In the beginning, there was Bitcoin Core. Satoshi Nakamoto’s seminal software implementation for the Bitcoin network was a one-stop shop for early users: For the earliest adopters, it functioned as a full node, wallet and miner.
Ten years and a few moons later, the Bitcoin service industry is undergoing a technical renaissance. Today, applications and hardware abound that give bitcoiners a greater degree of flexibility over how they manage their coins than ever before. From mixing services to plug-and-play nodes, hardware wallets to browser extensions, these tools have made Bitcoin more private, safer and easier to use, expanding its use cases along the way.
Below is a list of Bitcoin applications, services and hardware that we think should be on your radar. Please note that this list is not definitive and definitely not exhaustive. There are plenty of great tools out there that didn’t make the list, and we tried to steer clear of wallets/exchanges except where they provide special services (like CoinJoin, for instance). That doesn’t mean we don’t like them! We just felt jazzed about these in particular.
We all know the old maxim: safety first. In Bitcoin, this could very well be amended to: safety always.
You can never be too protective or paranoid when securing your private keys, and if you’ve got a significant chunk of cash in crypto, hardware wallets are a must. Shy of an absolutely apocalyptic scenario (we have brain wallets for that), these cold storage wallets provide the utmost security for holding your coins.
And few companies have done it better (or longer) than Ledger and Trezor. Trezor was first on the scene when it released its flagship wallet, Trezor One, in 2014. The Ledger Nano S, Ledger’s own flagship, would launch two years later but would quickly grow in popularity to become Trezor’s premier rival. Both support web interfaces to manage your coins, can interoperate with other wallets and services (like Wasabi and Casa) and support multiple coins.
There are a few key differences between these wallets, namely in price (Ledger is cheaper) and security mechanisms (the technology behind Ledger isn’t open source), and neither is perfect. Both, for instance, have been exposed with the same security vulnerability. In a separate instance, Ledger was even backdoored by a 15-year-old hacking prodigy; Ledger also recently revealed fresh weak points in Trezor’s wallets (because vulnerability loves company).
It should be noted that, in each of these scenarios, the hackers would have to have physical control of the devices, advanced hacking skills and plenty of time to crack the wallets, and both companies rolled out patches for the vulnerabilities.
Even so, both wallets feature universal two-factor authentication, and overall, both wallets offer nearly bulletproof security (I have both and find them equally useful).
We focused on Ledger and Trezor because they’re some of the oldest, most trusted and most popular hardware wallets in the space. But there are plenty of others that will get the job done, as well, like KeepKey, Opendime (which is a one-time use wallet that is rendered inoperable after one use), BitBox and Coldcard.
Casa is like a cypherpunk Swiss Army Knife.
The security company offers perhaps the strongest suite of security-minded services in the industry. Depending on your level of membership, the Casa Keymaster offers multi-signature wallet services that splits your private key between three or up to five hardware devices (it’s compatible with Ledger and Trezor), requiring you to sign off on two or three of these, respectively, to send a transaction. It also includes a mobile key for smaller amounts, with the website impressing that larger amounts should be stored on hardware devices.
These memberships come in four tiers: silver (free), gold ($300 a year), platinum ($1,800 a year) and diamond ($5,000 a year). Each comes with basic (2-3) multisig, emergency key recovery and seedless key recovery; the only thing separating the gold membership from silver is that it comes with a Trezor One and a Casa node. The platinum comes with three hardware wallets (customer choice of Trezor or Ledger), a surprise gift, 24/7 customer service and a Casa node, while the diamond also comes with all of this plus an inheritance planning, multi-user transaction signing and not one but two Casa nodes.
Speaking of the Casa node, let’s talk about it. This plug-and-play hardware is perfect for nontechnical enthusiasts and hodlers who want all the comforts of running a full node without the hassle of bootstrapping it on their own. It comes pre-synced, so you just need to download the blocks that were hashed in the interim between shipping and setup. This greases the block syncing and setup process significantly (it took me only a night’s worth of downloading to get the fully-updated ledger on the device).
You can manage your node from a webportal, and it also comes with Lightning Network support so that you can run your own Lightning node on top of mainnet. You can get a Casa node for $300 — a steal when you consider that it comes with a year of multisig key services and a Trezor One (which runs about $76).
CoinJoin (Wasabi, Samourai and JoinMarket)
If privacy is your MO, Wasabi makes a damn fine wallet.
