Announcing Zap Desktop 0.5.0-beta

Yo. Let us rejoice, Zap Desktop 0.5.0-beta has been released 🎊 🎉. You can download the new release for Mac, Windows, and Linux here. You can find an updated Getting Started tutorial here.

Zap Desktop has been growing at a shocking rate. According to Github, Zap Desktop recently passed 1,000,000 asset downloads (1,037,627 at the time of writing 😯), with over 25,000 individual downloads of our prior release!

This is not just an incredible achievement for Zap, but also for the Bitcoin community as a whole. Bitcoin is working, Lightning is working, and we are just getting started. I get visibly excited when I think about all that I have coming in the pipeline. But, today is about Zap 0.5.0-beta. The all new and improved, channel backup supporting, fully customizable, mainnet Zap 0.5.0-beta I might add. So, with that being said, let’s dig in and see what’s new.

Mainnet

#reckless

Testnet, it was fun while it lasted, you will always have a place in my heart. But, starting with Zap Desktop 0.5.0, Zap now fully supports mainnet. Powered by LND 0.7.0 and neutrino, users can create a mainnet non-custodial Lightning wallet/node, backup channels, customize preferences and start using Lightning on their desktop in minutes. As a reminder, we also support as many wallets as you’d like. Your imagination is your only limitation. Create neutrino powered wallets, connect to your remote node, manage your channels, drive your BTCPay server, and more from one application.

A reminder that this software, and the Lightning Network in general, is still very early and Zap is still in beta. Please do not use crazy amounts of money, and certainly nothing you can’t lose. I personally recommend $5-$50 worth of BTC. But, you’re all self-sovereign and can make your own decisions, just be responsible while #reckless my friends.

Channel Backups

In order to provide users with a safe mainnet environment, we needed to ensure users can back up their funds. Users have always been given their 24-word seed to backup on-chain funds, but funds in channels have never been backed up in Zap Desktop. That is, until Zap Desktop 0.5.0-beta. Now, thanks to LND’s Static Channel Backups, users can back up their channels locally, with Google Drive, or with Dropbox.

Static Channel Backups produce a backup file that is encrypted using a key derived from the user's seed. This way, it is safe to upload your backup file to third-party services because the backup file cannot be used in isolation.

Of course, users can choose to skip this step, but we recommend users backup their channels somewhere safe. With your 24-word seed and your channels backed up, your funds are #safu!

Preferences

The loudest feedback we heard from you all dating back to our last major release was the ability to customize Zap. Users wanted to customize their fee rates when sending on-chain, the expiry for their invoices, the block explorer, the exchange rate provider, etc. We’re all human beings and unique in our own way. How can a singular Bitcoin wallet UI service the entire world? I get it, and I heard you. Now, if a user clicks on their submenu, they will find a Preferences menu option.

Clicking this will take the user to their preferences. Within their preferences, they can adjust their address format, block explorer, rate provider, target confirmation in blocks when spending on-chain, and their invoice’s expiry.

With this new feature, Zap sets an important design foundation to offer much more in coming releases. As users interact more with Zap, Zap will expand its preferences to as far as the eye can see. Your keys, your coin, your Zap wallet, your preferences.

Improved Channel Management

Zap 0.5.0-beta comes with some improvements to its channel management interface. This is a subsector of Zap I have a particular interest in. I operate the Zap Technologies node, which as of writing, has 249 channels. It has been an incredibly cool experience learning what to do and what not to do when managing a routing node. Over time I have picked up some tactics that have been useful in understanding what channel partners are good, what channels have been active recently, what channels I should close, what channels carry the most capacity, and so on. All of these tactics I have done by hand. With this new release, Zap lays the foundation for incorporating these tools into an easy to use interface.

For starters, users will now see a Channels submenu in their wallet’s header. When clicked, users get a snapshot summary of their channels, along with submenu options to Manage and Create.

When a user clicks Manage, they will be taken to the updated channel manager.

There are a few improvements in this release. We have improved the header, cleaned up the action bar, and introduced the ability to sort channels. This is my favorite new feature, in particular, the ability to sort channels by a new metric: activity. If a user clicks the “Sort by” dropdown, they will see all of their options, including the new activity metric.

The activity metric is shamelessly stolen from lightninglayer.com. Activity is the total percent of sent + received funds divided by the total capacity of the channel. A channel with activity over 100% means that the total amount of sent + received funds exceeds the total capacity of the channel. This metric is designed to show how effective a given channel is.

When sorting the Zap Technologies node’s channels by Activity, we can see my channel with WalletOfSatoshi.com and my channel with rompert.com are the most active.

In fact, because of this, I became aware that my rompert channel was not as active as I ran out of local capacity. So, with a quick search within Zap with the list view, we can see I opened a new channel to rompert.com.

We have many more improvements coming to channel management: rebalancing, advanced metrics, graphing tools, etc. But, I think this is a fantastic start and helps me manage my channels every day.

Thanks

Alright friends, that’s going to wrap up the Zap 0.5.0-beta high-level review. If you’re interested you can find the full changelog here. I’m super excited for you to give this new release a spin.

As always, I’d like to say thanks to the community. 1,000,000 asset downloads. Thanks for your continued support, bug tickets, feature requests, and so on ❤️✊

You can contact me @JackMallers on twitter or zap@jackmallers.com via email. For bug reports, troubleshooting, feature requests, etc. we encourage you to open issues on our Github repository and/or join our slack.

The future is bright, trust me. Peace out, for now 🍻😃