Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong Owes Me $100: A Story of Lightning Network Ignorance
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong recently tweeted that he would pay $100 in crypto to people who provided the best examples of using cryptocurrency in Africa. As a journalist who covered Bitcoin in Senegal, I shared a video of myself using Bitcoin in Africa, which quickly became the most-liked and most-shared response to Armstrong’s query. However, Armstrong appeared to have ignored my submission, despite more than 600 likes and 100 retweets. The next most popular submission had just 50 likes. So, I reached out to some key opinion leaders, creators, and influencers within the Bitcoin community to amplify the tweet.
Wicked, an anonymous Bitcoin educator and data analyst, tagged Armstrong in a post, accusing him of “actively ignoring the #Bitcoin Lightning Network.” Wicked very kindly drew Brian’s attention to my tweet video about Bitcoin in Africa. The tweet, and Armstrong’s affirmation that “Lightning is great and something we’ll integrate,” led to news outlets around the world reporting on Coinbase’s next development. Armstrong then also tweeted that he had sent me the money. However, there was a catch.
Armstrong said he paid me the $100. He said he sent $100 to the Lightning address shown in my Twitter profile bio: Joe@Coincorner.io. Now, if you’ve never used the Lightning Network before, you’d be forgiven for confusing this address with an email address. But would the CEO of Coinbase make that mistake? Could the Bitcoin OG have failed to recognize that the request in my bio — which says “Send BTC to Joe@Coincorner.io,” surrounded by lightning bolt emojis — could be my Lightning address?
Using the Lightning Network in 2023 is brain-dead easy. It’s so easy that I stand in the street in locations worldwide giving out Bitcoin to people on their brand-new Lightning wallets — and I film their reactions. The most common remarks are “I didn’t know it’s so easy” and “Wow, it’s so fast.” The videos are on my YouTube channel. So, let’s not pretend that Armstrong is overwhelmed by the complexity of sending money to my Lightning address. Moreover, Bitcoin advocates worldwide saw my tweet and took pleasure in sending me sats to show that my Lightning address is alive and well.
Danny Scott, CEO of CoinCorner, a Bitcoin and Lightning company, was quick to point out to Armstrong on Twitter that he might have made a mistake in confusing Bitcoin and email, as Coinbase provides a “send to email” function. Scott told Cointelegraph in an email, “Obviously, we know the address [that Joe shared] is a Lightning address, but clearly not everybody does.” “So my guess is Brian knows very little about Lightning right now, in particular LNURL, Lightning addresses, and other innovations being built out, which is perfectly fine, he’s distracted, it happens, now we just hope he helps himself and the industry by turning their attention to what really has substance and long-term value, Bitcoin and Lightning.”
It’s true: Coinbase offers trading for more than 250 different cryptocurrencies — that’s a lot of tokens to keep one’s eye on. And as Scott adds, “I can appreciate how busy he will be — this industry doesn’t sleep, and running a Bitcoin company myself, I know that feeling even at a smaller scale.” To give Brian and ultimately Coinbase the benefit of the doubt, I waited a few days before writing this article. I have tweeted repeatedly at Brian (no reply) and I also reached out to the Coinbase Press Team. They told me that they would get to the bottom of it, but “My guess is that Brian is likely batching the sends at certain times.” A day has passed since this message (more doubt-benefit-giving) and they’ve not sent an explanation.
The press team email was particularly left-field as it referred to “batching.” Batching is consolidating multiple payments into a single transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain, not the layer-2 Lightning Network. Again, they’re not familiar with Lightning. This adds further insult to injury: Could it be that the CEO of Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, doesn’t know how to use the Lightning Network?
In conclusion, this story highlights the importance of education and awareness of new technologies in the cryptocurrency industry. The Lightning Network is a game-changer for Bitcoin, and it’s essential that industry leaders like Brian Armstrong understand how to use it. It’s also important to note that while there are many different cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Lightning have substance and long-term value. As a journalist, I hope that this story will encourage more people to learn about and use the Lightning Network, and that it will inspire industry leaders to prioritize education and awareness of new technologies in the cryptocurrency space.