Table of Contents
SPEECH TITLE: BTC MAP
SPEAKER: Second Light
CONFERENCE: Adopting Bitcoin 2022
My name is Second Light. I’m happy to be here today at Adopting Bitcoin 2022, and I’m going to talk to you guys about BTC Map, which is a project I’ve been working on with a few other people.
BTC Map is about driving the circular economy and merchant adoption. There’s really no better place to talk about this than right here in El Salvador.
The current problem is there’s really nowhere to easily find places to spend your Sats. The current solutions are either proprietary, they’re focused on ATMs, or they include things like crypto, whatever that is. And we’re doing some prelim research to see what was out there. I did find some small hobby projects, but nothing substantial and nothing that was actively maintained. And the third problem is actually creating and maintaining large data sets, which would be every location in the world that accepts bitcoin is actually a very difficult problem. And that is probably the biggest reason as to why a solution hasn’t presented itself.
We made it 10 plus years into Bitcoin’s adoption story without a map, which is crazy when you think about it. There’s a bunch of reasons for that. Like on-chain is not exactly the best way to pay a merchant in real life. Recently, Lightning has changed the game, and that’s why we think it’s the right time to have a map. It also makes it real for non-coiners. If you can show them a place in their area, and there’s a few locations that accept Bitcoin, it kind of makes it real for them.
The solution is actually Bitcoiners. It’s all you guys. Bitcoiners are a special type of person, and it’s going to take people like all you guys to make this effort happen. So what do we do? We created a Bitcoin-only map. It’s open source and open data, and we wanted to make it fun and build communities around it, which I’ll also talk more about in a little bit.
This is just a fun little Venn diagram that one of our team members put together. You can see BTC Map is the intersection of Bitcoin, open data, and maps. And there’s this weird thing happening right now where lots of Bitcoin projects using Google Maps, which I don’t like to see. It’s probably the easiest solution for them right now, but we’re hoping to change that. You can see OpenStreetMap at the top is one of the ways we’re able to do that.
It was really important when we started this project to build it on principles that Bitcoiners would be aligned with; otherwise, nobody would want to use it. And these principles are super important to myself, and we didn’t want to have any walled garden.
There’s no Google in any of the stack anywhere. There’s no ads, no tracking, no data collection. No sign up is required. You can use it completely and honestly, and it’s 100% free and open source software released under the AGPL 3.0 license.
How does BTC Map work
What we do is we utilize OpenStreetMap as much as possible to do a lot of the heavy lifting. They’re well-established projects, and we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. They have an open API, so we use OpenStreetMap, and we’re super grateful for that.
Then we created our own back end and API that is a bit faster, and it also filters out the millions of locations, billions of locations on OpenStreetMap, and it only shows the Bitcoin data, which is what we’re interested in as Bitcoiners.
The third part of it is we needed to actually leverage the Bitcoin Community to maintain the data set. BTC Map is a small team. We’re not going to be maintaining the data set for the whole world. This only really is going to work if every community comes together to take ownership of their data, which I’ll talk more about in a little bit. Then we finally display those locations in nice looking, clean open source apps so that you guys can use them. Our apps are available across all platforms – web, Android. The main option we’d recommend is using F-Droid, which is a free and open source App Store alternative to the Play Store. You can also get the APK direct from our GitHub. And if you haven’t quite removed Google from your life yet, that’s okay. We still have a Play Store option. The iOS version I would say is more like Alpha Beta at this point. It hasn’t had as much love as the other applications, so if you know any iOS developers out there, please get in touch with us and we’d love to have you contribute.
BTC Map web app
Now, I’m going to show you the web app. It might look a little bit different depending on if you’re using Android or Apple or whatever else. This is the map here. It looks like you would expect, so you have all the locations that accept Bitcoin. There’s like a search bar at the top you can use to find locations near you. There’s a geolocate button to locate yourself and nothing weird happens there. Like we’re not sending data home to our servers. Everything happens locally on your own device.
If you click on a location, Good Beans Coffee Company, I think they’re not too far from here, you get all the information you’d expect to see: the address, the opening hours, you can visit their website. You can see this place explicitly accepts Lightning, and there’s a survey date of recently. It has a little check mark so you know that it was recently checked by somebody, so it’s likely that the data is up to date and current.
How to get added to BTC Map
If you accept Bitcoin and you want people to find you, I’ll walk you guys through the two ways to do that. It’s sort of two categories.
- There’s a Noob form we have on our website, which you can fill out in a few seconds, and somebody will add the data to OpenStreetMap for you;
- Or if you want to take it to the next level, become a shadowy super tagger, then you can add the data directly to OpenStreetMap yourself, and I’ll walk you guys through how that works.
This is the add location form on the website. It’s a pretty simple form. You drop a pin on the map and fill out some information like the merchant name and things like that. As I said, it’ll be submitted, and I’ll show you guys that in a second.
The other form we have on our website is the verify location form, which is equally as important as adding locations. We need to make sure this is a high-quality data set for it to be useful. So, if you visit a location and they don’t actually accept bitcoin anymore, you can simply submit a verification form, and then it’ll be removed from the map. You might want to check with the owner because there have been a few scenarios where someone will go in and try to spend bitcoin. Turns out, whoever’s at the till doesn’t know how to use it, so they might still accept bitcoin but there are cases where they no longer do, and then they’ll be removed.
This is the verify location form. If everything’s up to date, you can also just check a box and let everyone know. It’s good to have a survey date as recent as possible to let other users know that there’s a good chance that this information is accurate. And if it’s not, you can fill out what is inaccurate, and we can update that information.
Once you submit a location, you’ll get a little success screen, and you’ll notice that you get an actual GitHub issue opened where you can track the status of your submission.
What happens after submitting a location on btcmap.org?
That’s when the super taggers, all of you guys, come to the rescue and do a little bit of the heavy lifting.
This is the BTC Map data GitHub, and I just opened up the issues tab here. You can see all the issues. They’re tagged with a location submission or a verification submission. You can see that there’s a country assigned to them. So if you’re only interested in contributing to areas within your local area, you can do that.
Let’s just walk through adding one. Bacon Creek Farm just submitted a location. There are organic regenerative Farms, there’s a little link there, and it’ll actually open up OpenStreetMap to that location so you can start editing it and add it to the map. When you click on the link, this is the screen you’ll see. So I dropped a pin right on their driveway there, and you can start adding the location information, the name, the address. You can see the payment methods they said they accept Lightning and onchain, so I added both of those.
BTC Map tags
I just want to highlight the BTC Map tags because this is the most important part for getting the location to actually show up on BTC Map. The main tag we’re looking for is currency XBT equals yes. So if that tag is present, then it’ll show up on BTC Map when we sync with the OpenStreetMap servers, which happens every 10 minutes. Then there are some other optional tags that we still encourage people to add. If they accept Lightning, you can say payment Lightning equals yes.
The next page is you can add a changeset comment. Every change in OpenStreetMap has something called a changeset, and the OpenStreetMap maintainers can review those and revert them if they need to. This comment just lets them know like, ‘Hey, what was the change?’ I just said, ‘I added an organic regenerative farm,’ and then the next step is you just simply click upload, and that’s it. It only takes about five to ten minutes. It’s not a complicated process, but we do understand that some merchants are busy, they don’t want to learn how to use OpenStreetMap, so that’s why we also have the form submission.
Watch bitcoin adoption live
We update and sync up with OpenStreetMap every 10 minutes, and we have some cool statistics on the site, a dashboard, you can see total number of locations, the amount created in the last 24 hours, things like that. And we got some charts – Bitcoiners, we like charts. You can see the total location number go up. You can see the up to date locations, so those are ones that have been verified within the last year. There’s actually an activity feed, so you can watch the submissions comment live as they happen. Each row has the location, the action, whether it was updated, created, deleted, and the user. And there’s a tip button, we wanted to make it possible for the super taggers to receive Sats for their work. So you can simply click that button, it’ll open up a Lightning wallet and you can send them tips.
Making BTC Map contribution more fun
We want to make it as fun as possible, and you can actually receive recognition for your contributions by earning Sats. We also have badges and basically you can become a legend in the Bitcoin mapping community. The important things to note are anyone can participate. It’s a new way to get involved in Bitcoin open source that doesn’t require any technical skills. You can do it in your spare time, you can do it by yourself, you can do it with friends and we tried to make it as fun as possible.
BTC Map leaderboard
We are trying to gamify it a little bit, make it a little competitive even though it’s all for fun. We have a leaderboard. You highlight the top 10 taggers in this graph, and then you can see below is, you’ll see a list of all the taggers. Then you get a breakdown of the amount of contributions you’ve made and the type, like created, deleted, updated. You get a little pie graph showing your distribution, and you actually get your own activity feed where you can see a history of your activity. And then you also get your own personalized maps, so you can actually see like, ‘Hey, where all the places that I contributed to?’ That’s kind of a cool visualization there.
