Lightning for Everyone in Any App: Lightning as a Service via the Breez SDK

Roy Sheinfeld
Breez Technology
Published in
8 min readFeb 9, 2023

--

Archimedes famously (is supposed to have) said: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” While you’ve gotta love the bravado, the quote also reflects the simple point that the right technology at the right place and the right time can move the world. Steam power was nearly 2000 years old before the conditions were right for it to scale and change everything.

All bitcoiners since Satoshi have known this instinctively. This knowledge is what makes it rational to spend time and money on a technology that’s still ripening. We know that when the conditions are right, when the technology has become efficient and convenient enough, and when people’s exasperation with fiat exceeds their fear of novelty, bitcoin’s time will have arrived.

Lightning itself was a huge step in making the technology more efficient and convenient, but there’s still room to improve the UX for users and developers.

That’s where our new SDK comes in. Instead of requiring developers to learn a new technology from the ground up, the SDK lets them add bitcoin payments to their apps, which people are already using. Our SDK revolutionizes developers’ experience with Lightning, they in turn improve the users’ UX by cleverly, creatively, and easily integrating Lightning into their apps, and everybody wins.

That’s how non-custodial LaaS (Lightning as a Service) will lead to the peer-to-peer Lightning economy. So let me explain what the SDK is, who might be interested in it, and how you can get started.

As an engineer, I never understood why being called a “tool” was supposed to be an insult. (Image: Amit Prakash)

What Is the Breez SDK?

Some developers will have heard about the benefits of the Lightning Network and thought about trying it out in their own use cases. But since they’re probably spending most of their time just maintaining and enhancing their own apps, they lack the time to master Lightning. I sympathize. Man, do I sympathize.

The open-source Breez SDK enables developers to integrate Lightning and bitcoin payments into their apps with zero learning curve or technical expertise. It’s an end-to-end, non-custodial, drop-in solution powered by Greenlight, including a built-in LSP, on-chain interoperability, fiat on-ramps, and other services users and operators need.

Developers no longer need to understand Lightning in order to use it in their apps, and they can add it wherever they would normally use a fiat payment processor (e.g. PayPal, credit cards, etc.). In fact, Lightning micropayments enable entirely new use cases and business models beyond what fiat can do. We give you a few ideas below.

The Breez SDK is a lot like smartphones: you can learn how to use both in minutes, they both simplify a huge range of everyday tasks, they both enable you to do things you never even considered before having them, and the underlying mechanics of how they both work are as fascinating as they are irrelevant to most of the people using them.

This is the end of Lightning as a niche technology and the beginning of Lightning as a (ubiquitous) Service. In a few years, Lightning functionality will be so universal that nobody will even notice it any more, and it will be so useful that nobody will want to live without it. Like phones. Like shoes. Like concrete. Like the alphabet.

All you need are a few basic API calls. Give it a try, and let us know about the features you’d like to see in the SDK, how it benefits you and your users, which existing features work well, and which ones could work better. We want to build what you need, so join us as a design partner.

In about a decade, you will have to explain this image to your kids thanks to Lightning as a Service. We’re reinventing money. (Image: Emil Kalibradov)

How the Breez SDK Beats Fiat and Respects Bitcoin

The Breez SDK combines the best parts of the fiat UX with the best parts of bitcoin:

1. It’s End-to-End: no assembly required

The Breez SDK lets developers skip many steps or, more accurately, delegate these important steps back to us. For example, it includes a built-in LSP to ensure sufficient inbound capacity and reliable routing. Same goes for managing end-user nodes, enabling on-chain interoperability, implementing LNURL, and offering fiat conversions. Developers no longer need to solve these problems or even completely understand them because they’re already solved in the SDK. They just need to know what functions they want to include for their users and then add the API calls to their apps.

2. It’s Trustless: no custody

Everyone using the Breez SDK gets their own node, and they keep their own keys. Their bitcoin cannot be lost in some obscure wash-trading/yield scheme or any other magic beans. All peers maintain custody of their own money at all times. There is just bitcoin — no “crypto” and no Ponzis — in our rug-free environment. The Breez SDK adds no additional risk to using bitcoin.

3. It’s Frictionless: no KYC/AML

KYC & AML add clicks and friction to any payment UX, and they induce fear and regulatory headaches for developers trying to be compliant. The Breez SDK enables P2P payments, so developers never have to touch the users’ money. Users save clicks and uploading pictures of themselves. Developers can skip obtaining their own license as a money transmitter (good luck), or sacrificing billions in revenue to third-party fiat payment processors. This isn’t bending the rules of modern payments and finance; it’s playing a different, disintermediated game.

