Most people know Bitcoin as money. Yet the Lightning Network being developed for faster and more scalable Bitcoin network has other uses according to a revelation by Joost Jager, a developer with Lightning Labs.
Jager spoke on a new proof of concept called Whatsat that could be used to send private messages. This would effectively make Bitcoin a network for messaging and payment. That the platform is without a central authority would give it an edge over other messaging platforms such as WhasApp and Telegram.
However, the concern at the moment is getting many people that could adopt the messaging platform. This is especially so considering the low adoption level of Bitcoin as a payment platform.
Bitcoin Core contributor Sjors Provoost has suggested that instead of making it essential that people download a new app to access the Bitcoin messaging platform, that it would help adoption if developers build bridges with platforms such as WhatsApp or Signal.
Messages sent on Lightning are free at the moment even though developers working on the project are yet to understand how lightning fees would evolve with time.
Plenty. But your main challenge is overcoming network effect.
It would help if you can build bridges to popular end2end encrypted services like WhatsApp and Signal. Maybe each node can have a virtual phone number, and have exit nodes connect to (Signal) server on their behalf.
— Sjors Provoost (@provoost) November 4, 2019
The messaging version of Lightning is censor-resistant and everyone can participate on the network. But unlike encrypted apps that garble messages to prevent third-party access, there is no central authority associated with Whatsat.
“I like to compare private messaging with talking to someone in person privately. We can do this without asking for permission,” Jager argued. “It is a freedom that is so natural, that we hardly even realize how important it is. As we humans continue to digitize ourselves further every day, I think it makes sense to extend this freedom into the digital domain.”
The app which is a passion of Jager’s is at an early stage of its development so real bitcoin can’t be spent on it yet. He stated that even though there are other technologies that could be used to decentralize messaging, that there are built-in advantages in the lightning that others do not have.
He maintained that the main advantage that the lightning has is its twin usage for payment and messaging.
“It is a question of how many [peer-to-peer] networks you want to participate in. It simplifies things if you get the two major uses, payment and chatting, from a single network,”
On the likely cost of using the platform, he said:
“There surely are people willing to pay for it, but for what price would make it a no-brainer for almost anyone?” Jager asked. “Suppose the average user sends 30 messages per day. That comes down to about 1 satoshi per message with the current bitcoin exchange rate.”
That’s about a dollar per year.
“If the lightning network matures to a system that can sustainably handle 1 [satoshi] payments, I think a future of permissionless private messaging is unlocked,” he said.