The Lightning network specification (BOLT) differs substantially from the original Lightning network paper (some of the differences outlined in this SE answer). Is there a document with a high-level technical description of the Lightning network as per BOLT? The problem I'm facing is that BOLT is a bit overwhelming, I'd like to see concepts introduced step by step (e.g., types of transactions used, the overall mechanics, etc) before the implementation details.

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There is an article series on medium by rusty Russell (one of the main authors of the BOLTs)

The first part can be found at https://medium.com/@rusty_lightning/the-bitcoin-lightning-spec-part-1-8-a7720fb1b4da and the succeeding parts are linked from there.

This article series is from late 2016 and also somewhat outdated.

I recently started to write a book about the lightning network at https://github.com/renepickhardt/The-Lightning-Network-Book the goal is to bridge the gap. But the book has not arrived at describing the BOLTs yet.

On a extremely high level I can tell you that the BOLTs have several components :

  • the peer 2 peer protocol ( messages and gossip)
  • the transport protocol (onion routing and SPHINX)
  • construction of payment channels via RSMCs
  • transactions (RSMCs and HTLCs)
  • payment process via invoices

While the structure of the BOLTs is clear they still seem to be entangled among these topics and indeed a high level overview or "architecture" seems to be missing. For example I had a hard time understanding that the transport layer and the HTLCs are two very different things. Stuff like the gossip protocol and the transport layer are pretty much not mentioned in the white paper

  • And I had a hard time realizing that both intra-channel and routed payments are done with the same HTLC mechanism... Thanks for the links to the Russell's blog; it's better than nothing but not exactly what I was looking for (is still assumes some familiarity with the BOLTs themselves). Will leave the question open for a while in the hope someone will write such an overview / architecture document for the modern Lightning :) Jan 20, 2019 at 16:59
  • To understand transaction designs related to payment channels & routing (HTLC) this might help: teachbitcoin.io/presentations/payment_channels.html
    – James C.
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:09

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