4. It’s Interoperable: no wallets

LaaS, as realized by the Breez SDK, fundamentally reconceives how users interact with bitcoin. The goal is no longer to “orange pill” the world and teach them bitcoin; it’s to convert them by beating fiat at its own UX game. Users see one balance accessible from any app on any device, just like fiat, but the money is decentralized, peer-to-peer, and non-custodial because it’s bitcoin. They can interact with their existing apps normally, and they can access their funds wherever they are, whatever they’re doing. No wallets, no custody, no friction, no seams, no barriers.

5. It’s Global: no borders

Why should your passport determine what money you use? If we’re all breathing the same air and eating the same burgers, why aren’t we using the same money? Why should developers have to redesign their apps and establish new subsidiaries for every market they penetrate? Arbitrary regulatory requirements are legacy obstacles of yesterday’s currency. Non-custodial Lightning, like that in the Breez SDK, is the only way for everyone to enjoy the same UX with the same currency, regardless of their passport, location, or who’s in charge.

6. It’s Effortless: no hassles

‘Nuff said.

Potential Use Cases

Let’s think a little further. Not only can the Breez SDK improve countless apps already out there; it enables totally new monetization models thanks to the economics of Lightning. More than just a better mousetrap, this technology could catalyze a Cambrian explosion of coding creativity.

There are about 27 million software developers out there, so there are probably 54 billion ideas waiting to be built. Here are a few of mine to get the juices flowing:

Streaming payments for streaming content

Consider our podcast player a proof of concept. But imagine making a video narrative without episodes — just 4 or 12 or ∞ hours long, and users pay by the second or minute they watch. Now extrapolate to music. Now extrapolate to audiobooks. Now extrapolate to text content. Now extrapolate to livestream. And just like our podcast player, the money goes directly from audience to creator(s) without any intermediaries.

Monetizing social media

Many great apps are platforms for users to interact among themselves. In fact, that’s been the driving idea behind social media for a decade and a half. But just like users can interact through content, comments, and the fake currency of “likes,” they can interact with the real currency of bitcoin thanks to Lightning. Real value in real cash can be as easy for users to pass around as 👍. Since the Breez SDK is a non-custodial, p2p solution, all users can enjoy it regardless of their location and arbitrary regulations.

In-game currencies

Bundled loot boxes and DLC packages are the worst UX idea since banner ads. But fiat transaction fees are so high that they’re the only way for developers to offset the cost. Lightning micropayments would change everything. Why not let players go to the tavern, the potion shop, or the smith and buy their HP potions, revivifying tankards of mead, and Swords of Wrath with micropayments in real sats? Users can also transact with each other in-game, and developers can provide rewards with real bitcoin for in-game achievements.

Cross-border remittances

Many people in the world cross borders and oceans to provide their families with a better life. They work long hours and scrimp as much as possible to send money for rent, medical bills, and school fees back home. Companies like Western Union will forward their transfers but keep maybe 9.5%. I won’t judge what’s fair, but I can guarantee the fees could be a lot lower. The Breez SDK lets anyone write an app to make sure more of that hard-earned money gets to those waiting for it. And since it’s non-custodial and peer-to-peer, national borders and KYC are frictions of the past.

Disintermediated P2P payments and fintech

The Breez SDK lets developers build non-hierarchical payment and fintech apps, where everybody is equal, and everyone can pay everyone else directly. It renders payment processors from Stripe to credit cards obsolete because customers can interact directly with vendors. Banks and exchanges become obsolete because everyone holds and spends their own money. Removing banks, hierarchy, and intermediaries from the equation starts a different game for a different world.

Now it’s your turn.

The Future Is Only the Future Until We Build It

The first industrial use of steam engines was to pump water out of mines, but nobody talks about that because the engines were stationary and hidden in the dark. Three generations later, inventors started adding wheels to the engines. Setting that power free and bringing it into the light made everyone take notice, and that’s when steam changed everything.

Lightning is at a similar juncture, and the Breez SDK liberates its power. Our SDK brings Lightning out into the … erm … light and frees it from antiquated, single-purpose apps. It lets developers add Lightning to their projects in a matter of hours, not weeks, and lets them create seamless experiences that will feel immediately natural to users despite being brand new. The logic of P2P micropayments enabled by the Breez SDK makes so much sense that users will soon recognize fiat and its hurdles as the cages they are.

Faced with the questions of who needs KYC, who needs transaction fees, and who needs banks, users will realize the answer is “not me.” Similarly, developers who have shied away from bitcoin and Lightning because of the learning curves, integration headaches, and fiduciary hassles will realize that those obstacles no longer exist.

Bitcoin is the world’s future, Lightning is bitcoin’s future, and the Breez SDK is Lightning’s future. We’ve built the tool. Learn more here. Teach us. Now let’s go move the world.

--

--