We were Square Crypto. Now we’re Spiral.
Once Square decided to rebrand, we knew it was time for our own long-overdue rebrand. After all, Square Crypto was never the best name for our team.
For one thing, Square Crypto drew a direct line between the corporate benefactor we are supposed to be independent of and us. For another, Square Crypto led the wittiest people online to tweet “Wen Square Bitcoin, sirz?” at us four times a week.
We wish we had a meticulous “Why Spiral?” manifesto to publish, but the truth is that after a long and exhausting rebranding exercise, it just looked and sounded the coolest. Plus, the blue spiral has been our favorite emoji since week 1. Spiral feels right.
Now that the name is out there, we want to look back at what our team accomplished as Square Crypto and lay out plans for what we expect to achieve as Spiral.
Square Crypto started as a Twitter account operated by two geniuses. Then, for balance, we hired ex-Google Product Director Steve Lee. Eventually, we brought on a team of powerhouse developers and PMs to do the work of simplifying how developers add the Lightning Network to almost anything.
We plan to double the number of full-time devs working on projects under the Spiral umbrella in 2022. So what will they be working on?
THE LIGHTNING DEVELOPMENT KIT (LDK)
Before we wrote a single line of code, we wanted to ensure that it was for the right project. To do that, we interviewed dozens of developer teams. We found that they were having a lot of trouble integrating the Lightning Network into their wallets and applications. Since we already saw the Lighting Network’s potential to turn bitcoin from investment to actual medium of exchange, this felt like a no-brainer.
With the help of the FOSS Lightning dev community, what was once just a good idea has come a long way. We have heard from major wallets, exchanges, and hardware projects who are experimenting with and evaluating adopting LDK. Expect to hear more.
LDK has already been adopted by Blue Wallet, one of the most popular and feature-rich bitcoin wallets. Check out their integration of LDK on Github.
You can also see how far the project has come by checking out our LDK sample on GitHub.
To learn about developing on LDK or the project in general, there are enough dev docs and tutorials on its website to keep you learning for a while.
THE BITCOIN DEVELOPMENT KIT (BDK)
As hard as it is to develop on the Lightning Network, developing on-chain can be just as challenging—especially since the two are intimately linked.
Building with Lightning still requires the knowledge and resources to build on-chain. Because our team only had the bandwidth to develop one kit, we needed talented, experienced FOSS bitcoin developers who could build the other half. This is a massive challenge in its own right. Luckily, we were able to find and fund a dream team to build the other half featuring Steve Myers, Lloyd Fournier, Raj Maitra, and John Cantrell.
With BDK and LDK, building a world-class bitcoin wallet has never been easier.
THE GRANT PROGRAM
Unless you work somewhere that contributes full-time to bitcoin, finding time to make FOSS bitcoin contributions might not even be possible. We designed our grant program to remedy this problem by giving developers, designers, and other contributors the resources necessary to improve bitcoin’s privacy, security, UX, and ability to scale.
As Square Crypto, we went beyond simply funding existing Bitcoin Core developers and issued over 40 bitcoin-focused grants to individuals and organizations in over 15 countries—including some to pseudonymous individuals—and the first FOSS bitcoin grants ever issued to full-time developers in India. By headcount and bitcoin given, no person or organization on earth backs more bitcoin-focused projects than we do.
Grantees include BTCPayServer; the privacy-focused CoinSwap project; Lightning Signer; mempool.space (the groovy block explorer); Summer of Bitcoin, a global paid (in bitcoin) internship program focused on introducing university students to bitcoin and open-source development; and more. We’ve also made a point of funding the important work of a number of Bitcoin Core devs including Jon Atack, Vasil Dimov, Gloria Zhao, and Dhruv Mehta, all brilliant developers who’ve conducted code reviews, helped build and merge Tor v3 support and mempool package support, build P2P V2, and more.
Rather than recite every detail of every grant (as you can see, there are a lot), check out our website. GitHub and Twitter links are included. (You should follow everybody.)
THE BITCOIN DESIGN GUIDE & THE BITCOIN DESIGN COMMUNITY
Nothing is going to make or break whether bitcoin lives up its potential like the ecosystem’s UX. One of the first things you hear from new adopters is how intimidating even the most popular wallets are. The problem here is obvious. The solution was not.
Bitcoin’s developer community is formidable. But its designer community was, well—where were they, exactly? Out there, for sure, but without a space to call their own and share what they know. Handing money to ambitious individuals with a passion for bitcoin worked great for developers, why not make it work for designers?
Between 2019 and 2020, we met with ~50 designers, and issued grants to those with the most experience and passion. This led to the formation of the Bitcoin Design Community, an open forum that grew faster than anyone expected, and now boasts over 2,000 members. Independent of us, the community regularly conducts design reviews, provides a forum (creatively titled the “Wallet Improvement Project”) where designers provide wallet developers with feedback, and mentors newcomers.
This led to the creation of the Bitcoin Design Guide, an open-source document containing UX best practices for the entire bitcoin ecosystem. It is a massive and extensive resource that everyone can learn from and contribute to.
WHERE THE SPIRAL LEADS
Every project on our roster is ongoing, and will be continued as Spiral. We expect the Lightning Development Kit to continue receiving a major investment of our core team’s time. Want to help us out? We are hiring.
We also plan to write more grants than ever in the coming year, so if you know someone with a big idea for bitcoin, send them here.
Or here: www.stevenjlee.com