning Network Seeks to Make Offline Payments Possible
Eclair, one of the popular Bitcoin's most popular Lightning Network implementations, is actively testing support for asynchronous payments.
Sending funds over the Lightning Network even if a node is offline will be enabled with the implementation of the new feature.
Third-party custodial services are currently necessary in order to to pay via escrow to offline nodes. Éclair’s enhancement is one of several proposals to reduce dependancy on third-party custodians until the node itself comes back online.
What is the relay trampoline?
Funds are temporarily put “frozen” through a “relay trampoline” until the node regains its internet connection – this includes Lightning nodes with unreliable internet connection, devices that automatically go to sleep, etc.
The Bitcoin Optech newsletter describes Éclair #2435 as a core technology for asynchronous payments.
Blockchain developer Richard Myers describes the enhancement in question as a first step in solving Issue #2424, which outlines seven tasks developers will need to complete before asynchronous payments are fully enabled.
PTLC vs Éclair
PTLC (Point Time Locked Contracts) are considered by some developers as the better solution for offline Lightning payments.
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PTLCs protect conditional payments by locking them with a public key and unlocking them with the corresponding signature once the node regains internet connectivity. The developers say PTLC will make conditional payments more private and take up less space in blocks than the earlier HTLC proposal.
In contrast, Éclair #2435 does not use PTLCs. Instead, Éclair would require a third party to delay the forwarding of funds until the offline node can reconnect. The developers are calling it a partial implementation of asynchronous payments, which serves as a first step for its full implementation.
All in all, regardless of the method used, asynchronous payments will soon become possible over Bitcoin’s low-cost Lightning network.