Stack sats as a lightning node operator

Stack sats as a lightning node operator

LNnodeinsight released Sats4stats allowing lighting node operators to exchange node data for sats facilitated by the open WebLN standard.

Lightning network nodes may collect certain information as part of the routing process. This can include transaction data, such as the source and destination addresses of payments, as well as network metadata, such as the channels used to route payments and balances. This information is crucial to find paths within the network calculated by routing algorithms. The better the data the more efficient the calculated route is. Hence lightning routing node data is valuable. Apps like LNnodeinsight provide specialized services to routing node operators to make better decisions and save fees.

However, lightning node data is only available in silos on each lightning node. Making it easily accessible has been a big challenge. There is no unified API that allows data exchange across different node implementations. Instead, app developers and node operators have to work with different interfaces.

Enter WebLN

That’s why WebLN allows developers to perform calls to the user's connected node backend through a simple JavaScript interface. Developers can easily access any node function without having to deal with the complexities of connecting to the node or the underlying protocol. Loading the lightning channels from LND (listchannels API) is now a function call away: webln.request('listchannels')

Users can bring their own node connection to web applications without having to pass their node credentials, without installing additional node software, having to jump loops to access nodes behind Tor or only offering RPC APIs.

A fine-grained access control system in the Alby browser extension puts the user in full control.

Building a lightning node data marketplace

One of the first applications building on this open standard is LNnodeinsight, a service for data-driven lightning network insights. Their new feature, Sats4stats; allows node operators to exchange lightning node data, specifically their pathfinding data for sats. This type of data strikes a good balance in privacy and utility. With this feature, LNnodeinsight is the first on the bid side of the routing node data market.

As a node operator, you can earn up to 100 sats/day with a free account, or up to 500 sats/day for subscribers. Since it is a new market values can change more or less in the future.

How to start stacking sats as a lightning node operator

Sats4stats currently only works for LND nodes. To stack sats as lightning node operator:

  1. Connect your own lightning node (e.g. Umbrel, RaspiBlitz etc.) to the Alby browser extension (short guide)
  2. Log in to LNnodeinsight. You’ll find Sats4stats in the menu on the left side.
  3. Click on ‘Initiate sale’. Alby asks to confirm the connection and guides you through the process.
You are exchanging Mission Control data. The data set does not reveal forwards, channel balances or payment outcome.

Behind the scenes

Node operators can easily connect to apps and exchange any set of data available on a lightning node directly for sats through a WebLN provider like Alby. Sats4stats makes use of the following WebLN APIs:

  • webln.signMessage() to authenticate the lightning node and provide the user with a passwordless login.
  • webln.request(), a generic feature used by the app to request Mission Control data from a lightning node
  • webln.makeInvoice() to send a payment directly back to the node.  

Interactions between the web app and the user are funneled through a standard API and programmatic without context breaks. Avoiding the scanning of QR codes or manually entering data removes potential sources of errors and provides a streamlined experience for the user.

Tools enable new use cases

LNnodeinsight with the Sats4stats feature is the first on the bid side of the lightning node data market. A completely new use case for lighting node operators facilitated by WebLN. Other examples are Liquimercado for LND nodes, an app to visualize channel balances and create new channels and Liquimercado for CLN nodes, a marketplace for Liquidity Ads.

Exciting to see this new era of Lightning apps come to life.
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