Lightning Lights Up LatAm: The El Salvador Experience 🎇
Welcome to the December edition of the Lightning Lab, a newsletter filled with Lightning Network updates, community coverage, and, of course, memes! In this issue, we discuss the launch of Lightning Terminal on the Web, the Lightning community visiting El Salvador and expanding into broader LatAm, and a host of ecosystem launches and news.
Lightning Terminal Comes to the Web 🕸
Earlier this month, we announced that we're bringing Lightning Terminal to the web, providing a simple web UI for node operators to improve the quality and liquidity of their node. The goal of this new release is to make running a Lightning node simpler, easier, and more accessible, lowering the barrier to instant, high volume, low fee bitcoin transactions for all. With this launch, we're taking a major step toward managing a Lightning node in a secure, private, and non-custodial manner by enabling a web-based experience to easily monitor, manage, and measure nodes.
This new release provides node operators with a personalized web-based dashboard, network explorer, and access to our suite of liquidity tools. Beyond this initial version of node management tools, we plan to launch more fee setting, channel opening, and send/receive features within Terminal to meet the needs of Lightning developers. The web version of Lightning Terminal is made possible by a new open source connection protocol called Lightning Node Connect (LNC). We also released LNC in beta, which allows for a secure, private connection between a node and browser.
This launch continues our work to lower the barrier to entry for developers and node operators, helping the Lightning Network grow in an efficient and distributed manner.
This week we also released a new version of Lightning Pool, our non-custodial, peer-to-peer marketplace for Lightning node operators to buy and sell channel liquidity. This update lowered Pool costs and increased profitability for Pool users by including longer channel lease durations (4 weeks, 12 weeks, and 1 year, based on block time), improving account maintenance costs, and improved lease enforcement. Users can access Pool on the web with Terminal, making it easy to acquire inbound liquidity by buying channels, or earn a bitcoin yield by selling channels.
News & Updates
Bitcoin Suisse, a payment processor and broker from Switzerland, has launched their Lightning Network integration. This enables over 85k merchants across the country to receive Lightning payments, bullish!
Bitwage announced their first salary payment through Lightning! The firm processed payouts to Bernard Parah, CEO of Bitnob, and to USL professional soccer player Alex Crognale. “The concept of Lightning payroll means I can get paid by the hour or even by the minute,” said Bernard.
Exodus, a popular non-custodial mobile crypto wallet, just released their Lightning integration, powered by Wallet of Satoshi’s API. We look forward to many more non-bitcoin-only wallets integrating with the Lightning Network in the year to come!
OpenNode is onboarding new businesses to Lightning like crazy! The Perth Heat, an Australian baseball team, started accepting Bitcoin and Lightning payments for various merchandise and in-stadium purchases, La Haus, a Latin American prop-tech startup, is accepting Bitcoin and Lightning transactions for real estate property purchases, Belo, an Argentinian broker, launched Lightning deposits/withdrawals, and Travala, a Bitcoin friendly travel booking platform, is now accepting Lightning payments for booking hotels, flights, or other travel activities. Amazing!
CardCoins, a platform that lets users trade prepaid gift cards for bitcoin, is now offering Lightning Network withdrawals. Over 80,000 stores across the U.S. now allow customers to top up their Lightning wallets with cash!
Synonym emerged out of stealth at the Adopting Bitcoin conference in El Salvador, announcing a non-custodial mobile wallet, a Lightning Service Provider, and a new protocol for decentralized identifiers called Slashtags as their first three products. We’re excited to see them launch!
🐐 Ibex Mercado shared metrics about usage of their Lightning service, highlighted by 3% daily volume growth! El Salvadoran merchants are processing more than 10k transactions per day.
🦁 Bitfinex processed 150 BTC ($7.5M) of Lightning volume across 5k transactions during the month of November. Number go up!
🆗 OkCoin shared data about their Lightning integration, seeing 75% capacity growth in the last 3 months and usage from 65 different countries.
🔈 Podcasting 2.0, where a podcaster can opt-in to receiving sats streamed over LN from their listeners, is now available for more than 3,182 different shows. The number of Lightning-enabled podcasts is growing at 15% per month, keep an eye on this trend!
📖 Laolu Osuntokun, CTO of Lightning Labs, co-authored Mastering the Lightning Network with Andreas Antonopoulos and Rene Pickhardt, currently the #1 best selling book in the business finance category. Sounds like the perfect present for a bitcoiner friend! 🎁
🤑 NYDIG announced a $1B equity funding round to further develop their institutional-grade platform using recent upgrades to the bitcoin protocol with capabilities such as Lightning payments, asset tokenization, and smart contracts.
💰 Galoy raised a $3M seed round to onboard communities and institutions to Bitcoin and Lightning. Their proof of concept, the Bitcoin Beach wallet, inspired nation-state adoption in El Salvador, so we’re excited to see which governments, companies, and companies around the world they go after next!