The Tor-compatible software allows users to manage several wallets, generate multiple receiving addresses and integrate hardware wallets with the Coldcard Mark1, Trezor Model T and Ledger Nano S.
But those features aren’t what make Wasabi special. No, its key feature comes with its coin tumbling service, CoinJoin. The CoinJoin protocol allows users to batch their bitcoin into a bundled transaction to obscure who sent what where (though for this to work effectively, each user needs to send the same amount to make each output fungible).
Wasabi claims to have made 35,498 bitcoins fungible since CoinJoin’s introduction on August 1, 2018.
If you want a mobile version (Wasabi is desktop only), then Samourai is your best option for privacy. Like Wasabi, it is Tor-enabled and recently added a mixing features known as STONEWALLx2 and Stowaway, which make use of Samourai’s Cahoots transaction framework.
Both features are still in the early stages. Samourai calls them “easter eggs” in its announcement and makes it clear that they’re not as accessible to the casual user.
Finally, we would be remiss to not mention Joinmarket, which Samourai so aptly calls “the OG in bitcoin privacy.” The wallet has been facilitating CoinJoin transactions since 2015.
It should also be noted that, with Wasabi, Samourai and Joinmarket’s mixing services, no single user can tumble transactions alone (unless they are using multiple wallets), as the obfuscation techniques can only work with multiple transaction outputs.
In the words of Bitcoin evangelist Matt Odell: “Stay humble. Stack sats.” Luckily, there’s an app for that — and it’s not an exchange.
Lolli is a Chrome and Firefox browser plug-in which rewards users with bitcoin for purchases from participating online retailers. This sats-back model is like Ebates for bitcoin; in fact, its founders, Alex Adelman and Matt Senter, drummed up the model while working at Ebates and were looking for a way to lubricate the friction people face when buying into bitcoin.
What better way than to reward them in bitcoin for buying things they already want, use and need? With Lolli, you can earn bitcoin back on anything from travel to clothes to groceries and even craft beer memberships. More than 500 merchants have partnered with the service, and Adleman told Bitcoin Magazine that, as they saw at Ebates, rewards programs like these can shape customer loyalty, and that’s attractive to Lolli’s partners.
If a bitcoiner sees that they can receive 5 percent back when renting on VRBO as opposed to Airbnb, well, they’re going to take that — same as if they can earn bitcoin back from Jet for everyday purchases instead of Amazon.
“You need a token for that. Bitcoin doesn’t scale, bro.”
Tippin.me has become a darling of Crypto Twitter for its simple yet engaging use case. Using the Chrome/Firefox browser extension, Twitter users can easily receive or dole out Lightning payments in the form of “tips,” receiving these in Tippin.me’s custodial wallet. The application is a pioneer for giving users on a social media platform as prominent as Twitter the ability to monetize their content or reward other users for content they especially enjoy (Reddit has something similar with a bitcoin tipbot).
It played a pivotal role in the passing of the Lightning Torch, giving users an easy, Twitter-endogenous application to take and pass the torch when it was low capacity. Eventually, it caught the attention of Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, who gave it his stamp of approval.
The application, which is over 14,000 users strong, released version 1.0 recently, which added a number of improvements including messaging, sending tips directly from balances and an option to top-off wallet balances from on-chain transactions.
Messari.io is like CoinMarketCap’s awesome little brother. We’re just so darn proud of it.
But seriously, Messari.io was founded in October 2017 to “[bring] transparency to the cryptoeconomy.” This became evident when it launched its market dashboard with real-time tracking of 600 cryptocurrencies. Its charts include reported volume from exchanges while correcting this volume to more accurately convey real trading volume (for example, at the time of writing, the report volume of the entire market is $50 billion, but Messari lists real volume as just over $2 billion — a bit of a gap).
Alongside this more accurate market volume metric, the service lets you tailor charts for a variety of specific criteria including consensus mechanism, Bitcoin fork and category of asset — oh, and some colorful criteria including memes, scams and possible scams.
The site also aggregates news from across the cryptocurrency industry and condenses them into TL;DR bits, and it also curates a weekly newsletter. Like what you see? Messari also sells its API which it markets as “the world's most comprehensive institutional grade Bitcoin and blockchain data API, ranging from market data to fundamentals, blockchain metrics, and news.”