Releasing our Lightning Network Explorer

Back in March 2017, when we released the first alpha version of eclair, we mentioned that we were working on an explorer for the Lightning Network. We also said that we would release it once the LN specifications were completed and a sufficient level of compatibiliy was reached between the different implementations.

Well, it’s time! Two days ago, together with the other Lightning developers, we announced the version 1.0 RC of the Lightning protocol specification and we successfully achieved cross-implementation payments on Bitcoin mainnet.

Here’s the link: https://explorer.acinq.co. Note that it is currently better viewed on Firefox or Chrome.

Current state of the Lightning Network on Testnet

What does it do?

The explorer displays all known nodes and channels that compose the Lightning Network. Thanks to the interoperability effort, any node from any BOLT-compliant implementation will appear here, so you will see c-lightning nodes, eclair nodes, and lnd nodes!

A cool feature of Lightning is that nodes can advertise their own alias and color. In case you find a node with a moniker that seems to come directly from a leaked NSA powerpoint, that’s probably because c-lightning uses a very special codename generator for its alias ;-).

On the default layout, nodes that announce a public IP (and can be geo-located) are placed on a world map. Another layout is available, called Force Graph, which will display all known nodes and channels.

Selecting a node will highlight the channels to and from this node, and display the node URI in plaintext, and in the form of a QR code. If you are using our android eclair wallet, just scan the code and you will open a channel with that node. Pretty convenient right?

For now, the explorer shows the network on TESTNET, the test version of Bitcoin. The network is still pretty small, but keeps growing every day. If you want to help Lightning go live as soon as possible, Get Noded™ and help test&debug the network!

Can I see the transactions?

No, because transactions on the Lightning Network are not publicly broadcast. Instead, they are encrypted and routed from payer to payee via intermediate nodes, using a tor-like onion routing protocol.

In other words, Lightning transactions offer significant privacy improvements over regular on-blockchain transactions.

Cool, what about the tech?

Backend runs a stripped-down version of eclair, frontend is a mix of VueJS, D3 and PIXI.

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