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According to Bitcoin metrics website BitcoinVisuals, the number of unique Lightning Network (LN) channels increased from 22,034 on February 7th to 30,064 on March 7th — an increase of roughly 27% over one month.

The current number of LN channels is now approximately 16.4 times more than at the same time (03/07) last year — a growth of 1,640%.

Organic Growth for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network

Other metrics provided by BitcoinVisuals, including node count, mirror the remarkable growth revealed by the channel expansion.

Currently, more than 3,700 nodes have open channels, compared to only 60 nodes without open channels. The number of nodes with open channels grew by more than 20% in the month of February alone, and the trend is accelerating. This marks a clear improvement over last summer when almost half of the nodes did not have open channels.

Parallel to the node and channel growth, the LN capacity — measured as the cumulative Bitcoin capacity across all channels — has rapidly snowballed in 2019, currently hovering around 765 BTC or nearly $3 million, an all-time high measured in BTC.

Factors Contributing to Growth

Numerous developments have been supplementing the growth and adoption of Bitcoin’s LN, from hardware node products like Casa Node to browser extensions like Lightning Joule. Educational material has also made launching and operating nodes more accessible for users not familiar with the more complex technical components of the LN.

For instance, Pierre Rochard’s Node Launcher guide and Michael Goldstein’s test environment tutorial are both highly practical for setting up an LN channel and honing testnet skills, respectively.

From a development perspective, both Blockstream and Lightning Labs have delivered several notable upgrades to their full LN implementations. Blockstream recently released plugin functionality for its Lightning-C implementation that makes it easier for developers to build layers of interfaces on top of Bitcoin’s second layer. Similarly, Lightning Labs has introduced some important updates — including a proposal for spontaneous payments containing application-specific data like API calls by CTO Olaoluwa Osuntokun.

The project even enables users to pay for broadcasting messages via Blockstream’s satellites with LN invoices.

Ambitious projections on the LN’s growth since last summer have been somewhat behind reality, but not by much. The channel capacity is genuinely growing exponentially, and products like Casa Node that foster adoption by more mainstream users will only serve to fuel that growth further.

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