The Casa Node has easily been one of the most desired and sought-after Bitcoin-related items during the 2018 holiday season. The demand for the “Lightning node in a box” product has been so high that the shipping had to be delayed during the month of December just to keep up with the orders.
However, some critics have pointed out that there isn’t anything special about the device: it takes the rather modest hardware capabilities of the Raspberry Pi 3+, adds a hard drive for storage, and completes the package with all the necessary cables to make the device work. But just like in the case of Apple products, the costumers are paying for three essential elements: software, user experience, and costumer support.
Clearly, the $300 Casa Node is aimed at the lesser technical crowd who just want a device that they can plug in, set up with a point and click interface, and then leave running. The device comes with a pre-synced full Bitcoin node and a really straight-forward implementation of the Lightning protocol, and even a friendly Autopilot mode which removes all requirements to toggle settings.
Yet unlike Apple, Casa open sources the software
In the world of VCs and micromanaged strategies to increase stock price, a business decision like this would sound disastrous and uncompetitive. But on Thursday afternoon, January 31st 2019, cypherpunk Jameson Lopp has published a detailed blog post to announce the open sourcing of the Casa client, as well as a bounty program for users who disclose bugs responsibly.
The first part of the announcement sounds like the end of the company’s profitability for hardware sales and possibly the beginning of its demise. On the other hand, the part which involves the entire Bitcoin community to run the software, scrutinize the code, and help perfect the software is both smart on the long term and cypherpunk. Casa gets to reveal its friendliness to the open source development spirit, and also contributes to the overall growth of the industry.
If Apple were to open source iOS, then they would probably stop selling smartphones and lose control of their strict policies regarding third party access. There wouldn’t be much of a difference between the Android devices and the ones designed in Cupertino, but independent developers would get the chance to fork the software and potentially bring it to new heights.
Casa doesn’t seem to have the same ethos and, as Jameson Lopp writes in his blog post, “Information wants to be free, so we might as well lend it a helping hand.”
Under the permissive MIT License, anyone is free to “use, extend, and improve” the code. In other words, now you can buy the $100 Raspberry Pi kit and build your own Casa Node. However, this process will take time and extra effort, and the company’s support team won’t be responsible to guide or troubleshoot individual installations. In this case, financial sovereignty also comes with the responsibility of using the software properly (or modifying it yourself to suit your needs).
Will Casa continue to sell a lot of nodes?
The short answer is “yes”. If the Lightning Network keeps on growing at such an exponential rate, then an increasing number of companies will require specialized hardware to manage channels and validate transactions. It’s unlikely that retail stores and institutions will be complaining about the $300 price tag, given the fact that full customer support is provided as an embedded service.
For instance, Pierre Rochard has developed the Node Launcher, which allows Windows or MacOS users to run their own Lightning node. It’s easy to use, convenient, open-source, and available for the most common computer operating systems in the world. Theoretically speaking, anyone can buy a used laptop for $100, wipe it, and turn it into a full node – this kind of solution might even be better than working with a Raspberry Pi.
However, the emergence of the Node Launcher has not affected the sales of the Casa Node in a negative way. People who purchased Casa’s product have done it for the convenience of receiving a plug and play device. For as long as there will be customers for iPhones, who could theoretically build a smartphone with similar specifications and software functions for a small fraction of the price, Casa nodes will thrive. Customer support and the no-headache approach to an electronic device are big selling points in themselves. And as the Bitcoin market grows and more people get into the technology, such products will get keep on getting more popular.
Find out more about the Casa Node by watching this interview with Alena Vranova, the company’s lead strategist: