Altcoin News: New WebLN Standard Will Simplify Payments to the Lightning Network
March 27, 2019, by Marko Vidrih on ALTCOIN MAGAZINE
Sending payments through Lightning is simplified by the new open source WebLN standard.
Currently, WebLN uses Lightning Joule and BlueWallet — two popular wallets for Lightning, as well as the Lightning Spin app. The standard, created by developer William O’Beirne, is inspired by his work on creating popular services for Ethereum — MyCrypto and MyEtherWallet, which are used for storing ethereum’s native currency, ether.
His work on the web standard of Ethereum Web3 led to what he calls the “a-ha moment,”. Then he realized that Lightning opens up possibilities for a similar set of standards for Bitcoin, which can greatly simplify interaction with payments on the Internet. His ultimate goal, as he demonstrated in his presentation of the Chrome Lightning Joule browser extension last fall, is to build payments in such a way that they are really easy to make. O’Beirne notes:
“I want to make it really easy for new lightning projects to have a great UX for making payments without having to reinvent the wheel of how to display payments to users, or get them to provide invoices.”
He gave an example of a site with WebLN support, which gives users the ability to quickly transfer 1 satoshi (worth about $0.00004) to get rid of ads for one day.
Simplification of payments
Although WebLN is inspired by Ethereum, O’Beirn says that “WebLN is a much simpler version of Web3.” After all, Lightning is not a “Turing-Complete System”. Since the Lightning Network in the Bitcoin blockchain is more focused on payments, the WebLN standard focuses precisely on this area.
However, WebLN and Web3 have common features, for example, they both simplify the creation of applications for developers. And ultimately reduce the number of steps that users need to perform in order to make a payment.
BlueWallet recently launched a marketplace within its mobile application that lists various services that accept Lightning transactions, including LN.pizza, Bitrefill, and other companies. If the user himself goes to LN.pizza, he will have to copy the account, open his Wallet with Lightning support and place it there. However, if it uses the BlueWallet marketplace for this purpose, the process will be much simpler. The service automatically picks up the bill and copies it to BlueWallet so that the user can pay for the purchase of a pizza.
“[WebLN] allows us to provide a better user experience — like one-tap payments and withdraws, and facilitates and standardizes “actions” that should be standardized for the sake of the industry moving faster and in the right direction. So we fully support it and try to make other developers to do the same,” BlueWallet product and UX engineer Nuno Coehlo told CoinDesk, adding that it has enabled “thousands” of purchases.
O’Beirne noted that in the future he plans to add experimental technology that will allow users to send money directly to the site without creating an account.
WebLN has other features that are not entirely related to payments.
“There are also developments related to identification,” said O’Beirne.
Users can use the public key of their Lightning site — a sequence of random letters and numbers — to access the website. It can effectively replace passwords. However, O’Beirn added that some of the functions in this area are still in development.
As noted on the project’s GitHub, WebLN is still at an “early stage” and will be “subject to change.” O’Beirn said that the next steps would be to improve developer documentation and prepare several demo videos to make it easier for developers to implement WebLN.
O’Beirne also communicates with Casa (a popular Lightning service that has released an extension for Chrome, similar to Lightning Joule, but with different functionality), as well as Bitlum, another browser-based wallet. But while both companies seem to be interested in WebLN, none of the wallets have yet “committed” to implement the standard.
In the summer, O’Beirne will work for Chaincode Labs, a research team led by Bitcoin Core developers Alex Morcos and Suhas Daftuar, which funds some of the most active Bitcoin protocol developers. He hopes that this will give him the opportunity to continue working on WebLN and convince more wallets to implement the standard.
There is another standard that is of interest to Lightning developers, which is related to the standardization of the use of Lightning on the Internet — the one that is being developed by W3C — an international group that develops standards for the entire Internet. At the same time, O’Beirne believes that WebLN is gaining momentum:
“At this point, I feel like we’re going to see more adoption. At least for generating lightning invoices, which is a frustrating experience.”
Author: Marko Vidrih