Bitcoin meetups and mapping
We need every meetup, every community to take ownership of their local data. It’s the only way this scales. This is totally open source, so that’s what we’re hoping will happen and we’re already starting to see that which is pretty cool. You can organize a mapping expedition at your next meetup, you can try and onboard new merchants, you can verify existing ones. That’s where the communities section comes in.
This is the communities page and you can see a breakdown by continent. Right now it’s pretty heavy in Europe. I’d like to see that a little more distributed but that’s all right for now. You can see it’s simply broken down by continent. Each community gets their own card and you can get in touch with them, whether it’s Twitter, Telegram, Discord. And when you click on the link, it’ll actually open up the community on the map.
When you actually get in touch with the community members on the ground, it opens up lots of possibilities. For instance, Bill from Bitcoin Island reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, all of our vendors are using pouch, which is a wallet, and they all have usernames with public URLs. So it’d be super cool if we could put a pay button on the map.’ And I thought that was super cool, so that’s what we did. We added a pay button and you click it and it’ll open up their page and you can send whatever the amount and it’ll show a QR code and then you can pay it from any Lightning wallet.
So you can start a payment flow from your own device. It also enables async payments, sort of an edge case, but you could see a scenario like, maybe you’re at a bar, you want to get your bill and then socialize a bit more, and then pay and then leave whenever you want. So the waiter, the waitress could bring your bill and then you can pay it whenever you want and leave without any further interaction. You can also pay remotely. Bill actually brought a bunch of necklaces back with him and he gave me one and then I asked him who the vendor was and I sent them some Sats for the necklace last night. That’s kind of cool and it also enables donations. Say, there’s a hurricane or a natural disaster, we could highlight that area on the map and then if you wanted to, you could send some Sats to all the merchants that were affected.
BTC Map Wiki
We have some documentation, we have a general Wiki and an API Wiki, both of those are on GitHub, and you can actually integrate your own applications with our data through our API, or you can even directly embed BTC Map in your own apps. If you have any questions, reach out and we’d be happy to walk you through it.
I wanted to highlight a new integration that is from Wallet of Satoshi. I think they are the biggest Lightning wallet out there, if not, they’re pretty close, and they have decided to put BTC Map in their own app under the ‘Find Merchants and ATMs’ button. So you can simply click that and it’ll open up a map and you can find places to spend your Sats, which is super cool. I’m super excited about that and thanks to Wallet of Satoshi for being one of the first wallets to integrate.
BTC Map Feature preview
I want to do a few feature previews for you guys:
The Community pages – we want to take communities like a step further, so you would get your own page instead of just the directory.
Boosting locations with Sats – so you could have a boost button on the locations to make them stand out from the other locations, and it would act as another step of verification. If you’re a merchant or a customer, you can boost your location and you know someone has spent some Sats to boost this place.
Country statistics – we have all this data and it would be super cool to start ranking countries. So that’s something I really want to get done and I think we’ll be able to visualize that in a super cool way with charts and stuff like that.
And then, what do you guys want as well? We’re totally open source so you can submit a feature request or reach out to us on any of the channels. It’s really like, what do you guys want because you’re the ones using the map.
BTC Map team
The core team is small, it’s myself, Nathan and Igor. We don’t know each other, we’re working totally remotely asynchronously and we come together, and just like tons of other Bitcoin open source projects, we’re able to take an idea and turn it into something in a relatively short amount of time. So I just want to encourage all of you guys if you have an idea brewing, reach out, find developers, designers, whatever you need, and turn your idea into a reality. And it’s the power of open source, so it’s pretty special.
How BTC Map started
A quick background of how it started. Igor basically created the original Android app. And then Nathan was at a conference, he couldn’t find places to spend Sats, so he put a team together to fix this. I saw a tweet on Twitter and I was like, ‘Hey, I’d like to get involved,’ and then we launched the stack. Again, just assemble your own open source team and start building.
Just to recap a few ways everyone can get involved is you can add and verify locations, you can contribute as a developer, designer, you can onboard merchants in your area, you can create a community, you can integrate with us, and you can simply spread the word and use the apps.
If you want to support with Sats, there are a few ways you can do it. You can tip the super taggers, you can donate to OpenStreetMap, we heavily rely on them and they actually accept Bitcoin donations which is super cool. You can open a Lightning channel with us or you can donate to BTC Map if you’d like as well.
Lastly, I just wanted to thank the Bitcoin Map Community. Like I said, this project will only succeed with a robust, distributed, and enthusiastic mapping community to manage and maintain the data. So thanks to all the shadowy super taggers, as we call them. And finally, OpenStreetMap just for their incredible contributions to open source and open data. Building a project like that would be a serious undertaking and luckily they have already done it and they have an API, so you can use it to build stuff.
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