Your daily (lunar) base where you will find all the lightning-related news outer space.
This week, in Episode 34, we talk to Antony Potdevin, the co-founder at Amboss.space and the main software engineer for the open source project Thunderhub.
Thunderhub is an open-source Lightning Network LND node manager and gives users a great UI to manage their Lightning Node! Amboss.space is a Lightning Network Explorer which released the Magma Liquidity Marketplace in May this year.
We talk about using the Lightning Network as your online identity, about the growth of the amount of Lightning Nodes in the coming years and about future gamification options within Amboss!
What was your first experience with the lightning network and do you still know what you did/saw at that moment?
I built a “Lightning roulette” website where you could bet some sats. I remember seeing lightningnetworkstores.com and lightning spin at the very beginning and being amazed with lightnings capabilities.
It seems like the Spanish-speaking world is a frontrunner in lightning adoption, what is the share of El Salvador in this all? Was this a kickstart for the adoption in Central en South-America?
As a payment network, Lightning is prone to being adopted by the least financially priviledged people. Asia, Africa and Latin America are these people.
They say “A picture is worth a thousand words” and all your work as a developer stands out in its graphical design. The dashboards give the user immediate insights. Do you think adoption of Lightning will depend on user-friendly tools in every use-case?
100%. You can have the best application on earth but if it’s not user friendly you will struggle getting people to try it out.
In El Zonte in El Salvador they use the Bitcoin Beach wallet, built by Galoy Money. This wallet has a very easy-to-use design and is specifically built for communities due to the map function and usernames to send and receive sats. Would you also build a wallet someday or is it your ambition to stay developing tools to use with Lightning Nodes?
TBD. I like building tools that fill a gap in the space. Building this payment infrastructure is top priority IMO and node operators are the ones to do it. If I can provide tools that will benefit them, then I will focus on this
Do you see yourself also building some other tools for the Lightning Space?
Do you think the total number of nodes will continue to grow at this pace in the coming years or accelerate even more? And in which parts of the world will be the most growth visible?
As running a node becomes cheaper and easier, I do see the number of nodes continuing to grow exponentially!
What’s your vision on public node owners in the future? Can they compete against custodial services? Or isn’t that necessary at all?
Custodial will always be easier/cheaper unfortunately. But still if someone wants to join the network in a sovereign way, they are completely able to do so without asking anyone for permission.
Do you think that being a ‘profitable routing node’ is a bit overvalued?
No. The current search for being a profitable routing node is creating strategies, tooling, features and content that are necessary for the network to continue evolving in a decentralized fashion. There needs to be financial incentives for node operators to continue supporting the network.
Can you pay with lightning where you live? Are there merchants that accept lightning payments?
I know of a single restaurant that does.
What do you see as the most important feature for the Lightning Network that is currently missing?
Automation. There’s a lot of people that want to support the network but don’t want to spend time maintaining a node.
Where do you think the Lightning Network will be in about 4 years from now?
More deeply integrated into third world countries.
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Thunderhub is an open-source Lightning Network LND node manager. On your website you have a great statement about Bitcoin giving you a Swiss bank account in your pocket and the Lightning Network gives you instant transactions. ThunderHub gives you a great UI to manage them both. Can you explain how you came up with Thunderhub?
Wanted to learn how to manage a node. I remember seeing RTL but it didn’t use the tech stack I was familiar with. So I built my own!
With Thunderhub (and also with Amboss) you really set the bar at a high level in terms of UI/UX! How did Thunderhub change in its lifespan, if you think of the first version, till what it is now?
It’s evolved constantly. I am of the mentality of getting a product out to users asap, getting feedback and iterating.
In December 2020 Voltage announced the Thunderhub Dashboards for all their nodes! With Thunderhub they combined their easy node deployments with the possibility for users to be able to use Lightning without ever having to touch a command line or download an app.
Why is it so important to make running a node easy and effortless?
People don’t have much time!
A lot of Node Operators find their way in using tools like LNnodeinsight and LnRouter to check the metrics of their Node, such as uptime, flow, liquidity balance, etc.
In the statis section of Thunderhub you can see Flow, Time and Fee. Do you also think of merging with some other tools, like you are doing on Amboss with LNnodeinsight, LnRouter and Terminal Web?
ThunderHub has the advantage of knowing the inner workings of your node. Metrics that show this are much better suited to be placed in ThunderHub. It could also mean having a combination of the public metrics and the private metrics!
What are your plans with Thunderhub in the future?
To continue evolving it alongside the Lightning Network.
What is your main goal with building tools for Lightning?
Making it the most enjoyable experience for users as possible.
