S15 E2: Sergi Delgado on Developing Bitcoin at Chaincode

Sergi Delgado is an engineer at Chaincode Labs, whose academic background is in peer to peer (P2P) networks research. After building a Lightning watchtower implementation, adequately named Eye of Satoshi, the Catalan coder focused his attention on SimLN: a simulation environment which allows Lightning network developers to test new features in a safe place in which they don’t damage any existing infrastructure and don’t lose any BTC.

I’ve had the pleasure to interview Sergi Delgado in Argentina just a couple of days after the 2023 edition of Labitconf. We met in La Crypta, the coolest Bitcoin hangout places in Buenos Aires, and spoke about all the interesting trends in Bitcoin development. Sergi expressed his views on covenants and vaults, drivechains, and the differences between sidechains and layer twos. Most interestingly, Sergi Delgado also explained what it’s like to work in New York with the rest of the Chaincode team, and how he transitioned from Lightning development to Bitcoin Core development. For those of you who aspire to work on Core, there is plenty of useful information.

As you will notice, this interview has really professional-looking video – and for this, I must thank Lunaticoin for helping me set up the lights and camera, as well as Agustin Kassis for allowing me to record interviews in La Crypta.

Just like the rest of the season 15, this episode is sponsored by Wasabi Wallet, Cryptosteel, Satochip & IVPN. To learn more about how they can help you make your Bitcoin journey more experience, please listen to the ads throughout the episode!

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Time stamps:

The introduction (00:00:48) Vlad introduces the location and guest, Sergi Delgado, a developer at Chaincode Labs, and discusses some of Sergi’s projects.

Sergi’s presentation on SimLN (00:02:48) Sergi explains SimLN, a lightning network activity simulator, its development, and its use cases.

Code base for SimLN (00:06:02) Discussion about the code base used for SimLN, including compatibility with LND and C-Lightning.

Vulnerability in the Lightning Network (00:07:48) Sergi addresses the critical vulnerability in the Lightning Network and the impact on its development.

Eye of Satoshi and Watchtowers (00:12:11) Vlad asks about the concept of watchtowers and their potential centralization.

Decentralization and Privacy in Lightning Network (00:16:33) Discussion on the trade-off between decentralization, privacy, and user preferences in using lightning network services.

Metrics of Lightning Network (00:20:32) Vlad discusses the usage and total value locked (TVL) metrics of the Lightning Network, and why it might be less than 1% of the Bitcoin supply.

Comparison with Ethereum’s Layer 2 (00:23:34) Vlad expresses concern about Bitcoin being overshadowed by Ethereum’s Layer 2 in terms of volume and questions its purpose.

The Bitcoin Core Protocol (00:26:03) Sergi discusses his work on the Bitcoin protocol and peer-to-peer layer, focusing on hardening the network and minimizing potential attacks.

Improving the Peer-to-Peer Network (00:29:21) Sergi explains the potential benefits of improving the peer-to-peer side of the Bitcoin core code, emphasizing its crucial role in the entire codebase’s robustness.

Layer Twos for Bitcoin (00:36:21) Sergi discusses the existence of layer twos for Bitcoin, particularly focusing on the Lightning Network and Liquid, and presents the pros and cons of each.

Debates on Bitcoin Additions (00:45:05) The conversation delves into debates about proposed changes to Bitcoin, highlighting the complexity and implications of potential changes, including soft fork proposals and non-consensus rule-based solutions.

Controversial Governance Proposals (00:48:00) Sergi discusses the least contentious and riskiest governance proposals for Bitcoin, acknowledging the potential controversy surrounding these topics.

Use Case for Governance (00:48:12) Sergi discusses the interesting use case for governance in Bitcoin and the importance of defining the problem and finding a solution.

Expressiveness of Language (00:49:22) Sergi emphasizes the need for a deeper analysis of adding functionality to Bitcoin’s language and the importance of having a proper use case for it.

Satochip and Self-Custody (00:50:13) An advertisement for the Satochip, a smartcard-based hardware wallet.

Clarification on “Bolt” (00:50:45) Vlad clarifies the pronunciation of “bolt” in Sergi’s native language and briefly mentions Gene Code Labs.

Working at Chaincode Labs (00:51:43) Sergi shares his experience of working at Chaincode Labs, emphasizing the opportunity to work with talented individuals and the benefits of being part of a dedicated team.

Balance in Bitcoin Development (00:57:11) Discussion on the balance of Bitcoin development across different organizations and the importance of decentralization.

