The New Wave of Bitcoin Developers 🌊🌊🌊

Welcome to the January edition of the Lightning Lab, a newsletter filled with Lightning Network updates, community coverage, and, of course, memes! The Lightning community kicked off 2021 with a bang 💥. In this issue, we discuss the next wave of new developers, ecosystem updates, and future Lightning tech that’s here today. 

We’ve also started a new weekly Clubhouse room Tuesdays at 5pm ET where we answer questions about the latest developments in Lightning, join us!

While Reddit has been busy short squeezing hedge funds, we’ve been busy building.

Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers

At Lightning Labs, we seek to make our Lightning implementation the easiest platform for developers to integrate internet-native digital money into their applications. Many of the startups we highlight in this newsletter started by hacking away on LND, and now they’re bringing our technology to new users all across the world. As bitcoin continues to gain worldwide attention, so does interest from new developers, and we want to make their barrier to entry as low as possible.

We recently launched our new set of developer docs: the Builder’s Guide to the LND Galaxy! These docs are designed to be a one-stop shop for a developer’s LND needs: a conceptual overview, tutorials for application builders, guides for running the Lightning Terminal, advanced best practices, and more. Our very own Alex Bosworth polled the Lightning community on Twitter and found this was the biggest barrier for developers looking to build the next big Lightning app:

We also just released LND 0.12, a major update with a number of improvements to the reliability and security of the software, making it easier for developers to build on Lightning.

News & Updates

Lightning Ecosystem

OkCoin announced that they’ll be integrating Lightning in Q1 2021. This solves two UX problems for them: withdrawal/deposit confirmation times drop from an hour to a few seconds, and withdrawal/deposit minimum amounts drop from 0.001 BTC (~$35) to 100 sats ($0.04). Hong Fang, OkCoin CEO, said she hopes “other blockchain companies follow suit and lift the whole industry up by speeding up bitcoin payments.” Following last month’s Kraken Lightning announcement, we’re excited to see OkCoin join the new wave of exchange adoption. You can track the growing list of Lightning exchanges here.

Strike is expanding their popular mobile payments app to 200 countries with Strike Global thanks to a partnership with Bittrex, whose 1M+ users will be onboarded to the Lightning Network as well. Strike’s US rollout has been processing millions of dollars in volume per month thus far. International expansion allows them to focus on cross-border payments, a massive global market ripe for disruption by instant, unfairly cheap payments using Lightning as the protocol for value. Why wait 3-14 days and pay up to 25% when you have a UX like this?

Zebedee integrated Lightning payments into Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a popular online game with 20M MAUs as of January 2019. Zebedee’s Infuse product allows anybody to run a CS:GO server with Lightning as the value transfer protocol with a seamless UX. Not only does this make an existing game more fun to play, but it also gives game developers exciting new capabilities like breaking the fourth wall by allowing audience members to participate in esports events. Who needs to buy GameStop when you can earn BTC directly in games?

In other news:

  • 🎮 Thndr Games has surpassed 100,000 downloads across its Lightning Network-enabled games Bitcoin Bounce and Turbo ‘84. Users world-wide love the opportunity to stack sats while playing games, no tokens or new chains required!

  • 🚀 Elon Musk has been tweeting up a storm about bitcoin, and one engineer, Andy Schroder, showed the power of Lightning by reverse engineering his Tesla to pay his wall charging unit in real time. Sounds like somebody Elon needs to meet!

  • 📊 VBTC, Vietnam’s oldest bitcoin exchange, added Lightning Network support. Users that withdraw over Lightning will save an estimated 99% on their withdrawal fees (1k sats vs. 100k sats on-chain). The on-chain fee environment is providing a great tailwind for Lightning adoption, and the network is ready for an influx of new users.

  • ⛈ Coincorner announced their much-anticipated Lightning integration. The UK-based exchange entered the market in 2014, operates in 47 countries, and impressively only took two weeks to complete their integration. Lightning transfers are also live in their app, allowing users to send and receive invoices directly from their GBP wallet.

  • 🐯 Bitcoin Namibia enabled instant deposits and withdrawals by integrating Lightning into their non-custodial bitcoin on/off-ramp. A trend to watch out for this year is Bitcoin companies in emerging markets leapfrogging on-chain technologies entirely in favor of Lightning’s faster, cheaper settlement. 

  • 🏯 Sarutobi, a popular Lightning video game, processed over 12k transactions in a single day during MintGox’s SaruTobi Saturday competition. That’s six full blocks of bitcoin transactions made essentially for free with massively improved UX by occurring off-chain. 

