Where Does Alby Fly From Here?

Where Does Alby Fly From Here?

Bitcoin is the native currency of the Internet. Digital scarcity however comes with certain costs and tradeoffs that are a bit unintuitive and not immediately obvious. For example — If bitcoin is purely digital, why can't we use it on every corner of the Internet with ease? If it's natively digital, why is there still an issue with receiving instant payments in a sovereign way? The list could go on. Bitcoin is the native currency of the Internet, but it still needs more time and care to become really in its element. 

At Alby, we have always believed that we'll arrive at a point where you can easily populate any app or website you dream of with bitcoin. That sending and receiving bitcoin will be as easy as sending an email, login in will be easier than doing so with Google or Facebook. In a digital age supporting your favourite podcaster should be natural and swift, like you reward a busker on the street, not harder to do so. 

Alby is an answer to a big need we identified — a need for using bitcoin seamlessly while you're surfing the web of bitcoin apps, on these popular social media pages or for fun on websites your friends built. And this need urged to be addressed now, not in the next five years, but today. Even if sovereign tech was not yet ready for a big part of what we all wanted to do.  

That's how the Alby Extension was born and it provided a balanced choice: you can use it in a totally sovereign way, connecting your own node and plugin into many apps thanks to WebLN protocol.

But there’s also an easy and accessible wallet experience for newcomers and users who aren't necessarily up for the struggles of running a node, like artists and creators. Alby Accounts provide exactly that.

In total, we brought and popularized bitcoin use cases that haven't been possible before to thousands of users: streaming bitcoin in live concerts or video broadcasts, one-tap zaps to dozens of Nostr clients, QR-codeless lightning payments, logins to bitcoin web apps by just clicking one button, and many, many more

But only half of those things were possible for node-runners or self-managed wallets. If you wanted to stream bitcoin in a mobile podcast player, or want to automate payments with the Alby Wallet API, you had to use a wallet managed by Alby. And a self-managed way of doing the same seemed a distant future.

Until today...

The path forward

We found ourselves at a crossroad. We could go on with expanding Alby Accounts capabilities, which was offered to make it easy for users to start with bitcoin payments and the Alby Extension in the first place.

Or is the time now right to choose the technically still difficult, but also more rewarding and — we believe —  moral path of empowering users with self-managed wallets and the proven Alby user experience: Giving bitcoin wallets superpowers. Making them interoperable with the entire Internet, whether it's an app, a website, an online game, or a plugin for your favourite software. No matter if it's a web browser, a mobile or, (why the hell not?) a smartwatch. Bitcoin can reach it all.

For the past couple of months, we have been focusing on finding a way for the second path. We believe that a measure to give those superpowers to bitcoin wallets lies in Nostr Wallet Connect (NWC). Nostr in this case does not have anything to do with social media, but rather serves as a communication and coordination layer between lightning wallets and apps. This allows for building some really wild use cases that were hard to pull off before we had such a layer. That's why we now double down on raising awareness on the potential of NWC. We also developed Bitcoin Connect, a supplementary library with the goal to make it dead simple and super fast to add bitcoin to your product.

NWC really shines and brings us really close to the familiar experience you now have with an Alby Account when it's combined with a cloud based bitcoin lightning wallet. We're now experimenting with technologies such as Greenlight, Breez SDK and LDK to craft a powerful, self-managed wallet that you'll be able to bring to any app, website, game or any other kind of software that will implement NWC. 

You'll be able to do things like one tap zaps, automated monthly subscription payments or in-game bitcoin transfers instantly, 24/7, without limits while maintaining full control over your funds. How cool is that?