Interplanetary Commerce

OS-level commercial primitives.

April 8, 2021

Christian Langalis




A year ago, we started integrating Bitcoin into Urbit to be an OS-level primitive for money. Our initial objective: build a payments wallet, equally sovereign and ergonomic. The first public version, releasing this month, will have a broad set of capabilities including ship-to-ship payments, hardware wallet support, and full node integration. We’ll be unveiling this wallet on April 27th. Do join us.

Things only accelerate from here. Our next objective, to integrate Lightning Network capability, is now an active bounty and open for applicants. Early on, we recognized the congruence and compatibility between the Urbit and Lightning networks. Routing Lightning payments is an obvious business model for Urbit providers, one that can even nucleate new features onto Lightning itself. What we’re ultimately driving at is fully-sovereign Bitcoin usage, with the UX of the Cash App.

Being Paid

And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid,—what will compare with it?

Herman Melville

However, a good wallet is only half the equation for a holistic P2P commercial experience. Interfaces for selling goods and services is the other half. While we don’t part with our Bitcoin easily, two initial markets appear logical and attractive: content and Urbit-native services.

First, digital cottage industry, the “creator economy”, is blossoming. Streaming, podcasting, and writing on platforms like Youtube, Patreon, and Substack has been big business lately. What fintech did to “unbundle the banks", we will now do to media monopolies and their centralized distribution platforms. With the introduction of Urbit payments, you can syndicate, distribute, and monetize your media on Urbit. By selling access to a private group containing content, digital creatives can begin doing this today.

Second, Urbit-native service providers are now operating at scale. Companies offering Urbit hosting, onboarding, Urbit IDs, and software now communicate with their customers directly on the network. A basic set of commercial tools will make their processes more efficient. Storefront interfaces, paywalls, CRM, and reputation tools will replace the ad-hoc assemblages they currently use.

The Urbit Foundation is soliciting contributors to this project through Urbit Grants. If you’re interested in working on any of these components send us a proposal.

An Ocean

After honing our commercial tools on these use-cases, we’ll sail into a blue ocean. On the horizon: beautiful products, deployable at scale, built with the robust primitives of Urbit OS. Extensibility is Urbit’s promise to middle-men: every Web2.0 service they use to scalp us will find its P2P analog on Urbit. We invite developers and entrepreneurs of all stripes to join in the feeding frenzy. Ideas are constantly nucleating in Urbitcoiners and Urbit Community.