In may this year Amboss announced their Magma Liquidity Marketplace, a peer-to-peer channel marketplace for the Lightning Network. And now you’ve hit the magic number of 21 BTC of total liquidity that has been organized through their Magma service!
I’ve written a thread at the start with my experience with this service and also with some extra info about the biggest challenges that inbound liquidity has with onboarding new people.
Why did you start Magma and what did you guys wanted to add as a liquidity market?
We saw a gap in the market. Even though other options for buying/selling liquidity existed, we still saw people go to twitter to offer their available sats.
Lisa Neigut of Blockstream made a video about Dual Funded Channels and wrote a blog on setting up Liquidity Ads in Core Lightning. For mainstream users this is still difficult to set up and the UI needs more development.
niftynei proposed a way to allow for dual funded channels natively without having to run additional and implementation specific software on top. What are your thoughts about getting this merged and up and running in LND?
From Amboss’s perspective this would compete with Magma but we strongly believe competition makes everyone better! At the end of the day it’s users that decide and the more options there are available the quicker we will all be able to observe, learn and evolve.
I’ve read that you’re working on improving the notifications within the Amboss Telegram Bot. What extra things are you thinking of?
Until now the Lightning Network has been a hands-on experience with little insight into it unless you are sitting at your computer and actively doing something. With notifications we plan on helping users have more observability into what is going on in the network.
In Episode 19 we talked to Thomas Jestopher, Co-founder of Amboss about possibilities of signing in with the use of LNURL-auth on certain websites with your own node as a way to prove your identity. On Amboss and several other sites, it is already possible to sign in with a signature from a Lightning Node.
What are the biggest advantages in your opinion to use your Lightning Network Identity as your Online Identity?
I just did a small presentation on this for the Bolt Fun hackathon! Using your nodes identity is useful because you can do so in an anonymous or public way while always keeping control of the underlying identity that is your nodes private key.
What use-cases could there be with the level of your reputation on the Lightning Network?
Scammer protection, access to events, community support, getting loans, selling products and services.
A couple of days ago you were talking at the Bolt.fun ShockTheWeb 2! I heard you say something really interesting: On Amboss you’re thinking of adding some gamification experience. Can you elaborate on that?
Users love gamification, it makes learning or doing tasks more enjoyable. We added confetti to Amboss that appears when you subscribe. We had users subscribing just to see the confetti! This can be applied even better when we can help users go from no-node to node-master.
With the Rings of Fire concept we are running we know what the strength is of a community. This added to the achievements of Amboss also is a great way to learn more about your node and the Lightning Network.
On Amboss it is possible to add a label/tag for several communities. Is there already a use case for those tags? For example that the tag gives you some extra features?
Not currently but it has been suggested multiple times. We just haven’t found a cool way this can be applied for communities.
You integrated the possibility to send backups from your node through Thunderhub to your Amboss account. What are further plans you have regarding integrating Thunderhub and Amboss services even more? Like a Watchtower service for example?
Both ThunderHub and Amboss have limitations in how they can help a user and improve his experience on the Lightning Network. Whatever we can integrate from both sides that will make the experience better is a huge win for all.
Will you integrate more deep management tools into thunderhub ? (like: lndg, rebalance lnd…)
gains/category (bruto, Netto)
It all depends on time and user needs.
Does the LN need to have tools that you can run on any lightning implementation: Acinq, Core-lightning, LND? Something for thunderhub?
Definitely, all implementations should be easy for any user to use. This comes back to the idea that competition makes us all better!
What’s the biggest problem you encountered with building amboss & Thunderhub?
The gossip layer on lightning is more tricky than it seems!
If someone were to start right now with building and running a Routing Node. What advice would you give him or her?
Get involved with communities and be open and ready to learn! Routing nodes are a niche inside LN that is already a niche in the Bitcoin space.
Leasing funds is still an experimental feature. Do you think this will be used a lot more in the near future?
And in what way can more work be done on making this even more user-friendly?
There will always be a need of bootstrapping new users onto the network and we need solutions that can scale to a global audience. IMO there is currently none that can do this.
You made Thunderhub & Amboss.space, what’s your next project you have in mind?
More lightning tools!
What lightning implementation do you like to work with ? Lnd , core lightning , acinq
What is the most noteworthy insight you learned about the Lightning Network using your own tooling?
It’s easier than it seems.
What do you see as the most important feature(s) coming to Lightning Network in the short term?
More flexibility in how channels are created, used and closed.
Bitcoin and Lightning have been the catalyst for BitcoinBeach, El Salvador, and projects like Bitcoin Ekasi in South Africa & Bitcoin Lago in Guatemala. Do you see this also possible in Colombia?
Colombia is a country lacking in financial services for it’s population. This is a perfect catalyst for Lightning to be adopted.