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Sabine Schaller for Coil

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Interledger 2022 - The Year of Rafiki

Last week, Microsoft announced that it was planning to acquire Activision Blizzard, which “will provide building blocks for the metaverse" and last year, Facebook renamed its corporation to Meta to reflect its aspirations to build the virtual future where people meet, work, and play. All of these activities will need some sort of payment, whether it is for the virtual meeting outfit, for payroll, or for entering a game. Even if you argue that a virtual currency may be enough for a virtual world, I doubt that there will be one currency that fits all purposes. Hence, an interoperability protocol is needed and that is exactly what Interledger is, connecting all kinds of ledgers from existing financial institutions to cryptocurrencies on blockchains, virtual currencies, and even offline payments systems.

Why are we ready to fly now?

For the first half of 2021, I was on maternity leave and spent 24/7 with my baby boy. When I rejoined the community later during the year, I was completely amazed by how much it had evolved.

In early 2021, Uchi Uchibeke had joined Coil as Head of Developer Relations & Experience, and an Interledger and Web Monetization stream has been part of many hackathons ever since, introducing more and more people to the concept of streaming payments online. He also hosts a bi-weekly Twitter Space targeted towards newcomers to the Interledger Protocol. In contrast to the community call, where members are more likely to talk about protocol specifics, the Twitter Space introduces parts of the Interledger stack or Web Monetization to those that want to get started with the technology.

Speaking of the community call, it has been taken over by Alex, the Technology Lead at the Interledger Foundation. Starting this year, the format changes to monthly calls with dedicated slots for updates from the Interledger Foundation, Fynbos, Coil, and Rafiki. Additionally, they are finally tackling our documentation. We have always had a lot of it, but it is in desperate need of reorganization. They’re making it easier for everybody to find what they are looking for–may it be a broad introduction or a fine-grained specification.

One specification that is currently experiencing a massive update is the Web Monetization specification. The main change is that we are moving away from meta tags and will be using link tags in the future. If you keep in mind that a payment pointer, which is included in the meta tag right now, is resolved to an endpoint URL, you realize that link tags are actually more suitable for Web Monetization. The nice benefit from that change is that you are now able to monetize different parts of your webpage by adding different payment pointers to respective link tags.

We also welcomed a new Interledger related company to the table in 2021. Right when I first opened Slack again to check what’s new after my maternity leave from Coil, I was surprised to learn that most of my South African colleagues were not there anymore.

What happened, did they all quit? Well, in fact they did but it wasn’t to leave the community but to start their own company Fynbos. One reason why Interledger is still so nascent is because money is involved. As soon as that is the case, participants need to be licensed money transmitters. Fynbos has set out to become such a licensed entity that offers Interledger-enabled accounts.

You may now think, “aren’t Uphold and Gatehub offering these already? What is new about Fynbos?’” Currently, your Uphold and Gatehub wallets only enable you to receive payments via Interledger but don’t permit you to send payments. Furthermore, these accounts don’t currently offer Open Payments functionality, namely invoices and mandates (possibly for recurring pull payments). All of this functionality will be unlocked with a Fynbos Interledger-enabled account, which is based on the open source package Rafiki.

What is Rafiki, my friend?

The Rafiki package was introduced in May 2021 by Coil’s CEO Stefan Thomas as the All-in-One solution for Interledger wallets. It is a set of APIs that enables the entire suite of Interledger and Open Payments functionalities like streaming payments (Web Monetization), sending discreet payments (tips and invoices), receiving payments, setting up recurring payments (mandates), and app-based payments.

Thus far, most of these functionalities only existed on paper. Rafiki will be the reference implementation, bundling all of them and hence allowing not just digital wallets but any payment provider to easily enable Interledger functionalities on their accounts. And it is fully open source!

Where is development at?

We got quite far in 2021, implementing sending, receiving, and invoices. Mandates are currently under review. However, the authentication/authorization part is still missing and we are currently discussing which specification to use. Should we stick to OAuth2 or move to GNAP, a relatively new approach to authorization which concentrates on grants. Additionally, we are working on documentation on how to run Rafiki locally using docker, such that early birds can already take a peek.

If you want to check the current progress of the development on Rafiki, check out the Github Project!

What is the timeline for 2022?

Depending on the authorization decision – OAuth2 or GNAP – a Rafiki MVP will be available sooner or a bit later during the year. If we stick to OAuth2, we anticipate having it by the end of Q1 / early Q2 2022. If we decide to use GNAP, we will have to implement it ourselves and won’t be able to rely on already existing OAuth2 solutions like Ory Hydra. Consequently, a fully functional Rafiki will only be available early during the second half of the year.

What else do we have in store for 2022?

Of course there are going to be hackathons again, not just on Web Monetization but also on Interledger and Rafiki to help you familiarize yourself with the new stack. Furthermore, we are planning to hold an ILP Summit again this year. I can’t wait for it to happen!

Please join the Interledger forum to keep updated about the latest news from the Interledger community and to hear about upcoming events.

Thank you, @Uchi, @Tiffany, @Alex, and @Adrian for your valuable feedback and support when writing this post.

Cover picture from Wikifur, modified, CC-BY-SA.

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