Remonetizing the Internet with the Lightning Network
It's time to reclaim the internet and be rewarded for our efforts. Bitcoin and the Lightning Network enable this!
Last week I spoke to an amazing product manager of a Lightning project. I was eager to learn more about what they were doing because most Lightning companies tend to market themselves as micropayment providers or Point-of-Sales solutions for SMEs.
This time around, it was different. For the first time in a while, I heard a familiar statement; The Lightning network with remonetize the internet and allow creators to work on their terms.
Back in the day, I used to freelance for various think tanks. OK, I wrote for one giant think tank, which was split into smaller teams or, as we used to call them, thinking groups. You know to make it sound more exciting and probably get more government grants.
I was responsible for two things; Platforms and the creator economy. Mainly because I was the youngest one on the team, and they wanted fresh eyes on the whole situation. This was in 2017, and back then, way before TikTok or YouTube Shorts, everyone was hyping up the monetization of the internet.
Some solutions were quite public. Like Facebook’s Libra project. The potential cryptocurrency of the future, which inevitably failed just four years later, or in-app tokens in an earlier version of TikTok. Back then, everyone envisioned how creators would produce a lot of content and be rewarded for it. These systems had a fatal flaw: They wanted to maintain control over the creator, user, and monetary policy with a single authority.
The similarities between the Internet and Bitcoin
The internet had its roots in the military in the 50s, but for the next 20 years, it became an experimental playground for nerds and students from all walks of life.
You had no gatekeepers; the idea behind it was to share information freely and allow everyone to be a part of that network. Sound very similar to something I like to write about, doesn’t it?
But with time and more influence by central authorities, we saw how the internet evolved into something completely different. Gone are the days when a few nerds connected to a forum and spoke about their favorite website. The internet became a political tool to win elections, change public opinions, and collect user data.
It’s that last point that most users have an issue with. In the past 15 years, we’ve all shared our opinions or feelings online without the intent that someone would sell this data. One could make the case we were too naive as a collective and should have verified what these big companies are doing with our data. The Internet was abused, and a small group of institutions turned it into a money-making machine.
That was a big intro into how Bitcoin fixes this, but I had to set the stage. Satoshi was part of a group of cypherpunks keen enough to see the dangers. They believe in changing the world by writing code and using cryptology to protect our privacy. They’re not running for president or getting otherwise politically involved. Their vote isn’t at the next poll station but rather with their next update on a website or mailing list.
Users should be able to regain control over their data and build whatever they want. Ideally, they should be rewarded with money that lives and breathes the internet, not in its presence in a web browser, but with a cryptological footprint and a bulletproof way of verifying who owns what. This currency should be scarce and not just created out of thin air but mined with proof of work.
How Bitcoin and the Lightning Network especially will fix the Internet
Bitcoin has established its role in society in the past 14 years. Maybe not as strong as many would like. Some see it as the new global reserve currency in the next five years, but it has established itself as an alternative to traditional systems.
It may not be as fast as other projects or has as many features, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to! Bitcoin has to be slow and unattractive to build layers on top of it. One of these layers is the Lightning Network.
It’s been around for a few years and has gained more and more traction in the last two years. It’s not as big as major payment networks like Visa or MasterCard, but it quickly became a favorite for enthusiasts to do micropayments.
Now you give up some of the security because you’re no longer on the base layer. However, there are already a few projects working on improving this. And like everything else in Bitcoin, you can run your node and verify the information.
The incentives it promotes will really set Bitcoin and the Lightning Network apart. There is no foundation or company in a tax haven that’s running the whole show. Bitcoin is open, and everyone can build or use it to their liking.
If people like to gamble and trade it, they can do it. If there are coffee shops that want to get rid of high fees with credit card institutions, they can do that as well. And if you’re going to build an infrastructure where users, websites, and protocols want to reward creators for good content, you can do that too!
You’ll be rewarding creators for great content, and you’ll be happy!
With Lightning, we can move away from likes on social media and reward creators directly for their efforts.
You already see this happening on nostr, where people send each other some Sats in the form of zaps. I got two of them while writing this article.
Another possibility will be to unlock content more precisely. Instead of buying the whole online course, why won’t you sign up and pay per video you watch? Or, if you want to read the first few chapters of a book, you can do so. It would be a win-win situation, as both the reader and the author would be rewarded.
We already see this happening in the podcasting world, where listeners can send Sats across the globe for their favorite shows. This engagement doesn’t have to be one-sided. I see a future where the creator can use Lightning to reward the best answer to a question. Instead of doing boring shoutouts in a live stream, they could send them some Sats and thank them for always being there.
Granted, all of these ideas are definitely in the development phase, and it will be years, if not decades, before we see them in real-world use, but think about how long it took Voice over IP (VoIP) to be accepted. It didn’t happen overnight, yet we’re all using it today without thinking about it. The Lightning Network could become Money over IP (MoIP) and let the user reclaim rights on the internet again.
All of this is possible because a few cypherpunks sat down and decided to fight corruption in the system with cryptology. It’s time for the next generation to fight back and monetize the internet with a decentralized protocol built on cryptology!
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