👀 John Collison, President of Stripe, was quoted by Bitcoin Magazine saying “The Lightning Network has caught my attention.” Watch this space…
🐂 LN Markets published a new release that doubled the max deposit to 2M sats ($1k), doubled max leverage to x100, and changed funding payouts to every 8 hours instead of 24.
📈 Kollider, the Lightning-native exchange, published an excellent article about Lightning for traders, released a new alpha product with a host of new features, a Lightning Pool dashboard to help visualize the liquidity market. What a month for their team!
🌍 Leigh Cuen wrote about African refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo using Bitcoin and Lightning to build their own grassroots economy.
🔌 Voltage released a dashboard for their Flow product, which allows anyone to easily buy inbound liquidity from Lightning Pool using sidecar channels. Check out this tutorial by BTC Sessions for more details!
🤘 Oshi, the Lightning rewards app for brick-and-mortar merchants, powered a Bitcoin Block Party (hosted by the Pleb Lab) in Austin, TX where 300+ attendees spent their sats at dozens of local food trucks, restaurants, and bars. The legend of the Bitcoin Capital of the World grows...
🏦 The World Bank published a blog post on the Lightning Network highlighting how it has disrupted remittances costs and economically empowered the most vulnerable unbanked citizens in El Salvador.
👼 Nodl introduced nodl light, a Lightning Network node offering geared toward merchants in developing countries. This low cost device will connect to cloud-hosted bitcoin core and payment processing resources. We like the name “Nodlito” 😉.
👾 Zebedee announced partnerships with two new game studios: Viker Games, who has launched three new Lightning-powered mobile games to date, and Carbon Life Forms, who is focused on Project Gateway, a new MMORPG game with a fully Bitcoin economy.
🎧 Wavlake is a new music platform powered by Lightning Network where users can tip musicians directly, unlocking new plays of their songs.
📱 Bitfinex added Lightning support to their mobile app. The global exchange has been a pioneer in Lightning adoption, and we love to see them continuing to push the envelope!
🎨 Scarce.City auctioned off a beautiful algorithmically-generated visualization of the Lightning Network topology, incorporating roughly 16,000 nodes and the 140,000 channels connecting them. Lightning is mimicking nature!
🍪 Biscoint, the Brazilian bitcoin brokerage, is releasing Lightning support for beta users and asking for feedback. The final integration will be announced soon™️.
🌬️ Breez onboarded LQwD Fintech as their second LSP (Lightning Service Providers), providing liquidity to thousands of their active wallet users.
💳 Fold broke into the Top 100 Finance App charts on both App Stores, the first Lightning app to do so, but by no means the last!
🥕 Carrot is paying sats for every Bitcoin Magazine article you read. Lightning is enabling new forms of interaction between creators and their audience!
🍟 FastBitcoins announced the expansion of their Lightning-powered Bitcoin brokerage into the Brazilian Market, after going through a complete rebranding and coming up with a new look.
🎎 Connect the World is a new podcast focused on Lightning by the hosts of Satoshi Radio, a Dutch podcast. Their first guest was Marnix Kloek, the developer behind the CheeseRobot (used by Lightning telegram communities like Plebnet), and their second guest was Soul Exporter, creator of the “Ring of Fire'' concept.
🎄 Arcane Crypto is giving free sats every day for people learning about Lightning and answering questions through their Lightning Christmas Calendar.
🛒 Shift Crypto now accepts Lightning payments from users purchasing the BitBox02, their hardware wallet product. Powered by BTCPayServer!
📱 Rapaygo is selling assembled LNURL Point of Sale (PoS) devices. These devices allow merchants to accept bitcoin payments without an internet connection by generating invoices that the payer scans, and returning a PIN back to the payer to confirm the payment was completed.
🏧 Kioskos K1, the company behind the first locally designed and manufactured Bitcoin ATMs in El Salvador, launched their K1 Mini solution, smaller ATMs that allow users to purchase small amounts of sats over Lightning using dollar coins.
👻 Tales from the Crypt interviewed Zion’s founder Justin Rezvani, who shared his vision of decentralized media powered by Bitcoin and how Lightning can revolutionize influencer marketing.
🎧 Kevin Rooke started a new section of his podcast wherein listeners ask questions via Lightning payments to be answered in the next episode. We love the experimentation!
🔧 Ben Arc can’t stop prototyping cool stuff. His new creation is the LNURLVend, an offline vending machine. Ben also appeared on the Lightning Junkies podcast talking about LNBits, building on Lightning, and his work hacking on hardware solutions.
🍛 Adam Curry explained on Seetee’s podcast why Bitcoin is important for free speech and how the Lightning Network revolutionizes the monetization models of all media.
