Million Dollar Homepage, Revisited with the Power of the Lightning Network

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Back in 2005, an enterprising university student, Alex Tew, needed a new way to raise money to pay for his education expenses. He was about to commence a three year course in business management, and in getting his own business gears going, had an idea to prevent the years of debt, that were sure to be awaiting him after graduation day. Mr. Tew decided to sell a one million pixel-space, on a website he’d created, for $1 each, in 10-pixel blocks (making the minimum purchase price, $100 USD) at milliondollarhomepage.com. The idea would allow anyone to purchase these 10×10 pixel blocks to advertise their company logos, websites and even offer them the ability to add a hyperlink to their pixel block. Tew made the promise to customers that he’d keep the site active for at least 5 years, which would have been until August 26, 2010.

While the site was initially promoted via word of mouth to Tew’s friends and family, after about 4,700 blocks had been sold, the press began to take notice of this novel idea. New visitors and pixel purchasers alike began to pour in to Tew’s website. By New Years Eve of 2005, barely four months after launching, 999,000 of his 1 million pixels had sold, and the site was seeing 25,000 unique users every hour. With just 1,000 pixels remaining, Tew made the intrepid decision to auction them off on eBay, believing it was “the most fair and logical thing” to do. After 10 days on the auction block, the last 1,000 pixels were sold for a staggering $38,100, won by an online diet product company. After all was said and done, and after a magnanimous donation to The Prince’s Trust Charity (a UK-based charity for at risk young people), Tew netted between $650-700,000! Though all “sold out” Alex Tew’s page is still functional today, making it a worthy investment for its advertisers.

Similar to the Million Dollar Homepage, Reddit.com decided to try it’s own social experiment, on April Fool’s Day (April, 1) 2017. Their concept was more of a pixel-art canvas, allowing users to place a SINGLE PIXEL, every 5 minutes. Eventually, the canvas was filled by Reddit’s patient and determined users, and a collaborative, artistic canvas was completed. A beautiful time-lapse of the canvas construction can be seen below.

Inspired by the success of Mr. Tew’s endeavor, and in the spirit of promoting a nascent and exciting concept (The Lightning Network), we now have satoshis.place. Instead of selling space at $1 / pixel, satoshis.place is offering up 1 million pixels, at 1 sat/pixel. If you don’t know, a Satoshi is the smallest denomination of a Bitcoin, equalling .00000001 BTC. This site allows people to “paint” on the canvas, and even allows them to indefinitely paint over other “pieces” displayed on the page for a mere 1 sat/pixel, which currently equates to about 0.000067 USD! Perhaps the most important, and exciting part about this project is that contributors are not just paying with Bitcoin, but that they’re using the Lightning Network to send these payments. If you don’t know, Lightning Network will be Bitcoin’s solution to scaling transactions. Lightning payments utilize payment channels, setup between parties sending and receiving transactions. The wonderful abilities of the Lightning Network will allow one to send and receive payments literally as fast as the data can travel via the internet. These transactions are logged within the payment channel set up by the involved parties while the payment channel remains open, therefore keeping these transactions “off-chain” (not submitted to blockchain confirmation individually), until both parties agree to close the payment channel. Once the channel is mutually closed, all off-chain transactions are submitted as one single transaction to the blockchain. This is just one of the major advantages we’ll see with the greater implementation of the Lightning Network, but a reason that will likely drive many people’s interest in testing out this Bitcoin improvement.

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