Following Sergi and Contributing to Bitcoin (00:58:11) Sergi provides his Twitter and GitHub handles and discusses resources for contributing to Bitcoin, including the Bitcoin Dev project and the Review Club.

Future Interview and Closing (01:00:22) Vlad expresses gratitude and hopes for a future interview with Sergi, who reciprocates the sentiment.

Navigating the Lightning Network: Insights from Chaincode Labs Engineer Sergi Delgado

In this episode, Sergi Delgado (Chaincode Labs engineer) delves into the intricacies of the Bitcoin Lightning Network and the challenges of Bitcoin development, explains how his projects Eye of Satoshi and SimLN work, expresses views on existing proposals to scale Bitcoin, and provides practical advice to those who seek to work on Bitcoin Core development. Below, you will find the key insights and lessons from our conversation, which offers a glimpse into the future of Bitcoin’s layer two solutions.

SimLN: A Leap Forward in Lightning Network Testing

One of the highlights of our discussion was Sergi’s introduction to SimLN, the Lightning simulation software designed to enhance the testing of the Lightning Network’s functionality. Sergi explained that existing testing scripts were often incomplete and lacked open-source availability, which prompted the creation of SimLN. This software stands out for its efficiency and comprehensive approach, allowing users to simulate realistic activity on the network, including payments and channel jamming.

SimLN’s compatibility with both LND and C-Lightning is a testament to its versatility, and Sergi’s plans to extend support to LDK and Eclair signal a commitment to broadening its utility. This development is crucial for the Lightning Network, as it provides a reliable framework for identifying and addressing potential issues.

The Eye of Satoshi: Watchtowers for Lightning Network Security

During our conversation, Sergi shed light on the concept of Lightning watchtowers, particularly the Eye of Satoshi watchtower implementation. Watchtowers play a vital role in safeguarding Lightning channels, especially when users are offline. They act as guardians, monitoring the network for any malicious activity and ensuring the security of transactions.

Decentralization and Privacy: Balancing Act in the Lightning Network

A significant portion of our discussion revolved around the themes of decentralization and privacy within the Lightning Network. Sergi pointed out that user preferences are crucial in driving the adoption of decentralized solutions. The challenge lies in offering options that not only align with user needs but also maintain a balance between user experience and reliability. Achieving greater decentralization and privacy is a complex endeavor, and Sergi’s insights highlighted the delicate nature of this balance.

The State of the Lightning Network: Adoption and Custodial Solutions

We also explored the current state of the Lightning Network, touching on transaction volume and total value locked (TVL). Sergi expressed his uncertainty regarding the low adoption rates of layer two solutions, suggesting that user behavior and the perceived benefits of alternative options might play a role. He also voiced concerns about the prevalence of custodial solutions and their impact on the network’s decentralization, a critical issue for the future of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Development: Risks, Benefits, and Controversies

Sergi shared his skepticism about investing in alternative cryptocurrencies and layer two solutions, emphasizing the importance of focusing on Bitcoin Core development. He discussed the challenges of proposing changes to the Bitcoin protocol and the resistance from community members who are wary of increasing complexity. Our conversation highlighted the trade-offs involved in enhancing Bitcoin’s functionality while managing the protocol’s complexity.

Governance in Bitcoin Development: A Use Case Approach

Sergi stressed the importance of defining clear use cases for governance in Bitcoin development. He argued that solutions should address specific needs rather than adding functionality for its own sake. This approach ensures that new features are thoroughly analyzed and that the potential risks are carefully considered.

Working at Chaincode Labs: A Dream Come True

Sergi described his experience at Chaincode Labs as a dream come true, praising the collaborative environment and the opportunity to tackle challenging projects. He shared his Twitter handle and GitHub profile for those interested in following his work and provided insights into how individuals can start contributing to Bitcoin development.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead for Bitcoin’s Layer Two

Our conversation with Seri Delgado offered a deep dive into the development and challenges of the Lightning Network and other layer two solutions for Bitcoin. From the innovative SimLN software to the complexities of protocol changes, the insights gained from this episode are invaluable for anyone interested in the future of Bitcoin. As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of separating money and state, it’s clear that the journey toward decentralization and privacy is filled with both opportunities and obstacles.

Stay tuned for future interviews and discussions on the Bitcoin Takeover Podcast, where we’ll keep exploring the cutting edge of Bitcoin development and the minds shaping its trajectory!

Vlad Costea

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