Number (of Users) Go Up: Bitcoin Is for the People 📈

Welcome to the May edition of the Lightning Lab, a newsletter filled with Lightning Network updates, community coverage, and, of course, memes! In this issue, we focus on how bitcoin and Lightning are technology for the people, and why its true potential lies in bringing it to billions of users, as opposed to billionaires.

Along these lines, Alex Gladstein, CSO of the Human Rights Foundation, wrote an article profiling three different people in Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia who are using bitcoin and Lightning on a daily basis to solve real world problems. Bitcoin is for the people!

We’re continuing this theme on Clubhouse with a Lightning Lab 🧪 session on Wed, May 19 at 4pm ET with our CEO Elizabeth Stark, podcaster Peter McCormack, and Kal Kassa, an Ethiopian entrepreneur using Lightning. The following week will be Lightning 101. Join us!

Number of Nodes Go Up 📈

This past week, we launched Terminal Web, a new web-based interface that tracks Lightning node quality and displays a ranking of top nodes. 

Terminal Web helps node operators gauge their node’s performance and get actionable recommendations on ways to improve. This is our first step towards providing a more unified experience for node operators that need to be able to measure, track, and manage their node’s performance. 

By helping node operators, we can help the Lightning Network evolve into a distributed network for bitcoin transactions that is more durable, resilient, and efficient. The node count has doubled over the last year, and we expect Terminal Web to further accelerate the growth of the network!

Additionally, we shipped the first of many planned Youtube videos for developers looking to get started with LND, and a series of new guides for node operators:

These efforts seem to be paying off as we’re seeing node operators with record highs in terms of routing fees earned, and Lightning Pool officially crossing 50 BTC of total volume, with this month including a 1.96 BTC ($98k at the time) channel lease purchase, the largest we’ve seen to date. Number of nodes go up!

News & Updates

Lightning Launches

In the three weeks since Strike launched their mobile Lightning payments app in El Salvador, they have already become the #1 finance app, #1 top app, and #1 overall app in the country. The message from this launch is clear: the people want bitcoin, and they want their bitcoin to be on the Lightning Network!

Kollider officially opened up their Lightning-based exchange for alpha testing, demoing entering and exiting a trade directly from a mobile Breez wallet. Kollider will offer bitcoin-collateralized perpetual swaps for the first time on the Lightning Network, a financial product that’s proved very popular in the broader ecosystem.

OKEx officially enabled LN deposits and withdrawals for their users, live on mainnet! They are the first of the top 5 bitcoin derivatives exchanges (Binance, Huobi, Bybit, and FTX being the other members) to join the Lightning Network. We are excited both for their users to experience faster, cheaper bitcoin, and for the rest of the exchanges to follow their lead.

Lightning Stats

LN Markets displayed their routing traffic (not including normal deposits and withdrawals) as they’ve totaled up 105 BTC of volume over the past year, 25 BTC coming in the last month!

Bitrefill stunned us with this chart of their customers’ Lightning Network usage, showing value transfers now impossible on any base layer chain are thriving off-chain.

Last month, Azteco announced their bitcoin voucher product was upgrading to Lightning Vouchers, allowing purchasers to withdraw small amounts of bitcoin directly to their Lightning wallets. The traction they’ve shown has blown us away: over 50% of their outbound volume has converted from on-chain to off-chain in just a month!

Between betting sats on CS:GO, tipping streamers, and withdrawing from games like Bitcoin Bounce and Turbo ‘84, Zebedee users transacted 80 blocks worth of transactions off-chain in April, for we assume zero blocks worth of fees!

Bitfinex users are also leveraging Lightning quite a bit, though in larger size due to their status as an exchange. 10k transactions in a month, with a 3x increase in withdrawals MoM.

Not to be outdone, our very own routing guru Alex Bosworth posted that he’s forwarding ~10 BTC ($500k) per week. In July 2020, he posted that he had routed $500k in the last 52 weeks, 50x growth! 📈

Lightning Ecosystem

  • 🏆 MintGox Esports Arena at Bitcoin 2021 will be the first in-person bitcoin esports tournament, with all in-game payments powered by Lightning, with over 1BTC in prizes! The winner of the CS:GO tournament will receive a 3D printed trophy courtesy of Crypto Cloaks and eternal bragging rights! Find out more here.

  • 💰 LN Markets announced a new round of funding from Arcane Crypto for their Lightning-based trading platform. Embedded in the announcement was an update on their gross trading volumes: from $30M in Q4 2020 to $94M in Q1 2021. 🔥

  • 🤑 Satsy launched their satsback website where users can earn bitcoin every time they shop online or take surveys. Everybody always wants to earn more bitcoin, and earning small amounts over LN is how we bring bitcoin to the next billion people.

  • 👾 Amboss shipped their Lightning Network explorer, a new way to search for nodes and channels. We’re particularly excited about the “Login with your node” feature 👀.

  • 👨‍🏫 Satoshi Passport announced the launch of their bitcoin education app in the App Store. They use Zebedee’s API to power rewards over Lightning for successful completion of each lesson. Imagine if you got paid sats for going to class.

