Bitcoin’s Lightening platform could be an encrypted messaging service

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We live in a digital age, where the ability to send instant messages resides in our hands via our various smart phones and smart devices. The mechanism rests in the coding of a variety of “apps” on the market. This apps market is highly competitive. You need only conduct a simple Internet search to arrive at a plethora of vendors. What if you want privacy? What if you want your messages encrypted? A current ranking of the best of these apps lists 15 vendors. WhatsApp is the leader with 1.5 billion users. The news today is that Bitcoin’s payment service could also serve as an encrypting messenger.

Joost Jager, a developer with Lightning Labs, recently made this admission to reporters at Coindesk. The Lightening Network addressed a host of issues with Bitcoin’s payment capabilities, primarily with the scalability issue that prevented quicker processing times for transactions. It is characterized as a layering of another protocol that operates on top of the blockchain used for Bitcoin payment transactions.

Without getting into “geek speak”, Jager explained to listeners that the Lightening Network could accommodate another service, one he is most passionate about. He calls his new project “Whatsat”, which would provide a combination of a payment and messaging service under the same roof, so to speak. He began with:

Lightning is a peer to peer network in which anyone can participate. There is no central entity that has the ultimate power to decide on [what] users are allowed to communicate.

Simple messaging will no longer suffice in a world of “bad actors” that hack into private conversations on the fly with the latest in techno-gear. Jager continues:

I like to compare private messaging with talking to someone in person privately. We can do this without asking for permission. 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.

Jager admits that he is working alone on this project. Lightening Labs is not involved, but he also notes that the concept could work on other platforms, but a payment platform offers other possibilities:

Lightning is not the only way to decentralize this, but it does have the advantage that it is also a payment network. Running any sort of centralized or decentralized service costs money and with lightning it is easy to pay for that on a per-message basis.

Fees would become an issue down the road at some point, but having a separate foundational system beneath it could help to keep fees low. The question is how do you build a customer base, when so many already exist today in a very competitive space. Other Bitcoin core developers have suggested that “bridges” be constructed to connect other services, thereby leaping ahead while in the background.

When asked, Jager still sees a combination of payment and messaging as a compelling case going forward for any messaging user:

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.

The concept today is that a recipient could “fail” a payment, but still extract the message from it. The code can support this mechanism, which could be refined to simplify and make the process more straightforward. Jager admits that costs are difficult to project at this point, but he has 1 Satoshi in mind, or less than one cent:

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.

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