  • 🌝 Muun shipped version 2.0 of their mobile wallet with seamless Lightning sends and receives, a single balance for on- and off-chain funds, multisig security with foolproof backups, and a clever new mempool-based fee estimator. Early reports indicate their South American audience is over the muun with the update!

  • 🤖 LN Markets released API documentation to help developers build trading bots that integrate with their API. The best bot built so far is If This Then Long, a bot that automatically longs BTC/USD if a Twitter account (like, say, Peter Schiff) tweets bitcoin FUD.

  • ⚡️ Breez has integrated LN Markets directly into their wallet marketplace, allowing users to create accounts and place orders at Lightning speed. The linked video is an excellent example of the future of Lightning applications: no passwords, no credit card information, just seamless log-ins and payments at the touch of a button.

  • 🦁 Bitfinex shipped a new release of Bitfinex Terminal with premium data services on a pay-as-you-go basis, powered by Lightning. Users can purchase an amount of query time for a particular data set, and download using the Dazaar data transfer protocol until their time is up. 

  • 🔥 Scarce.City concluded their second Lightning-powered auction with Anita Leemburg’s Bull On Fire painting selling for 2M sats. Internet-native digital money empowers creators most of all, we expect this trend to continue!

The Future of Lightning Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet

Our goal is to build the easiest platform for developers to integrate internet-native digital money into their applications. The first capability developers have built companies on top of is of course the ability to transfer bitcoin to another Lightning wallet. Lightning has an advantage over every other type of payment rail when it comes to payments that are very fast, small, frequent, and global. 🌍

Startups like Bitrefill, Fold, LN Markets, OpenNode, and Strike have built on Lightning to enable instant transactions from an international user base. But that’s not all there is to Lightning.

Keysend

Keysend is a feature that enables people to send messages and data over the Lightning Network. So yes, you can send sats while you chat. This transformation of Lightning from a payments network into an incentivized data layer has captured the minds of developers, leading to new applications like Sphinx.chat, Podcasting 2.0, Shockwallet, Sendmany and many more to come. 

LSATs

Lightning Service Authentication Tokens (LSATs) enable users to pay for a digital good or service without requiring a username or password. This year, we aim to inspire the new wave of developers with demos and tutorials of how to leverage LSATs to build metered APIs. Imagine renting out your hard-drive space to the highest bidder on a pay-per-use basis, or creators getting paid 1 sat/second for an ad-free video platform. In fact, you can already build these applications today using LND and our LSAT implementation, Aperture.

AMP

Atomic Multi-path Payments allow a Lightning payment to be split up across channels and arrive fully at its end destination, and present brand new programmability to LND. Bitcoin makes it possible to put up a single address on a website to receive donations or payments, but  the transactions sent or received by that address will be public forever. AMP reintroduces this ability on Lightning, combining the ideal UX of a static address to receive payments with the speed, security, and privacy of Lightning. AMP also allows for recurring subscriptions over Lightning. Imagine a Patreon-like experience, but open to anybody with a Lightning wallet with subscription levels as low as a sat. Soon.™️

DLCs

Finally, Discrete Log Contracts (DLCs) enable financial contracts on the Lightning Network, including new synthetic assets. As a result, they allow for Lightning’s value transfer capabilities to expand to other assets backed by BTC. The Suredbits team recently demonstrated how a DLC can be used to provide a user with a constant USD-denominated balance in a Lightning channel. This brings the stablecoin experience to Lightning, based solely on bitcoin! With DLCs, users who prefer to hedge against volatility can get fiat exposure, Lightning UX, and permissionless access.

Lightning Labs News

We are hiring for a Technical Product Manager! Know somebody passionate about building great products with a vision for the future of bitcoin? Send them our way.

We also have job postings up for a Talent Lead, a Finance Lead, a Senior Engineering Manager, a Marketing Lead, a Designer, a Lightning Infrastructure Engineer and a Business and Finance Operations role. Join us and take the leap to work in bitcoin! 🧙‍♂️

Media

Bitcoin Magazine released an episode of “The Van Wirdum Sjorsnado” podcast discussing Lightning Network basics. Community produced educational materials are crucial for adoption, thank you Aaron and Sjors for doing your part!

In the media, Desiree Dickerson and Ryan Gentry teamed up on the Anita Posch Show to discuss how Lightning is Bitcoin.

Desiree Dickerson and Oliver Gugger led a session on Clubhouse about how to get into bitcoin development. 

Oliver Gugger also discussed developing on Lightning during the Lightning Hacksprint over the holidays.

Ryan Gentry presented to the Austin Blockchain Collective about Lightning Network Basics, Lightning Pool, and Shadowchains.

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. 💰