Research: Bitcoin Lightning Network becomes more centralized, removing central nodes or causing network crash

According to Trustnodes reported on February 14th, Christian Decker of Blockstream and scholars from some European universities have concluded that the Bitcoin Lightning Network (BLN) has become very centralized. , It will crash, causing split attacks.


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This study covers the period from January 14, 2018 to July 13, 2019.More than 8,000 users maintained 120,000 active channels, with a total transfer amount of 2732.5 bitcoins and a value of $ 28 million. They stated:

"The Bitcoin Lightning Network is becoming an increasingly centralized network, increasingly compatible with a central-peripheral structure.

Further examination of the resilience of the Bitcoin Lightning Network showed that deleting the central node would cause the network to collapse into many components, and this evidence suggests that this network could be the target of a so-called split attack. "

They did not describe these split attacks, but after many aspects of analysis, they concluded:

"The structure of the Lightning Network seems to be more and more similar to a center-peripheral structure, with well-connected nodes clustered together (this is revealed through a study of the centrality of the feature vector).

More precisely, our analysis reveals the existence of many star substructures, with some central nodes playing a core role similar to channel exchange nodes.

Even considering the weighted amount, this trend seems to be observable, as only about 10% (50%) of the nodes hold 80% (99%) of Bitcoin in the Bitcoin Lightning Network (average over the entire period) Value); In addition, the average Gini coefficient of the node strength is about 0.88.

These results seem to confirm the trend that the structure of the Bitcoin Lightning Network is becoming 'more and more centralized'. The negative consequence of this process is that the Bitcoin Lightning Network becomes more and more vulnerable to attacks and failures. "

Blockstream's vision is that once Bitcoin no longer creates new blocks and everyone is trading on the Lightning Network, the on-chain fee will be increased to $ 1,000 or $ 10,000 per transaction to pay for Bitcoin block rewards.

The main argument against it is the centralization trend of Lightning Network, which has been officially confirmed by Christian Decker, one of the founders of Lightning Network. Decker currently works for Blockstream, a for-profit Bitcoin development company, and is also involved in the research.

This means that scaling Bitcoin through the Lightning Network seems infeasible, whether Bitcoin developers will come up with other solutions, or whether Bitcoin will not be able to accommodate new users like other blockchains, it remains to be seen.