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Bitcoin's Lightning Network Is Getting Its Own Hacker Camp

You’re scrolling through an online electronic store, when a new drone catches your eye.

Eager to fly it for real, you enter a string of numbers to submit your payment. You’re not thinking at all about how, behind the scenes, it’s bitcoin that makes the impulse purchase possible.

Far-fetched today? Maybe, but that’s the sort of easy user experience the bitcoin developers at Chaincode Labs think is missing from the world of cryptocurrency, even now that a much-anticipated technology layer known as the Lightning Network is in beta. While it’s perhaps bitcoin’s best shot at reaching mainstream adoption, it’s not exactly easy to use today, or as easy as developers envision it could be.

That’s why the group, led by veterans Alex Morcos and Matt Corallo, has held similar coding programs focused exclusively on bitcoin. Developers from around the world travel to New York to learn about the intricate details of the protocol and its most essential code.

However, announced Monday, Chaincode is launching a new “residency” in New York from October 22 to 26, one that will focus on helping developers build their own Lightning Network apps.

The goal, according to Chaincode engineer and bitcoin software maintainer Marco Falke, is for the program to create tech “for normal people on the street, not just weird developers.” In short, they’re looking for some fresh blood. Any and all experienced web developers are welcome to apply – no bitcoin expertise required.

Falke told continued:

“There aren’t many apps and you can’t go into a shop and pay with bitcoin. There’s all this missing infrastructure. We thought it would be great to get some app developers involved that have experience building websites, but don’t have to have any background in bitcoin or lightning.”

Though, it’s worth noting a few lightning apps have already sprung up showing how bitcoin and lightning can be paired to improve online payments. Even so, the developers at Chaincode hope the one-week bootcamp will spur even more apps.

Teachers will include some of the more well-known lightning developers in the space, including Blockstream engineer Christian Decker and Cornell professor Elaine Shi.

What the residency’s about

But while Chaincode calls the program a “residency,” its program sounds similar to a coding bootcamp, an increasingly common way of teaching coding skills in a short period of time.

This bootcamp is traditional in some ways, of course, as the team will take applications until they “reach capacity” of roughly 12 students. However, from there, the class will focus on lightning specifically.

The six instructors will each give a presentation on the protocol. But they’ll also be around for the full residency, helping out students as they have questions. That’s because for most of the residency, participants will have time to work on an app of their choosing.

The app can be anything they want – a fun game like, where users fight over pixel drawings, or something more serious, like an app allowing users to pay for monthly bills.

At the end of the week, participants will demo what they’ve made to the rest of the group.

Soon after the residency the Chaincode team will release recordings of all the presentations, for those who can’t make it out to New York City for the bootcamp.

App focus

Though a small program, for the industry, it perhaps sends a stronger signal, as Lightning developers have been mostly focused on getting the underlying lightning protocol off the ground to date.

But Chaincode’s developers believe that maybe the ecosystem could use more application developers now that there’s an increasing emphasis on the code’s usability.

“Personally, I think every day we wait for lightning applications will delay lightning and bitcoin. It’s really important to do this app development thing as soon as possible,” Falke continued.

Chaincode engineer James O’Beirne went so far as to argue that the applications could be key to shifting public perception of bitcoin, which has largely been on its speculative value of late.

“A lot of people outside of bitcoin don’t understand it’s capabilities, including lightning. By facilitating app development we’re spreading awareness of what bitcoin is actually capable of,” O’Beirne said. “People have turned to other smart contract platforms because they don’t understand how powerful bitcoin can be.”

Falke nodded in agreement: “Some people don’t think lightning is a real thing.”

That’s why they’re inviting all sorts of developers to participate, especially those who aren’t “bitcoin experts.”

Falke concluded:

“They should have interest. But that’s pretty much it,”

Lightning image via Shutterstock

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PhD Student Wins 1 Bitcoin For Cracking DNA Code Challenge

A young PhD student has won 1 bitcoin by cracking a code in a tube of DNA – a challenge created at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos.

University of Antwerp doctoral student Sander Wuyts successfully solved the DNA Storage Bitcoin Challenge before the deadline set by its creator, European Bioinformatics Institute professor Nick Goldman.

“Goldman was still willing to send me a tube of DNA,” Wuyts recounts in an accompanying release about how he only decided to enter at the end of 2017 after seeing a tweet from the well-known British scientist.

“The DNA contained instructions on how to claim the bitcoin, the logo of the European Bioinformatics Institute, a drawing of James Joyce and a few other things.”

Wuyts and a small team collaborated to win the prize, even organizing a “small hackathon” to widen the potential for cracking the DNA code.

As the 2018 Davos Forum gets underway with Cointelegraph in attendance, Wuyts’ is the latest example in what has been a common trend in Bitcoin for several years: incentivizing innovation, mostly through hackathons, to further the capabilities of new technology.

Wuyts continued about the challenge’s background:

“To be honest, I had my doubts about the feasibility of using DNA to store data. This challenge changed that. Now I know very well that this new technology offers great opportunities, maybe even for my own future research.”

He added he would use the Bitcoin prize money to fund research and reward those who helped him win.

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MasterCard Announces Blockchain B2B Payments Despite Rejection of Bitcoin

MasterCard recently announced a way for businesses to make direct business to business (B2B) payments over their Blockchain technology-based network. The company has dubbed its offering “MasterCard Blockchain API,” and it will be debuted at the Money 20/20 Hackathon in Las Vegas in a few days.

Testing and validation have been completed, and the tech will officially be ready for customers’ use beginning next week. The announcement is a bit ironic after the company’s wholesale rejection of Bitcoin. I guess as the old saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do.”

Advantage Blockchain

Blockchain technology has been raised as an excellent option for B2B transfers for a multitude of reasons. Blockchain transfers are fully private and secure, while at the same time offering flexibility and scalability for business transactions. According to one executive:

“By combining Mastercard Blockchain technology with our settlement network and associated network rules, we have created a solution that is safe, secure, auditable and easy to scale.”

While the solution is a major coup for Blockchain technology in general, the credit giant’s announcement may be seen as copycatting the technology of other systems and platforms. Blockchain technology has, until the past couple of years, been relegated to the fringes of the tech conversation. The sudden interest and application from enterprise-level corporations shows an awareness of the power of the systems already designed by other companies.