Blockstream 2018 Review: Countdown to Ignition

Blockstream 2018 Review: Countdown to Ignition

Samson Mow

2018 was a very busy year for us at Blockstream. We hit key milestones such as launching the Cryptocurrency Data Feed in partnership with ICE, and bringing the Liquid Network live with 23 of the biggest players in the cryptocurrency industry. As you may know, Liquid is a Bitcoin sidechain that allows for fast and confidential inter-exchange transfers, OTC trades, and Issued Assets. In addition to multiple product launches and publishing Bitcoin protocol research, Blockstreamers gave talks and made presentations at 26 conferences and meetups in 12 different countries over the course of the year.

Alongside the Cryptocurrency Data Feed and Liquid, it’s safe to say another key focus for us in 2018 was the Lightning Network. We kicked off the year with the release of Lightning Charge which is a micropayments processing system that makes it easy for web developers to work with c-lightning (our Lightning implementation). We then launched the Blockstream Store – which was a little #Reckless, but did help jumpstart massive growth and usage of the Lightning Network. A few months later, we followed up with a “Week of LApps” or “Lightning Apps” to showcase a wide variety of commercial use cases and hint at the endless possibilities made possible by the Lightning Network. Christian Decker then released the whitepaper for eltoo, a simplified update mechanism for layer 2 protocols that not only makes Lightning safer, but enables exciting new off-chain smart contracts such as channel factories.

In June, we were honored to find ourselves in the Wall Street Journal’s list of top 25 technology companies to watch. We were ranked #2 overall, and #1 amongst blockchain companies. As the article noted, previously featured companies had impeccable years following their inclusion on the WSJ list. Let’s hope that still holds true!

Rusty Russell and the Lightning team released c-lightning 0.6, a complete rewrite to a new modular and extensible architecture. The launch of c-lightning 0.6 marked a big milestone for the Lightning Network, as now all three Lightning clients (Eclair, lnd, and c-lightning) were officially in beta. Winding up the year, our Lightning team hosted the 1.1 Lightning Development Summit in Adelaide with fellow Lightning developers from around the world.

Lawrence Nahum and the GreenAddress team diligently continued to improve libwally, the cross-platform cross-language library of wallet primitives that developers can use to build reliable and secure wallet applications - they had seven new releases in 2018 alone. Additionally, the Green team shipped three new Android releases and four new desktop app versions; totalling 14 new releases across the three components.

Our research team, led by Andrew Poelstra, contributed to Bulletproofs, efficient zero-knowledge proofs, as well as complex smart contract technology called “scriptless scripts.” Bulletproofs aren’t the only privacy-enhancing technology we’ve contributed to though. In August, we invited community members to brainstorm techniques to improve basic transaction privacy in Bitcoin. The resulting idea became known as Pay-To-EndPoint (P2EP) – a way for both sender and receiver to participate in CoinJoins. The research team also published a whitepaper on key aggregation for Schnorr signatures, which aims to improve performance and privacy for multisignature transactions.

To conclude the year, we pushed out a completely redesigned Blockstream website to improve organization of our content, and to better accommodate all of the products and functionality coming down the pipe. The GreenAddress team shipped the privacy-oriented Blockstream Explorer ( so that everyone can search and view transactions on Bitcoin and Liquid, and they released Esplora, the code behind the block explorer. We’re seeing a lot of interest from projects to use as a default explorer, such as the Bisq decentralized exchange and Electrum wallet, with the big news today being that Bitcoin Magazine has released their own block explorer based on Esplora.

Russell O’Connor released the source code for Simplicity, a low-level programming language and machine model for blockchain-based smart contracts. As we move forward with more Simplicity development, the door will open to having smart contracts on Elements, Liquid, and eventually Bitcoin.

Not to be outdone, Chris Cook and the Blockstream Satellite team launched Phase 2 which extended coverage to include the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to existing coverage for North and South America, Europe, and Africa. Also en route from Blockstream Satellite is the broadcast API which will allow anyone to pay with Bitcoin, over Lightning, to privately send data worldwide through our satellite constellation.

So as you can see, we’ve been very busy on all fronts. We have a lot more in store for 2019 so I don’t expect that it will be any less busy this year. We’ve been ramping up steadily and now have expanded teams in place to execute on growing the Liquid ecosystem, new iterations of the Cryptocurrency Data Feed, adding new capabilities to Blockstream Satellite, new GreenAddress releases, and growing the Lightning Network even more. With Bitcoin now in its 11th year and still going strong, we can start to see all the pieces that will come together to drive adoption in the next 10 years. Many thanks to our partners and collaborators for making 2018 a great year for us, and here’s to another year of exciting new Bitcoin innovations!

To the moon!

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