Lighthouse, the bitcoin-powered crowdfunding application, has officially launched.
The beta version of the app, which developer Mike Hearn described as a specialized wallet for decentralized crowdfunding, is now publicly available for download.
The app is designed to function as a streamlined tool for using smart contracts to commit pledges to particular projects, which can range from bitcoin development initiatives to charity drives. Currently, the only project available for Lighthouse is a 3.5 BTC fundraiser for Medic Mobile.
Hearn said in an interview that Lighthouse differs from platforms like Kickstarter for a number of reasons, including a lack of processing charges and a built-in gallery of projects.
On the latter point, Hearn suggested that project galleries should be just as decentralized as the funding element, and anticipates directories taking shape alongside a gallery he is hosting for Lighthouse initiatives.
He told CoinDesk:
"Lighthouse is really only about moving money around, and I think this is going to be one of the things that people find confusing about it. It's not Kickstarter in a downloadable app that's peer to peer to peer. It's the way of handling bitcoins."
How it works
Lighthouse employs a system of project files that enable users to make donations to projects of their choosing, as well as create their own. The first step involves setting up the wallet and depositing funds.
Supporters of a particular initiative can then download the project file and upload it to their Lighthouse wallet, which gives the user access to the project page where they can see the total amount being raised, past pledges and supportive messages for those involved.
According to Hearn, the app doesn't necessarily need to function as a means for raising funds for development projects. Rather, he sees Lighthouse as a potential funding vehicle for a variety of purposes.
"I think its perfectly usable for people who are comfortable with bitcoin, but aren't developers or are tech-savvy. You could crowdfund, you know, me and my friends go to a concert and we've got to 'group buy' concert tickets, or group buy a laser tag day or something."
"It's not a tool that I want or intend for only bitcoin developers to use," he added. "Even though that may be where it starts."
Breaking down crowdfunding
In tandem with Lighthouse lies the concept of the project gallery, of which Hearn's Vinumeris Crypto Projects Gallery is the first of what he hopes to be a cluster of galleries that serve – or compete for – particular markets.
Hearn said that because Kickstarter is, at its heart, a project gallery and a financial gateway for funding, decentralizing that process can lead to a more vibrant process by which projects are discovered and supported.
"What I'd like to see, by unbundling these things, ... is a competitive market of communities and community builders where people are building these project gallery sites," he said. "People can compete on building really awesome sites."
Building a case for bitcoin
When asked about demand for the service, Hearn said that he isn't expecting huge volumes of users given the size of the bitcoin community today, as well as the niche nature of bitcoin-based crowdfunding itself.
Hearn said he sees a role for cryptocurrency-based finance because of the costs associated with digital crowdfunding.
Ideally, he continued, Lighthouse will attract users not necessarily because it involves bitcoin, but because of the economic benefits of using the app to conduct most cost-effective transactions.
"This is building the case for bitcoin," he said.
Images via Lighthouse, Shutterstock