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Bitcoin's Lightning Network Could Play Havoc With The Bitcoin Price

Bitcoin's Lightning Network has been hailed as the saviour of bitcoin transactions — the thing that will allow the clunky and encumbered original blockchain-based cryptocurrency to compete with the likes of more nimble bitcoin cash, dash coin, lite coin and ripple.

On bitcoin forums many talk of the lightning network as though it will solve all of bitcoin's problems, making transactions quick, cheap and easy. One question few have asked is what, if the Lightning Network grows into a widely used bitcoin modification, what it will do to the bitcoin price — something that is closely linked to miners fees and transaction costs.

The Lightning Network, first proposed by Thaddeus Dryja and Joseph Poon in a 2015 white paper, creates a layer on top of the bitcoin blockchain, where transactions are completed before being added to the underlying blockchain.

When sending a Lightning payment two parties deposit the funds at one bitcoin address, a so-called “channel”, which they could send funds back and forth.

This maintains bitcoin's security but means small, regular payments don't need to be added to the underlying blockchain until the channel is closed.

Many bitcoin traditionalists like the Lightning Network due to its preservation of bitcoin’s gold-like features, leaving the block-size limit unchanged but allowing a far greater number of payments to take place.

The concept has been backed by bitcoin evangelist Jack Dorsey, the founder of micro-blogging site Twitter and U.S. payments processor Square.

The question of blockchain size has previously ripped apart the bitcoin community, resulting in a hard fork last year and the creation of bitcoin cash, which can support a block size of eight megabytes, compared to bitcoin's one megabyte.

The block size determines how many transactions can be confirmed when each new block is mined and added to the chain.

Bitcoin's transaction troubles peaked in December last year when a booming price and a global cryptocurrency craze sent miner fees and transaction costs spiralling -- at worst hitting an eye-watering $50 per transaction.

Though transaction prices have since fallen back, as adoption grows it's feared fees will increase with them.