  • 💵 BTCPay Server shipped v1.1.0 of their self-hosted payment processor software which includes LND v0.12.1-beta and Lightning Loop. This is a great upgrade for the merchant wanting to accept bitcoin without trusting a third party, who can now set Autoloop to send their earnings over LN to cold storage automatically.

  • 🎨 Scarce.City hosted four Lightning-based auctions: a Bitcoin Bhavacakra by Chiefmonkey, Yonat Vaks and mosaic.rocks that sold for 15M sats ($8.5k), a Physical RAREPEPE and GOXPEPE by Mike and Joe Looney that sold for 46M sats ($26k), Untitled (FOR ALL) by Tommy Marcheschi that sold for 13M sats ($7.5k), and Running Bitcoin by Marcus Connor that sold for 15M sats ($8.3k) in commemoration of Hal Finney.

  • 🎮 Elixir App shipped their bitcoin-focused NFT marketplace which allows users to buy and own in-game assets like user skins and trade them over the Lightning Network.

  • 🤲 OpenNode released a new feature to their Lightning-based payment processor: bitcoin donations. They have no-code donation buttons, customizable hosted checkouts, and integrations with Shopify, Woocommerce, and more. We’re excited to see these start popping up across the web!

  • 📹 BTC Sessions dropped a Youtube tutorial on how to run a self-hosted Lightning node featuring myNode, Umbrel, and Thunderhub. Excellent content released to great fanfare from the community!

  • ⚡️ Voltage published the first in a series of guides for how to build applications that leverage their hosted node APIs. We’ll be following this series closely. 👀

Lightning Bulb 💡 Developments

Just two months ago we launched the Lightning Bulb 💡, a list of open research questions, experimental ideas, and inspiration for the Lightning developer community to build on bitcoin. And the community has amazed us by already shipping solutions to our questions!

🕵️‍♀️ Impervious published an explainer for their dynamic Lightning-based VPN, currently in closed beta. Imagine streaming sats to a random selection of the tens of thousands of Lightning nodes to act as a real-time VPN. 🤯

⚡️ Coincharge developed a Wordpress Lightning Paywall for BTCPay Server, which allows users to offer pay-per-post blogs and pay-per-view videos over Lightning. We can’t wait to see these popping up on blogs all over the web!

Number of People Go Up: How Stakwork Helps the World Earn Using Lightning

For this newsletter, we have an interview with an entrepreneur leveraging the Lightning Network for exactly this use case of bringing bitcoin to the next billion people via micropayments. Paul Itoi, founder of Sphinx.Chat, is also the founder of Stakwork: a Lightning-based platform for permissionless microtasks. In the last 6 months, workers on Stakwork have been paid for 3M tasks, totaling 171k Lightning payments. He was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his platform.

For the unfamiliar, what is Stakwork, and why did you start it?

We were having trouble doing data entry work at my last company. We paid people in Argentina on PayPal to do the work, but had trouble getting quality work. I read about lightning and thought it would be a good use case and it took off from there.

What kind of people are using Stakwork?

We have just under 20 thousand registered workers and a waiting list about as long. We've heard from people working in Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana, Turkey and the Philippines. 

How is using the Lightning Network solving problems for your workers?

Lighting lets us teleport value instantly and to anyone with internet access. This allows us to tap into a supply of talent in countries that other payment systems can't reach. The worker has the ability to turn spare time into a store of value that can't be inflated by their government.

When your workers start earning sats, do you see any changes in their behavior?

We try to minimize any email communications with people so they can 'earn in private'. In exchanges with users, we've heard a common story that they notice the value of the sats they have goes up over time. They try to spend their fiat first and only convert their sats when they have to.

What is next for Stakwork? Where do you hope to get to?

The next step is to scale up the number of tasks flowing through the system. We've built a unique workflow system that lets us handle a wide array of tasks. The software divides up the whole job into the smallest possible substeps. Those steps are assigned to people and then the system assembles the pieces into the final output. 

Lightning Labs News

Media

In the media, Elizabeth Stark discussed Building the Payment Layer of the Internet with Bitcoin in a fireside chat hosted by the City University of New York.

Ryan Gentry appeared on Podcasting 2.0 with Adam Curry to discuss the Lightning Network, and enabling streaming payments for podcasters.

Alex Bosworth gave a presentation on Lightning Routing - Building a New Economy at the last Lightning Hacksprint, which has now been transcribed.

Hiring

Want to have a hand in making bitcoin more than a digital rock? We are hiring for a Business and Finance Operations role to help us keep up with all the Lightning ecosystem growth!

Other roles include: Executive Assistant, Business and Finance Operations, Head of Memes, Technical Product Manager, Senior Engineering Manager, Lightning Infrastructure Engineer, Designer, Talent Lead, and Marketing Lead.

Join us in making magical internet money a reality! 🧙‍♂️

Want to get involved? Join the LND Developer Community on Slack.

Meams

Thanks for reading… share with your friends, and scan this QR code from your Lightning wallet to stack a few sats.💰