The lightning network is driving the current burst of mainstream adoption in bitcoin - here's how it's speeding up transaction times and cutting fees

Lightning damage is covered by homeowners insurance. Nick Brundle Photography/Getty ImagesCoinShares' July report on the bitcoin lightning network covered potential prospects for the fast, low-cost, high-capacity channel.James Butterfill, the company's investment strategist, said that it could perform "more transactions than Visa".This could allow bitcoin to achieve its main goals and facilitate global transactions.Subscribe to our daily newsletter 10 Things Before The Opening Bell.The everyday language of financial markets is rapidly becoming a part of cryptocurrencies. Some of the richest clients in financial institutions offer crypto, while digital payment platforms and banks will allow users to buy and sell it.However, bitcoin's mainstream status is still hampered by the slow speed of its network.Although the bitcoin network processes billions of transactions per day, they have tended to be slow-moving and expensive. This has made bitcoin difficult to use for regular payments, and made it more of an investment vehicle.The lightning network, a layer on top the bitcoin network, has been speeding transactions up since early 2018. It is bringing the day forward when everyone can make a bitcoin payment easily and cheaply.Lightning allows users to amortize the costs of bitcoin transactions across multiple payments over time. In a recent report, digital asset manager CoinShares stated that lightning is a crucial technology that could improve bitcoin's use in payments beyond its status as an investment vehicle.The network was created by Lightning Labs in the United States, which received $2.5 million in seed financing three years ago. This funding was backed by Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, and other supporters.Insider was told by James Butterfill, CoinShares investment strategist, that Lightning is more secure than Visa and could perform more transactions than Visa.Users often have to wait for hours before transactions are settled on the bitcoin network. These transactions happen as part of a block. There can be a delay between processing a block and another. According to the report, lightning can send payments almost as fast as email.CoinShares compared the use of the network with how Visa and Mastercard credit-card providers interact with the US Federal Reserve's financial system."Most transactions in the dollar economic never touch the Fed's systems," CoinShares said. These transactions are processed by payment intermediaries, who then use intermittent commercial banks to settle final settlement." CoinShares stated. Lightning uses the bitcoin blockchain to finalize bitcoin transactions in the exact same way.Lightning allows users to create payment channels between multiple parties. The lightning network allows users to set up nodes, which are pieces of software that allow payments to be sent via the fastest routes possible between parties. Each transaction will be charged a fee to the node operator.CoinShares stated that the transaction base fee is 1 satoshi (0.00000001 BTC) equivalent to 0.04 Cents.Transactions must be approved by nodes on the standard blockchain. On the lightning network, however, nodes can approve transactions."Transactions can be done much faster because parties can transact with one another without having everything approved by nodes," Coinmarketcap said in a blog post.Lightning Labs launched the 0.13 beta in June to increase their product's capabilities. This meant that the network could allow "larger and better spontaneous payments," the company stated in a blog."We are building the technology that will bring bitcoin to the next trillion people. Lightning Labs stated in a blog post in February that their goal was to make it easy for anyone to use lightning to integrate internet-native money.It looks like it may be working. The network's capacity grew by 22% and active nodes by 41% over 2020. According to CoinShares, the network's capacity had increased by 90% and active nodes by 52% by July.Butterfill stated that the number of nodes is growing rapidly which suggests it's being used for more than just storing value.