This week an advantageous Lightning Labs developer by the name of Joost Jager unveiled an experimental new proof of concept called Whatsat. The new protocol allows users to send private messages directly via the Lightning Network. The news demonstrates a further expansion of the Lightning Network's capabilities, as well as, a stronger push for privacy in the space.
Whatsat is a decentralized and censorship-resistant way to send messages to fellow Lightning Network users. Unlike Telegram or WhatsApp, there is no central entity to stop users from employing the network. This decentralization is important when you consider that governments stepped up pressure on private chat firms recently.
Across the globe, governments have applied pressure tactics to see private chat firms provide them with some form of backdoor to monitor conversations. In many instances, these governments claim the backdoor is necessary to prevent public threats such as terrorist attacks.
Governments Don’t like Privacy
However, privacy advocates and tech firms alike oppose the idea fully. The main reason for the opposition is the fact that these governments will have no oversight into how they employ these surveillance tactics. In the past, revelations showed that the true intention of many governments is a state of mass surveillance.
Whatsat – Decentralized
Discussing the new privacy project Jager stated that his protocol is a true peer-to-peer network in which anyone can participate. As a decentralized entity, there is no organizational body. Consequently, there is one who can grant access to your conversations. Jager also took a moment to discuss the overall importance of privacy in the digital age.
Notably, it’s always been possible to add extra data to lightning payments. But until recently, it wasn't possible to standardize how this built-in messaging system works. Now, after a recent upgrade to the Lightning Network, all compatibility concerns have been eliminated.
Not everyone is on board
As you could imagine, not everyone is on board with the new strategy. Notably, Bitcoin Core contributor, Sjors Provoost explained that it would have been a bit more helpful if Jager had developed “bridges” to popular existing apps, like WhatsApp or Signal. In this manner, users don’t need to download any additional software.
In response, Jager explained that this latest project provided users with some serious advantages over traditional messaging firms. For example, he explained that it simplifies things – “you get the two major uses, payment and chatting, from a single network.”
To use the new messaging service users agree to a pay per-message basis. Jager stated that, on average, a user sends 30 messages per day. At this rate, the overall price per message drops to about 1 Satoshi per message. Basically, this amount of usage by a user equals around a dollar per year in fees.
Lightning Fast Payments + Messaging
Jager is ahead of the curve on this maneuver. Combining messaging and payment systems has long been a desire for some of the biggest players in the tech industry. If Jager can get his product to enough users, there is a good chance this protocol sees massive use in the coming months. For now, the Lightning Network continues to add functionality to the world's first cryptocurrency.