Whenever a new technology appears, there is always this instant hunt for the killer app that will take the innovation to the masses.
In the cases of Bitcoin, entrepreneurs searched for a killer app for nearly a decade before realizing its usefulness as an apolitical, digital store of value was the killer app all along. Other applications, such as Abra’s permissionless banking platform enabled by crypto-collateralized contracts, can be built on top of that.
People have been wondering about the key use cases of Bitcoin’s growing Lightning Network for years now, and the topic was recently brought up by MIT Digital Currency Initiative Research Scientist Tadge Dryja during an unmoderated panel at the 2019 MIT Bitcoin Expo.
During the discussion around this topic, the other panelists, which were Blockstream Software Engineer Christian Decker and ACINQ CTO Fabrice Drouin, talked about how it may be too difficult to predict the Lightning Network’s killer use cases at this time.
Too Early to Know the Killer App
“I’m not sure it’s our job to think of the use cases,” responded Drouin after Dryja initially brought up the topic of Lightning’s use cases.
“Probably it isn’t,” added Decker. “Probably we can’t even come up with this.”
Decker added that the popular web platforms of today did not exist when the internet was first gaining adoption.
“We couldn’t even see what would be a useful thing,” said Decker of the early days of the internet.
Maybe Lightning Will Change Online Content Monetization
Having said that, Decker did note there are specific use cases of the Lightning Network that various developers believe are worth further exploration. In his case, he’d like to see the secondary Bitcoin layer fix the problems associated with how online content creators get paid for their work.
“Every single company out there that is doing something with the web currently has [this plan]: acquire some users, then become popular, and then show them ads. Or create profiles for the users and then show them targeted ads because you can charge more for that,” explained Decker.
In Decker’s view, this setup is really the only way to make money on the internet right now, but it’s possible the Lightning Network could enable a new business model.
“That’s a really poor state of affairs,” said Decker in terms of the web’s advertising-based revenue model. “I would really like to have a system where we can fairly compensate people that created content that we consume without having them to go through all of these intermediaries, and these intermediaries just collecting a bunch of profiles to target us better. I mean, that’s sort of backwards. Isn’t it?”
Decker added that the content creator is left with a smaller percentage of the true value of their content due to all of the intermediaries between the creators and their audiences.
“That’s definitely a direction that I would like to go for, but I definitely don’t claim that it’s the killer app that we’re looking for — or that it will even happen,” Decker clarified. “It might be something that we can’t think of ourselves.”