Mike Hearn was a Bitcoin core developer for over five years and has gained a lot of respect in the community for the work he’s done with BitcoinJ (a Java-based Bitcoin SDK) and his Bitcoin talks worldwide. His latest project is called Lighthouse; it aims to decentralize crowdfunding. Hearn felt that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo take too large a cut of project funding for their work in server maintenance, advertising, hosting, and moderation of crowdfunding projects submitted to them. Add on additional payment processing fees like Stripe or Amazon Payments, and up to 10 percent of whatever money you’ve raised is gone. Lighthouse is an attempt to cut out the middleman so that fundraisers can get all of the money their supporters intend to give them. Furthermore, there are geographic limitations on Kickstarter. On that site, project creation is currently only available to people in North America, New Zealand, and Europe. This means project creation on Kickstarter is impossible for the vast majority of the planet. As a practical matter, jurisdictions that don’t allow crowdfunding can ban sites like Kickstarter because they are IP addressed. On top of that, there are certain projects that are impossible to create on Kickstarter because of the rules that the site imposes as a central authority in the name of community standards. This is not limited to centralized funding sites: though controversial, decentralized moderation is possible by embedding blacklists into the blockchain via majority or delegated votes by nodes that all nodes must accept. Allowing for crowdfunding without taking deposits was another motivation because deposits taken in a decentralized app are a very risky proposition. A lot of security issues can arise but theoretically the Bitcoin protocol allows for a middle ground of revocability, and Lighthouse was perhaps the first app to implement a little-known feature in the protocol that allowed for just that.
Lighthouse is a good case study in smart contracts, as well. It probably isn’t considered a killer app, but it is approaching that vicinity of actual utility because you get more money in your pocket as a fundraiser. It also features speedier payments because of how lightweight Bitcoin is compared to other payment processors. The barrier to entry for any fundraiser goes to zero and payments move at the speed of the protocol without requiring the approval of banks in the middle.
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