Following in the footsteps of bitpay and square this week, robinhood has become the latest major player to announce its integration of the bitcoin lightning network, which enables faster transactions involving the cryptocurrency.
The so-called second-layer app appears to be the next step for the largest cryptocurrency as it takes center stage at the annual bitcoin conference.
“every exchange, if they are going to be competitive, they have to add lightning,” microstrategy chief executive michael saylor said Thursday in a fireside chat with ark invest founder cathie wood.
Scalability is an issue that all major cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchains must overcome in order to progress beyond speculative trading assets. Each crypto’s scaling strategy has a different twist, but bitcoin’s depends on getting more people to use the lightning network.
the lightning network is one of the few second layer applications built on top of bitcoin. its primary goal is to enable off-chain transactions to improve transaction speeds and reduce energy use and cost. the app is one of the only existing routes currently offered to enable cryptocurrency to scale as a payment network.
crypto payment processor bitpay announced on Wednesday that it would integrate bitcoin’s lightning network for faster and cheaper transactions. jack dorsey’s block (formerly square) did the same Thursday morning, adding lightning network support in addition to a payment feature that allows btc-hungry people to “auto-invest” their paychecks into the asset on their app. mobile payments, cash application.
“Over the last few months, I think bitcoin and other crypto assets have gone from being a passive asset class to something more,” robinhood chief product officer aparna chennapragada said on stage Thursday afternoon in a speech opening, announcing the lightning network’s own support of commercial applications.
chennapragada said that now that robinhood has officially launched its long-awaited crypto wallet functionality to two million users, the retail-focused broker wants to focus on new investment opportunities for crypto-powered clients.
speaking to yahoo finance, chennapragada presented robinhood’s crypto strategy in three acts.
“the first was 24/7 customer support, the second was adding crypto wallets and the third is starting to power very broad use cases: lightning network is one of them”, chennapragada said. “We want to be the cheapest place to exchange cryptocurrencies. now you can send and receive it.”
Parallel to the chennapragada announcement is the company’s strategy of expanding to retail investors outside the us. uu.
“As we add things like the lightning network, we want to be able to enter new markets with crypto first,” Chennapragada added. “that is imminent.”
shares of robinhood ($hood) were down 2.96% at $12.15 each Thursday afternoon after the announcement. its shares are down about 32% since the beginning of the year.
while bitcoin’s lightning networks have steadily grown in usage and network size, el salvador’s decision to make bitcoin legal tender, as well as twitter’s decision to integrate the technology through its platform , fueled network growth last year.
According to a lightning network dashboard by bitcoin analyst willy woo, the lightning network more than tripled in the past year, but can only hold $161 million worth of btc, a 6% increase in capacity over the past 30 days.
As of Wednesday, bitcoin developer lightning labs raised $70 million after creating a new protocol, taro, that will allow users to send and receive stablecoins on the lightning network.
Created in the wake of the financial crisis, bitcoin was promoted early on as an alternative payment network separate from the monetary order of governments. it is used less for payments and is more often referred to as a “digital gold” store of value.
Up more than 14% in the past month, but down 5% from its 2022 high of $47,454, bitcoin has traded as a risky asset this year that has fared better losses than the nasdaq, with its 60-day correlation to the s&p 500 (>.5) nearing its peak, based on coin metrics.
“Bitcoin is the first digital rules-based private global monetary system in the history of the world,” Wood said. “It’s a great idea.”
david hollerith covers cryptocurrencies for yahoo finance. follow him @dshollers.
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