Yalls blog, created by Lightening Labs developer Alex Bosworth, explored cryptocurrency micropayments from April through early November, in which blog participants processed nearly 20,000 invoices, using Lightning Network, a bitcoin scaling solution that makes micropayments feasible by keeping them off the blockchain and avoiding network transaction fees.
To read a Yalls article it costs nearly one cent while leaving a comment is half a cent and reacting to a post with an emoji is 10 cents. Publishing an article on the blog is free.
“One nice thing about micropayments is that it brings back anonymity to the web,” Bosworth told CoinDesk. “I’m really a fan of the idea that your identity doesn’t have to be tied to a username and password.”
He further explained that reads can tap into Yall’s Lighting node-and-channels system without a traditional subscription, unlike most paywalled outlets. “Maybe you don’t even have a wallet yet … So you go to the Yalls app page, you can connect to it,” he added.
Readers of the blog opened more than 228 Lightning nodes through this platform, in which many are now facilitating payment channels. These payment channels allow small amounts to be sent back and forth between users before a final settlement on the blockchain.
This enabled contributors to post 170 new articles from July to early November 2018. In addition, readers paid for 675 emoji reactions and 194 comments. Writes also claimed their bite-sized crypto rewards at least 432 times during the same period, collected from the fees for readers to view their articles.
“It’s pennies, so every single invoice is small,” Bosworth said.
Bosworth initially created the blog as a hobby, adding a corresponding Lightning node on-boarding process. In doing so, he doesn’t regularly track readers or payments and provided the April-November data to CoinDesk on request. Although he hasn’t marketed the site or solicited contributions, it’s obvious bitcoin fans are engaging.
“In the beginning of the site, there were problems keeping the node online. If the node died, you couldn’t read any articles or do anything on the site. I had to really babysit the node,” Bosworth said. “Over time, that feedback made its way back to LND [Lightning Network Daemon] and now the node is pretty stable.”
Adversely, Bosworth acknowledged it will take years for this type of community funding to work for professional media outlets. As an example to back this statement, few people actually know how to operate a Lightning-friendly crypto wallet or node. Plus, syncing up wallets and nodes with the site itself takes time to develop in-house.
According to Bosworth, readers were “pretty forgiving” when payments worth less than a penny had trouble processing. But “if you start to charge people like $20 a month or something, you have to provide a higher quality of service, that there’s never any bugs,” he said, adding that reliable infrastructure for one-click payments is the only way readers will use crypto micropayments for content on-the-go.
“If the infrastructure were there so that there were less mental costs on the user to make that payment,” he said, “I think it could take off.”