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I understand how a lightning network channel is like opening a bar tab, where you can make multiple transactions off-chain between two parties, and closing the channel puts the total tab on-chain. However, if I'm visiting 20 different stores and making one transaction at each store, wouldn't I need to open 20 different channels and end up publishing 20 different transactions to the bitcoin blockchain anyway?

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No you don't need to open a channel with everyone whom you want to pay.

The lightning network is a network of payment channels. This means that you can use the first channel to send money to other participants in the network as long as there are sufficiently liquid paths of channels from your node to the recipient.

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  • So a channel could contain as many participants sending money between each other as possible, and then when it closes, it counts as a single multi-signature transaction? – jarbus May 17 at 1:21
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    currently a channel is between 2 peers. in theory one could have a multiparty channel and it would be have as you suggest have a look at the channel factory paper for which was discussed and referenced here at bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/67158/… the point is because of the network structure a payent can be routed to your channel partner and towards other peers. this does not need several peers in one channel but several channels per node – Rene Pickhardt May 17 at 20:35

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