From the Bitcoin Lightning Network:

it is possible to find a path across the network similar to routing packets on the internet.

Is routing approach of Bitcoin Lighning Network performed in a "decentralized" and "trust-less" manner ?

Also, the fact that in the Bitcoin network there is no routing table does not matter ?

1 Answer 1


Is routing decentralized and trustless:

Generally, yes. It uses sphinx onion-routing to prevent any peer along the way to know origin/destination of payment.

Also note that Information of channel balances can leak if routing attempts are used to probe liquidity along a route.

Routing is not robust against sybil attacks, as compromised nodes can determine routes by reconstructing path via payment_hash in the htlc output scripts.

It is, however, incumbent upon the channel operator to ensure the lightning implementation is always synced with a full-node. Only this way can it detect a cheating channel counter-party and broadcast a penalty transaction. Watchtowers may provide vigilance as a service but they are not trustless

Also, note that the lightning network is a separate p2p network.

Discovering topology occurs with peers gossiping.

  • Thank you , Could you please say that if "separate p2p network" causes a kind of centralization or trust-based? If you could introduce a reference/paper/website on explanation of "separate p2p network" it would be perfect. Thanks
    – Questioner
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:14
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    I cant really say that because there are no guarantees of centralization nor decentralization. Some argue liquidity for channels is expensive so it will aggregate in the hands of exchanges/individuals with high BTC accumulated. So nodes with high channel count activity will tend to have more payments touted though them, there may be a centralization pressure, yes. However, same goes with mining pooling and large merchants on the Bitcoin network.
    – James C.
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:19
  • You can say that Lightning is trustless in the sense that you can always penalize invalid channel closures (given you see them before the timeout).
    – James C.
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:20
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    Sorry this is a little heavy but checkout the peer chapter in the lightning protocol rfc: github.com/lightningnetwork/lightning-rfc?files=1 Note that the lightning network “interfaces” with the Bitcoin network via Bitcoin transactions (open, commitments, close).
    – James C.
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:59
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    Thats always the trade-off - a routing table via distributed hash table is slow, but decentralized. Central Beacons (even if somehow selected deterministically) are more performant, yet centralized.
    – James C.
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 11:29

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