Survival of content creators in the AI age and the role of bitcoin Lightning

Chatbots based on large language models (LLM) such as ChatGPT are all the rage and offer significant added value for users. From cooking recipes to academic literature research, chatbots are increasingly becoming our first port of call when we want to access knowledge on the Internet. You don't need a crystal ball to predict that bots will be our access point in the future. As useful as this is for us, it poses fundamental challenges for content creators. Where will the advertising revenue go if users are less and less likely to land directly on the site, but instead have their content siphoned off and processed by AI platforms? To date, the Internet has known two monetisation models: subscriptions or the aforementioned advertising financing. With the foreseeable dominance of chatbots, a third way is becoming necessary.  In this context, the bitcoin Lightning network offers a promising resolution.

Many content creators already find themselves in a negative spiral from which they can hardly find a way out: More and more often, users no longer even visit the website itself, but are satisfied with the summarised content on the Google homepage. To compensate for the lack of views, even more adverts are being placed, which in turn puts users off even more.

This trend is being reinforced by chatbots. It is becoming less and less necessary to visit a website directly - especially if the chatbot has direct access to the search engine, as in the example of ChatGPT and Bing.

However, this race to the bottom is also a problem for the bots: the language model can only deliver good results as long as it has access to high-quality and up-to-date content. However, if it is no longer worth producing this content, the chatbots themselves become less attractive.

Micropayments in the age of AI

The downward spiral for content creators leads to a reduced quality of chatbots. However, this also creates a market niche in which good, up-to-date content has values. The subscription model is not sufficient to monetise this value. Subscriptions only make sense with frequent and regular access. They are not suitable for feeding the hungry AI with high-quality information.

There therefore needs to be a way to process micropayments between AI and the content service provider. The current card, account or fintech-supported payment methods on the Internet are not suitable for this, as they all involve high procedural costs that lead to prohibitively high minimum costs. 

Another requirement is that the payment solution must work end-to-end machine-to-machine and not require complex authentication and authorisation. The Resolution must also be globally available - as globally networked as the Internet itself.

The providers of LLMs can still charge their subscribers by credit card, but charge the websites with micropayments on the back end.

HTTP status code 402 and the role of bitcoin Lightning

Since 1998, the HTTP Internet protocol has contained the status code 402, also known as "Payment Required". It is part of the HTTP/1.1 protocol and was reserved for future applications in the context of digital payment systems. The code makes it possible to make access to content or services dependent on payment. Until now, it has rarely been used due to the complexity of today's online transactions.

The Bitcoin Lightning protocol is revolutionising payment options on the Internet. It enables fast and inexpensive payments without immortalising every transaction in the blockchain. This allows instant peer-to-peer transactions with minimal costs based on a globally valid standard with a global means of payment, bitcoin. The L402 protocol (formerly LSAT - Lightning Service Authentication Tokens), a combination of Macaroons for user authentication and the Lightning network, can be used in conjunction with HTTP status code 402. With L402, API calls and web content are authenticated and made available against payment, with macaroons serving as API keys that only become valid with a cryptographic secret, which the user receives through payment.

L402 therefore enables the provision of APIs or web content for a fee. This type of pay-per-use model has no minimum costs and does not require time-consuming registration - making it much more flexible than conventional subscription models.

So that not everyone has to worry about implementing pay-per-use APIs themselves, Aperture is the first reverse proxy that serves as a payment and authentication gateway for APIs. A reverse proxy is a server that sits between client devices and a web server. It forwards client requests to the web server and returns the server's responses to the clients. When a client wants to access a website, it does not communicate directly with the website's server. Instead, the request goes to the reverse proxy, which then forwards it to the server. As soon as the server has processed the request and generated a response, it sends it back to the reverse proxy, which returns it to the client.

Aperture checks the validity of the access tokens generated by the L402 protocol and forwards the requests to the corresponding servers. Essentially, this allows for simplicity in the adjustments of any API into a pay-per-use API.

To warrant the automatic end-to-end payment flow, AI applications based on the standard Langchain framework can use the LangChainBitcoin extension. LangChainBitcoin is a library that warrants autonomous interaction with the Bitcoin Lighting Network and the L402 protocol. This allows the LLM application to pay independently, provided the content of a website is secured by a Lightning paywall.


ChatGPT and other LLM-based chatbots will change the Internet as we know it today. Business models based on search engines and advertising revenue will have to be reorganised. Efficient and globally accessible payment options are crucial for the development of new business models. A global network like the Internet needs a global money that enables fast payments at very low fees and can be technically integrated into existing Internet protocols. Bitcoin Lightning is an open protocol for value exchange that fulfils these conditions. The future development of many Internet business models and the associated payment processing promises to be both challenging and exciting.

Felix Frei

Felix Frei

Teamleiter Risk Management Credit

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