An open payment API for podcast apps

An open payment API for podcast apps

RSS leverages an open payment network

RSS is a standard, but more importantly it is an open standard, to distribute online content in a structured way allowing users to subscribe and automatically receive updates from website feeds in an RSS reader.  

Podcasting is a famous example of RSS-based content distribution and it is striving. One reason is the Podcasting 2.0 initiative which aims to improve the experience of both creators and their audience by improving the listening experience through transcripts, chapters and many, many more features. In addition, the initiative standardized a way for direct content monetization between consumers and publishers, an incredibly important innovation for a sustainable creator economy.  

Closed payment APIs limit access 

The value tag was the outcome. It specifies payment protocols for podcasters to receive payments directly from listeners. Bitcoin as an open and permissionless digital money, has emerged as the dominating way to transfer value to podcasters. The enabling puzzle piece was the lightning network, a second layer on top of bitcoin. It serves as the payment rail enabling transactions in bitcoin of any size, with instant settlement globally while still preserving the principle of openness.

Over time we have seen APIs emerging that enable developers to utilize these payment capabilities without the hassle of directly interacting with any implementation of the underlying payment network - a great innovation. Consequently dozens of apps integrated lightning fast bitcoin payments to enable direct compensation between consumers and publishers. 

While these APIs allow you access an open payment network; they are themselves closed - limiting apps to the size of the particular payment provider’s active user base and geographic reach.

NWC: an open protocol to connect any wallet

Thanks to the RSS standard, content is distributed openly and thanks to bitcoin and the lightning network we have permissionless money on open payment rails. Why shouldn’t we have an open API for apps to connect any such bitcoin wallet as a consequent next step? NWC is exactly that - a permissionless protocol for apps and wallets to communicate with each other. NWC leverages Nostr’s relay technology to exchange payment requests without requiring Nostr keys or specific knowledge from users and app devs. 

Started by developers from Amethyst and Alby, NWC today equips builders with everything they need to create top-notch payment experiences. Throughout the last year additional wallets and many more apps joined the community and sparked a whole new wave of payment integrations.  

A progressive enhancement for Podcast Hosting Providers 

At Alby we made sure that NWC contains the essential building blocks to be applicable to the value tag specification. Therefore its features range from single to multi-recipient payments, enabling developers to request account data to display transaction lists, account balances, or simply check successful payments. In sum, it brings everything a podcaster needs to receive boosts (single payments), boostagrams (payments with a message from the listener) and payment streams (payments by the minute). 

But now, as a podcast hosting service provider you only need to support one set of APIs to let podcasters connect the wallet of their choice. They can even connect their very own bitcoin lightning nodes for complete payment sovereignty. No custom and vendor specific API integrations, OAuth servers or blocking from firewalls. All fundamentals stay in place enabling you as a service provider to become part of the value split and earn a fraction of the payment received by the podcaster. 

RSS is global. Bitcoin is global. Why limit to an API from a vendor with local preferences if your users can be global, too? 

Podcast Listener Apps for every user globally 

NWC is comparable with the best OAuth based bitcoin payment APIs. As a developer you can completely focus on creating the best user experience without the necessity of developing an entire backend wallet infrastructure. 

After connecting, the payment happens in a non-custodial way directly from the user’s wallet. The app never touches the payment and hence, does not engage in money transmission services - a big relief for developers. That’s certainly not the case if the app had a natively integrated wallet and accepts deposits from users. Thanks to the “bring your own wallet” pattern users can effortlessly connect their own wallets in a few clicks and podcast apps can outsource user support and infrastructure management to the wallet provider. SDKs like this make it extremely easy for developers to implement an open API for payments.

Why should a user trust the app and give access permissions to their own wallet? Wallet providers like Alby let users stay in full control by giving them the option to configure individual budgets for their apps making such connections much more secure. 

But most importantly there is no vendor lock-in. NWC allows apps to be accessible by any wallet following the same specifications. That goes hand in hand with the major trend in software development of decoupling layers. Each wallet has become interchangeable, resulting in significant benefits for both users and the integrating app.

For any RSS content reader app 

Podcasts run on RSS. But so can any type of content. And it is easy to parse which makes it great for building tools or integrating with other software. Reddit, Medium, Substack, Instagram (3rd party), Hacker News (3rd party) are just a few examples of RSS enabled apps. 

Thanks to the Podcasting 2.0 namespace specification of the medium tag there is an easy differentiation of content types, such as "blogpost", "newsletter", "video", or "music".  

Pioneering apps like RSS Blue, Truefans or Wavlake enable not only podcasters but also musicians to earn payments from their listeners leveraging open standards and open source technology.
From the availability of source data to data consuming apps connected through a network for seamless value exchange, we’ve got a ton of possibilities in front of us.

Interested in NWC? Reach out, and let’s work together on the future of open content distribution and open payments.