Lightning Labs’ Lightning Wallet Desktop App Now Works With the Bitcoin Mainnet

Siamak Masnavi

On Tuesday (April 23), Lightning Labs announced the release of the first alpha version of its non-custodial Lightning wallet for the Bitcoin mainnet. This is the desktop (MacOS, Windows, and Linux) version of the app.

The first time that the world saw Lightning Lab's completely redesigned "Lightning App" (i.e. their "user-facing wallet application")  was on 10 September 2018, however that alpha release was only for use with the Bitcoin testnet.

The idea of the UX redesign was to appeal to novice Bitcoin users. In a blog post published back then, Lightning Labs described their Lightning App as follows:

"The redesigned Lightning App bundles lnd and is meant to run as a standalone wallet in light client mode (using Neutrino, BIP 157 + 158) both on desktop as well as mobile devices. By default the app will connect to a bitcoin full node cluster hosted by Lightning Labs. As Neutrino support progresses however, we will remove our hosted cluster. Optionally, users can also run their own full node and have the app connect to it if they want to. Users do not however need to run a separate lnd node. The goal is to build an application that is easily approachable and that can simply be opened with a double click."

Here were the main UX guidelines for the Lightning App:

  • "Use plain english"
  • Use "a high contrast color shift" to "distinguish between primary user actions and technical details"
  • "Limit funds per channel"
  • "Automatically handle address & invoice"
  • "Display local fiat currency by default"

As for Neutrino protocol BIP 157, BIP 158), which was proposed by "Lightning Labs’ Olaoluwa Osuntokun (roasbeef) and Alex Akselrod, along with Jim Posen (formerly of Coinbase)," it is, according to yesterday's blog post, "a light client specification that allows non-custodial Lightning wallets to verify Bitcoin transactions with improved privacy, minimized trust, and without needing to sync the full Bitcoin blockchain (which is about 200 GB)."

The main new features of version "v0.5.0-alpha" of the Lightning App compared to what was offered last September are as follows:

  • "syncing the Neutrino client is now much faster and begins in the background while the user writes down her recovery phrase (a.k.a mnemonic seed)"
  • updated home screen that "with a unified balance that includes on-chain as well as Lightning funds"
  • operation on the mainnet by default (although you can open the app in test mode)
  • "smarter autopilot"

Please note that Lightning Labs wants you to realize that this version of the app is "an early version targeted at testers" and that "there’s a risk of losing all of your funds" since "this is still very early technology." 

Finally, if you'd like to try the mobile version of the app, don't despair:

"This release... represents an important stepping stone towards mobile while we continue to invest in performance and stability. We’re working as quickly as we can to get our mainnet iOS and Android apps out soon."


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