Bitcoin's highly anticipated 'Lightning Network' goes live

Bitcoin's highly anticipated 'Lightning Network' goes live
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A highly anticipated software client that aims to make bitcoin payments faster and cheaper went live on Thursday.

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The Lightning Network Daemon creates a network on top of the bitcoin blockchain that expedites transactions, and launched in a beta form Thursday. 

Bitcoin supporters believe that the network has the potential to help the cryptocurrency achieve mass adoption. Bitcoin has struggled in recent months with slow and high-fee transactions, which make it harder for bitcoin to achieve mainstream popularity.

Lightning Labs, the company behind the network, also announced on Thursday that it has received investments from major financial technology players, including Square CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and PayPal Chief Operating Officer David Sacks.

The initial beta release is intended for developers making future applications, according to a post by Lightning Labs.

After jumping to over $50 a transaction at one point, bitcoin fees now run almost $2 a transaction, which is still substantially higher than the pennies it cost to transfer bitcoin in 2016. The Lightning Network aims to bring those costs down.

Despite the swelling transaction costs and delayed payments, investors still flocked to the currency late last year as its value exploded to nearly $20,000 a coin at its peak. Other cryptocurrencies similarly ballooned in value.

The cryptomarket has receded from these heights, with bitcoin now sitting at roughly $8,000. That's still a significant gain from its price of around $1,000 one year ago.

Lawmakers and regulators, spurred by the uptick in public attention, have begun to scrutinize the currency. Congress held its second cryptocurrency-related hearing of the year on Wednesday.

Regulators at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission have said that they’re examining the field closely and have begun to ramp up regulation.