Nostr has seen tremendous growth in the last year; the new social media protocol promises to be more private and secure than its competitors and offer up censorship-resistant communication on every level of the stack. As the number of users grew, relays and clients needed to improve their efforts as interaction became sluggish. One of the biggest problems with Nostr has been its technical performance as compared to centralised social media platforms.
The earliest clients were slow and unreliable, and users have reported frequent crashes and weren’t exactly user-friendly. This has made it difficult for users to use Nostr and has led to a lot of frustration. That is not to say Nostr has failed; all protocols and their clients are pretty basic in the beginning and refined over time, the first Bitcoin wallets weren’t as smooth as they are today either, but with time, money, developer hours, user demand and feedback the product improves.
A testament to Nostr’s growth has to be its run-in with big tech; the first attack on the protocol came when Twitter announced that it would be banning or suppressing links from Nostr clients. The second has come from an even larger player in Apple, banning Nostr apps in China, and now Apple is back again, threatening to remove Nostr clients from their global App store.
Attack of the 30-foot App Store
While early Nostr clients were all browser-based, it was only a matter of time before an app developer came along and spun up an iOS app. Apple has a massive global user base, and once you’re listed in their app store, you have immediate access to those users; all you need to do is convince them to try it.
As iOS apps like Damus have rolled out, users have been signing up to use it as their preferred client. One of the abilities of any Nostr client is the option to tip a user using a function known as a zap. Zaps are a prompt found on user profiles as well as every post created on a Nostr client (should the user enable their profile to receive tips).
Tips are sent via the Bitcoin Lightning Network, and the value is then listed on the post and profile, so any user can see how much a post or profile has earned.
Apple (AAPL), however, doesn’t like users exchanging micropayments without them receiving a cut and threatened to remove the Bitcoin-friendly social media app Damus from its App Store for allowing users to tip each other with bitcoin (BTC) on content posted in the app – a prohibited practice the tech giant reportedly considers equivalent to selling digital media.
Damus creator William Casarin eventually conceded, resolving the standoff by removing the app’s ability to send zaps on posts or notes; however, users were still able to tip each other at the profile level, a function that is not as smooth as simply tapping tip on a post.
Apple recommended that Nostr app developers enable zaps that use its native mobile payment service Apple Pay instead, which is not exactly an open global payment service geared towards micropayments like the Lightning Network.
Damus has taken most of the heat; they are not the only ones in the firing line. Switching to another native app will not solve your problem, as confirmed by Nostr iOS clients like Plebstr have also confirmed that they have received a tap on the shoulder regarding Zaps, so expect every other iOS client to get the same treatment.
Zaps find a way.
In response to this financial censorship by Apple, Two Bitcoin developers, Ben Carman and Paul Miller, co-founders of Mutiny wallet, a browser-based, Lightning-enabled Bitcoin wallet, have responded to the news by launching a tongue-in-cheek response to Apple’s “use Apple pay” for Zaps suggestion and opened up a workaround for iOS users, calling it Zapple Pay.
“Apple banning note zaps is like trying to ban hyperlinks in browsers”Will Casarin
Zapple Pay is here to stay.
iOS users who have been curbed from zapping can sign up for Zapple Pay on their website. Users who want to try the Zapple Pay service provide their Nostr public key (npub), an emoji, and a link to a wallet; once set up, every time a user posts their preferred emoji on a post that accepts zaps, Zapple Pay will trigger a prompt to push through a payment.
Zapple Pay might be designed for use on iOS clients, but it will work on any client.
Setting a trigger emoji
The most important part of your Zapple Pay setup has to be choosing which reaction emoji do you want to trigger zaps. Damus uses 🤙 by default, but you can choose from any of the following emojis as a trigger for your zap amount.
- ⚡️ – Bolt
- 🤙 – Shaka
- 👍 – Thumbs up
- ❤️ – Heart
- 🫂 – Hug
Zapple Pay doesn’t have to be nostr only
While this is all a bit light-hearted, it could be a bad omen for Apple; if apps like Nostr can bypass Apple’s 30% cut on in-app transactions through the Lightning Network, what is stopping other apps from integrating a nostr public key or Lightning Addresses and starting to accept payments for in-app purchases?
Apple could return with a heavy-handed response and ban Nostr applications from its App Store, as it has done in China, and show its hand as a gatekeeper. Alternatively, they try to limit certain UI, but this will only end up being a wack-a-mole as there are endless possibilities to tie a zap to a prompt such as a text prompt.
Since Zapple Pay users a nostr pubkey to source a Lightning invoice, it could also be expanded to other social media apps. Users could sign up to a specific index that connects npubs with social media profiles on Twitter, Linkedin, Telegram, Instagram and many more, and “Shaka’s” could become cross-platform zappable.
If Zapple Pay does mature into a cross-platform tipping tool, it will be much harder for Apple to police.
Do your own research.
If you want to try out Zapple Pay or learn more about it, we recommend checking out the following resources to kickstart your research.
Are you on Nostr?
If you are a Nostr user and want to hang out and chat with us or follow our content on your preferred Nostr front end, feel free to add us using our PubKey below and send us a Zap if you’ve got sats to spare.
npub10mxnle348mzv2dnj0ylgz3zu9gceenc29x9fr4m6mnars66j7vxsnkn8mjThe Bitcoin Manual’s Nostr Pubkey
Please give us your notes.
If you have used Nostr, which client do you prefer and why? Are there any clients that you think deserve mention? Let us know in the comments down below.