Lightning Labs, one of the major firms responsible for developing Bitcoin’s lightning network, has released the mainnet alpha of its long-awaited “Taproot Assets” protocol on Wednesday, allowing stablecoins and other tokens to functionally trade on Bitcoin.
In its Wednesday announcement, the firm touted its release as “the dawn of a new era for bitcoin,” effectively transforming it into a “global routing network for the internet of money.”
“We believe this new era for bitcoin will see a myriad of global currencies issued as Taproot Assets, and the world’s foreign exchange transactions settled instantly over the Lightning Network,” wrote Ryan Gentry, Lightning Labs’ Director of Business Development.
Formerly known as “Taro,” Taproot Assets leverages Bitcoin’s “Taproot” upgrade from 2021, which bolstered the network’s smart contract capabilities while improving the privacy and memory efficiency of transactions.
Taproot is also the upgrade that inadvertently enabled Ordinals and BRC-20, enabling NFTs and later tokens (mostly including memecoins) to launch on Bitcoin. Unlike Ordinals, however, Taproot Assets structures its transactions to be as data-efficient as possible, allowing for far lower transaction fees and greater throughput.
Upon releasing the BRC-20 token standard in March, developer “domodata” wrote to Github that Taro is “unequivocally a better solution” for Bitcoin asset issuance.
For now, the current Taro release supports on-chain functionality, though it will later be compatible with the lightning network. Lightning enables instant and virtually free BTC transfers by processing transactions in private payment channels off-chain, before settling transactions on-chain.
“Users will be able to send and receive the currency of their choice over the Lightning Network, using the existing bitcoin liquidity as a global routing currency and Medium of Exchange,” explained Gentry.
The Importance of Bitcoin Assets
Though many Bitcoiners view BTC as a viable currency in and of itself, a growing number of developers believe the Bitcoin network’s potential lies in moving existing currencies on Bitcoin’s rails.
Paypal co-founder David Marcus, who now spearheads lightning-focused company Lightspark, said in an interview last month that people won’t use BTC to buy things, but that Bitcoin would become a “universal protocol for money on the internet,” through which fiat currencies like dollars, euro, and yen could be transferred.
Tether USD (USD), the world’s largest stablecoin, currently boasts greater daily transaction volume at crypto exchange than any other digital asset.