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If I'm building a desktop Bitcoin wallet with Lightning support, and I don't want the user to have to worry about channel management, what's the way to achieve that?

I've seen the autopilot solutions for lnd and c-lightning.

I'm currently experimenting with lnd because it's easy to compile for Windows, macOS, and Linux. But lnd's autopilot doesn't seem to be mature enough. And it's not well documented. So I don't know if I should try to use it?

As for c-lightning, how well does its autopilot work? Well, anyway, because c-lightning is in C and its autopilot is in Python, it'll be a heavy lift for me to include them in my app.

So I'm wondering if there might be a simple temporary workaround. Like, what if I hardcode a list of popular nodes and have the app connect to those? Would that work?

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I strongly advice against a fixed list of nodes. This might eventually become outdated. A better solution might be that you run the autopilot on a server and deliver the results to the user via an api. This of course would be a trusted solution. But the lib_autopilot.py which empowers the clightning autopilot plugin is a standalone library that can easily be wrapped into a small webserver (or any server sided application) instead of being used as a clightning plugin on the client side. Also it allows much more configuration and fine tuning than the clightning plugin.

Running it as a server might actually make sense as the computations that are necessary to prepare the autopilot are quite heavy and memory intensive and might not be so great with a bigger lightning network on a client's machine. Also once those computations are done the results can be used to run the autopilot several times at rather low cost making it the perfect candidate for a server side application.

That being said the autopilots are experimental features. Being the author of lib_autopilot.py I am happy you agree that the c Lightning solution might be more mature than the lnd version. But I also want to stress with my increased knowledge about pathfinding and routing that I now have in comparison to one year ago I would create a much different autopilot these days.

Edit: sorry you asked how the c Lightning autopilot works. There is a presentation comparing it with lnd https://youtu.be/N7rlHCnaBf8 and explaining some of the challanges. Again it is one year old - so a bit has changed about what should be said about autopilots but it is a good start anyway

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