Many of you have heard of the Lightning Network, but how and where can you use it? This was my biggest question when I started, as there weren't many articles outlining the ecosystem in depth.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a flourishing community building many exciting projects. This ranges from censorship-resistant social media applications and online merchants to even micro-tasking websites!
Here is an outline of the various things you can do using Lightning.
TL;DR, Projects mentioned:
The Lightning Network has a smart contract functionality that allows for private peer-to-peer payments. However, it is capable of much more. Applications such as Zion have figured out how to use this tech to make private, censorship-resistant messaging and community building a possibility.
One can send encrypted messages using Zion over the Lightning Network, where no one can remove you or store your data.
How is this done you ask? Every user is running their own node. It's actually peer-to-peer nodes (computers) communicating through an open-source protocol, which is the Lighting Network.
This allows anyone to post content, talk to friends, and do every other regular thing you can do on a social media site while putting you, the user, first.
Within the app, you can socialize and easily send BTC payments.
Sphinx chat is another up-and-coming platform built on Lightning. However, it is more messaging-focused like Telegram or Whatsapp. Rather than making you run your own node, you can connect to someone else's.
Some cool features include:
Stacker news is a forum-like platform, being a spinoff of Hacker news, however, with an Orange twist. Key features of the platform include:
- Login with Lightning
- P2P messaging
- Getting paid Sats for your contributions to the platform by other users
- Instead of upvotes, the popularity of posts is measured by the amount of Sats given
In my opinion, this is the best place to go for constructive conversations surrounding Lightning adoption and news.
With this technology, it seems that we can move on from the fact that people are products. Instead, we can now be in control of our social media.
The time-efficient nature of BTC payments via Lightning has opened the door for use cases that were not previously possible.
Instead of you being the product on entertainment applications (through data harvesting and ads), you have the freedom to pay creators directly and get paid for consuming the product.
Examples of this include Breez wallet. Their wallet application comes with a built-in, next-generation podcast player: users can find and subscribe to podcasts, stream payments while listening, and send real-time tips to applaud their favorite creators at their favorite moments.
To see how streaming Sats and boosts work, check out this video.
Another alternative to this is the Fountain Podcast App. One exciting thing about Fountain is that listeners can chop off segments of podcasts and post them and earn money as a result.
Tippin.me is an application that helps creators get tipped via the Lightning Network! Users can create a profile with their BTC address linked to receive payments. Setting up a profile takes seconds, and you can put the link anywhere you have an online presence.
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There is a myriad of merchants that have begun accepting Lightning as a payment system. While Purse has provided the ability to purchase items off of Amazon with Bitcoin since 2014, we have recently started accepting Lightning payments. This is because the Lightning Network reached a mature enough stage to have wide usage in 2021–22.
Who would've thought you could buy Amazon products at a discount with BTC and a low fee? Not me.
Ln.Pizza is another great website that allows people living in America to order Dominos with Lightning!
In addition, Stores all over El-Salvador accept BTC via Lightning as they had adopted BTC as legal tender in 2021.
More and more countries and companies will accept Lightning payments as the infrastructure around it improves and becomes easier to implement. The significant barriers to adoption currently are:
- Access to easy enterprise solutions for Lightning payments
- Solutions to convert BTC to USD instantly without company involvement.
However, don't fret; these issues will be fixed in time.
The Bolt card is the first contactless Bitcoin Lightning card.
The Bolt Card enables a user to simply tap their card on a point-of-sale device displaying a Lightning invoice, and the Lightning payment is made in the background. This transaction is carried out over the Bitcoin Lightning Network without using a single legacy payment system. The future is here!
Many cards such as Crypto.com and Bitpay support Bitcoin; however, they are yet to adopt Lightning. Their time will eventually come as Lightning adoption increases.
Since Lightning allows for instant and extremely low fee payments, it facilitates microtasking in a way not possible through legacy payment systems.
Some jobs take 2 minutes, and people can receive cents worth of BTC to complete them. In addition, using BTC on Lightning removes the fees for international payments within banking and fintech apps.
There is a multitude of websites working around this concept.
Stakwork is a critical project in this space. The idea behind the app came from the realization that many tasks workers undertake today are very tedious and negatively affect motivation. Thus, Stakwork was created to "break down the work into small pieces that can be done quickly on mobile devices without expensive training". In this way, some tasks could be completed more efficiently.
Honorable mentions: Microlancer, Y'alls
Would you like to use reward apps that help you stack Sats? Many apps can do this!
Lolli has a chrome extension that verifies if the store you are browsing is integrated within the app and can thus get some Sats back.
Fold has a similar Sats product, however with a crypto debit card directly linked to it!
There are many others, such as Satsback.com. I recommend using as many as possible so you can always stack Sats when shopping.
Where are we headed?
The technological capabilities of the Lightning network are tremendous. It is a smart contract-based system that can transfer value without an intermediary and be used for logins, messaging, and many more undiscovered use cases.
Many applications created on top of Lightning will come and go. However, new ideas will only become more innovative and useful.
Lightning Labs continues to build on top of BTC with the "Taro" project. This will allow Stablecoins to be issued through the Lightning Network, creating an international fiat payment system as we have never seen before.
This will be an essential step in Bitcoinizing the dollar and will most likely increase the number of Lightning users in a short period.
The idea behind Bitcoin is that it has already solved the money problem. However, its truly decentralized attributes are tough to replicate and thus are a unique asset.
The goal is now to figure out ways to use this money, and we are definitely on our way.
Written by Robert Raichici