Stablecoins on Bitcoin? Lightning Labs Aims to ‘Bitcoinize the Dollar’

Expecting the greenback to be replaced by Bitcoin? One company is bidding to “Bitcoinize the dollar” by enabling stablecoins and other assets built atop Bitcoin via the Lightning Network.

Lightning Labs, one of the main companies working on Bitcoin’s layer-2 Lightning Network, released “Taproot Assets” on mainnet Wednesday, allowing for the issuance of stablecoins and other financial assets on the Bitcoin blockchain. 

According to the press release, the new set of developer tools will allow for Bitcoin to become a multi-asset network, taking the protocol to the next financial level.

“This means that people all over the world will be able to access the global payments network of the future with just a mobile phone,” Lightning Labs Director of Business Development Ryan Gentry told Decrypt.

He explained that those best positioned to benefit from the new suite of tools are people in emerging markets, due to their demand for digital dollars. Gentry pointed out that the focus will likely be on stablecoins, since end users “just want to make USD transactions with high speed and low cost.” He described Taproot Assets as an “extremely potent combination.” 

Gentry reckons that the blend of Lightning’s instant settlement, global reach, and low fees along with Bitcoin’s security and decentralization will prove to be a game changer for the network, absorbing vast amounts of liquidity and transactional throughput.

The Lightning Network has been on a tear over the past couple of years, recording 1,212% growth from August 2021 to August 2023 in terms of monthly transactions, along with magnitudes more volume in USD and BTC terms. The latest features could push that growth even further.

From stablecoins to real world assets such as U.S. treasuries or gold, Gentry wrote today that over 2,000 financial assets have already been minted in the testing phase of Taproot Assets—highlighting that tokenization is taking place in a substantial fashion.

According to Jesse Shrader, CEO of Lightning-centric data analytics firm Amboss, “the beauty of this innovation is that it uses simple smart contracts and leverages the established infrastructure of the Lightning Network.”

Shrader suggested to Decrypt that the escalation of conflict between nations and the breakout of unsustainable debt levels are leading to breakdowns in trust for traditional financial systems—and that Bitcoin and the Lightning Network are poised to fill that gap.

“Both credit and chargeback risk still remain for our universe of traditional payments, necessitating a move to trust-free systems like Bitcoin to settle payment,” he said, adding that Wednesday’s launch “accelerates the reach of this essential settlement technology in whatever currency you wish.”

Taproot Assets has been cheered on by prominent members of the crypto community, including Tether’s recently appointed CEO Paolo Ardoino, who commented on the Twitter announcement, writing, “The future we deserve.”

Gentry believes that Taproot Assets will provide a “decentralizing force” to the Lightning Network. He envisions a positive feedback cycle in which the tools will bring more users to Lightning, adding more volume across the network and increasing routing fees that will ultimately cause node operators to add more liquidity to the network. 

“Over time, we expect the aforementioned combination to shift more and more of the world’s transactional volume to the Lightning Network,” he said, “Bitcoinizing the dollar and the world’s financial assets.”

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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