It has happened. The first release of the Lightning Network in alpha stages has been released. This comes at a time when Litecoin has released their latest version which includes the soft fork for SegWit (Segregated Witness) with signalling starting on January 28. F2Pool, which carries around half the Litecoin hashing power is supporting segregated witness from their statements.
The lightning network is designed to speed up payments made via blockchain, but it can also carry out cross-chain transactions. It can scale to a much better scale than Bitcoin can. Although Litecoin might go ahead of the pack for day to day transactions with Bitcoin as a store of value, akin to silver and gold unless Bitcoin comes to a consensus to fork.
The lightning network uses a combination of MultiSig technology and time-locked contracts to achieve its goals, encrypting the payment channels with end to end encryption, keeping them private to boot.
Segregated Witness is required for easy implementation of the Lightning Network on Bitcoin, and this is where Litecoin may be helping Bitcoin break it’s deadlock. The consensus amongst the Bitcoin mining community seems to be for keeping 1MB blocks at present, alongside not forking. This will ultimately result in stagnation and difficulty implementing the Lightning network on Bitcoin.
The Lightning network was built from scratch using a programming language called ‘go’. It is a great achievement and it is likely this is a potential avenue of micropayments using digital currency.