📚 Synonym released a library for adding a Neutrino node to a mobile app using React Native as well as an encrypted backup service to allow app wallets to offer their own free hosting of encrypted wallet/state backups for their users.
🐝 Alby shipped a new release with support for comments in LNURL-pay requests and in app LNURL-pay responses, along with bug fixes and a cool new browser extension icon.
Lightning Lights Up LatAm 🎇
The global Lightning community descended upon El Salvador the week of November 15th for two conferences: Adopting Bitcoin, focused on bringing together the international Lightning community to learn from on-the-ground adoption and share their expertise, and LaBitConf, focused on bringing the Latin American Bitcoin community together to promote Bitcoin’s adoption.
CEO Elizabeth Stark speaking with Anita Posch at LaBitConf.
Director of Business Development Ryan Gentry presenting at Adopting Bitcoin.
The experience was incredible, as thousands of Bitcoiners from all around the world attended events, made Lightning payments in restaurants, taxis, and convenience stores, and even visited the Bitcoin Beach community in El Zonte that started this whole movement.
Cristina from El Zonte, using the Bitcoin Beach wallet to sell handmade soaps for sats.
President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador announced on June 5 that he was developing a bill to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender, making El Salvador the first country to do so. Barely three weeks later, he presented plans for the Chivo app, a digital bitcoin and Lightning-enabled wallet, which then launched on September 7th. Going from an idea for legislation to mainnet deployment in 94 days is quite a fast process, especially when it comes to educating the public on what Bitcoin is, why it’s better money, and how to use the app.
The Bitcoin community certainly had opinions about this rollout, but as the week came to a close most people seemed to agree on one thing: the local entrepreneurs and businesses were enthusiastic about the technology and iterating rapidly on their deployments. For instance, Ben Arc posted the below video at 11:15am buying coffee from McDonald’s with Lightning, and noted that the checkout site only said “with credit cards”.
Less than 12 hours later, Leo Weese, Technical Content Lead at Lightning Labs, noticed that the same McDonald’s location had heard the feedback and adjusted their payment UX accordingly!
This is the power of open-source software, a decentralized network, and a passionate developer community. We heard stories like this constantly throughout the week, whether the Lightning provider was Galoy, OpenNode, Ibex Mercado, Kripton Market, or a local entrepreneur self-hosting BTCPayServer. Nothing speeds up the rate of iteration of open-source software like real user feedback, and El Salvador is providing the Lightning community with a sandbox of millions of users using their software on a daily basis. The payment processor and merchant adoption solutions especially have learned an invaluable amount over the last few months, and are ready to take on the world.
It’s good that they’re ready, of course, because the world is ready for them! We are seeing grassroots communities in South Africa, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Congo and Portugal starting to adopt a Bitcoin standard, with Lightning’s global reach, instant settlement, and low fees providing the killer payments UX needed for real merchant adoption.
It’s been an incredible year of growth for the Lightning community, and this week in El Salvador was a great way for us to recognize how far we’ve come. As the year comes to an end and we shift focus to 2022, however, it’s clear what needs to be done to take the Lightning Network to the next level. The work won’t be done until the El Salvador experience is seamless and replicated to all 190+ countries around the world. Onwards! ⚡️
Lightning Labs News
Last month we released lnd v0.14-beta with a feature list focused on scalability and security: optimized etcd database support for increased redundancy in the stack, initial support for a Postgres replicated backend, initial version of remote signing, in-memory pathfinding, an RPC middleware interceptor, reusable Lightning invoices with AMP, and more.
We’ve also continued publishing educational content for developers and node operators alike to our Builder’s Guide to the LND Galaxy, with a special emphasis on Lightning Terminal this month. These guides range from Connecting to Terminal to Opening Lightning Network Channels to Lightning Node Connect: Under the Hood.
After the initial proposal this summer, the bitcoin Lightning Improvement Proposal (bLIPs) process was approved by the Lightning community. This process aims to run in parallel with the existing process to edit the Basics of Lightning Technology (BOLT) spec, giving a home for application developers to specify new features, best practices, and reserve certain scarce resources like features bits or message types. We’re excited to see what the community comes up with!
CEO Elizabeth Stark talked about number of people go up and how Lightning will bring bitcoin to billions in emerging markets during a fireside chat with Anita Posch at LaBitConf.
Director of BD Ryan Gentry spoke about scaling financial services on bitcoin at the Adopting Bitcoin conference.
Lightning Evangelist Lucas Ferreira explored the topic “Why Your Payments Should Be With the Lightning Network” during a fireside chat with Dulce Villareal at LaBitConf.
Infrastructure Engineer Jordi Montes joined a conversation on Lightning mobile wallets on the Spanish podcast Lunaticoin.
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Thanks for reading!