Announcing Lightning Multi-Loop: Upgrading Lightning Loop with Multi-Path Payments

Alex Bosworth
May 13, 2020

Today we're happy to announce that the recent release of LND 0.10.0 has enabled Lightning Labs to release the first major upgrade for Lightning Loop since its beta release: multi-path Loop support. As Loop is a non-custodial service that translates Lightning off-chain funds to blockchain on-chain funds, it is specifically designed to service amounts suitable for the Blockchain that are larger and aggregate many off-chain micropayments. To scale this value up we're adding support for Loop users to leverage multiple channels in a single Loop Out to the chain. We are also raising the limit of a Loop Out from 0.042 BTC to 0.1 BTC.

Since the Loop Beta that we released in February we have also been working on some changes for Loop In. With this multi-path payments release we now have the ability to use multiple channels together to translate on-chain funds to refill your off-chain channels. And we have also added the ability to specify your preferred on-chain fee for Loop In to maximize the cost efficiency of getting your on-chain funds into Lightning.

Using multiple channels for Loop payments is an ideal use-case for the multi-path payments technology. Rebalance operations to move off-chain funds from ten channels onto the chain could previously have required at least ten separate on-chain transactions with Loop Outs or channel closes. With multi-path payments support, these same ten channel rebalances can now be achieved in one on-chain Loop Out operation.

Batching With Multi-Path Payments

As Loop and Lightning are scaling solutions designed to enable more people to get more out of the Bitcoin Blockchain and spend less in on-chain fees, our goal is to maximally aggregate our transactions when using the blockchain.

If you are already familiar with the recent MPP upgrade in LND, then you know that it allows for a single Lightning payment to take multiple paths to its destination by splitting the payment into multiple pieces and having the receiver put the pieces together on the other side. This is exactly how it works in Lightning Loop, but with an added security guarantee.

In the first version of Lightning Network multi-path payments, it is a system wherein the receiver can potentially choose to receive part of the payment, but they are simply incentivized to not do that as waiting may result in more funds received. In the case of Loop, we can do better than this because in the Loop protocol the initiator of the Loop Out is also the ultimate receiver of the payment. Even though the Loop Out server is receiving a multi-path payment that is not normally logically atomic, the client's control of the payment resolution makes this a logically atomic swap.

In our first release of multi-path support we have some deliberate limitations on the amount of funds that may be swapped. This is because we are still working on hardening the protocol and adding features that allow leveraging multi-path even more than we are today. Technically speaking there are no limits to the amount of aggregation we can achieve using this technique, ultimately unlimited numbers of channels may be used for a Loop Out or Loop In, all resulting in the same single on-chain spend to an HTLC address.

Leveraging Loop In

While people love the ability to offload received Lightning funds directly to exchanges or cold wallets with Loop Out, we are also continuing to invest our efforts in new improvements to Loop In which allows for recharging depleted Lightning channels.

Multi-path payments are especially advantageous for Loop In. In a normal usage of the Lightning Network, we'd expect that a user who has created a series of channels will in many cases eventually spend these channels down over time as they make purchases, deposit on exchanges, and use Lightning Apps.

With single-path Loop In, that user could refill a single channel to keep their channel open, but they could also simply create a new channel, and these two options would cost similar amounts of on-chain mining fees. With multi-path Lightning, we unlock the capability for the user to use all of their channels as a single balance, spending multiple channels together. And with multi-path Loop In, we unlock the capability to completely refill all of a user's channels at once with just a single on-chain HTLC.

Start Multi-Looping Today

In order to take advantage of the new Lightning Loop multi-path support, you will need to first install LND 0.10.0. This new release is now the only version of LND that is supported by the current version of the Lightning Loop reference Go client and the only version that supports multi-path payments.

The increase to a 0.10000000 BTC limit and the upgrade of LND to 0.10.0 are still just the beginning of improvements planned to allow even more bitcoins to flow over the Lightning network with minimal cost and friction. If you are interested in higher limits please email us or join our Slack where you can also chat with other users of the service and LND.

About the authorAlex Bosworth

Alex is a technical program manager from SF. Originally drawn to economics at the University of Chicago, Alex left to pursue software development. Alex started working on open-source software for Enterprise deployments, and in 2007 Alex co-founded an indie mobile software studio in Beijing. Back in the USA in 2016 Alex started working in the Bitcoin industry on backend exchange APIs and helped develop a blockchain project used to provide transparency for the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom.

Alex is a technical program manager from SF. Originally drawn to economics at the University of Chicago, Alex left to pursue software development. Alex started working on open-source software for Enterprise deployments, and in 2007 Alex co-founded an indie mobile software studio in Beijing. Back in the USA in 2016 Alex started working in the Bitcoin industry on backend exchange APIs and helped develop a blockchain project used to provide transparency for the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom.

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