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Introduction

Lit Protocol is a decentralized key management network powered by threshold cryptography. A blockchain-agnostic middleware layer, Lit can be used to read and write data between blockchains and off-chain platforms, facilitating encryption, access control, and automation for the open web via programmatic signing.

Decentralized Cryptography

On a fundamental level, Lit is an attempt to decentralize public key cryptography. First introduced by three researchers at Stanford University in the 1970s, public key cryptography is the technology that underpins cryptocurrency and most of the security infrastructure on the Internet today.

Public key cryptography allows you to do two main things:

  1. Encrypt information so that it can only be accessed by authorized parties (encryption and access control).
  2. Sign (write) data to blockchains, databases, storage networks, and other state machines (digital signatures).

Encryption

Encryption is the process of encoding data so that it remains hidden or inaccessible to unauthorized parties, the core technology that enables privacy on the open web.

Signing

Every time you interact with a blockchain — whether it be selling some ETH, listing an NFT, or claiming an in-game item — you must sign the transaction. Just like a signature in the physical world, this digital signature provides “proof” that some interaction took place — a verifiable snapshot of history at a given point in time.

Core Functionality

As a protocol, Lit can be harnessed to build applications that leverage public key cryptography at their core, powering two main “buckets” of functionality:

Encryption and Access Control

Lit Protocol's main feature is a decentralized access control protocol compatible with most EVM chains, Cosmos and Solana. With Lit, you can harness on-chain access control conditions to do 4 main things:

  • Encrypt and lock static content (images, videos, music, etc) behind an on-chain condition (for example, ownership of an NFT).
  • Decrypt static content that was locked behind an on-chain condition.
  • Authorize network signatures that provide access to dynamic content (for example, a server or network resource) behind an on-chain condition.
  • Request a network signed JWT that provisions access and authorization to dynamic content behind an on-chain condition.

With this functionality, Lit Protocol enables the storage of private data on the open web, facilitating interoperability and portability between previously disconnected users, applications and ecosystems.

You can get started with encryption and access control here.

Decentralized Cloud Signing

Lit’s access control protocol gives individuals the ability to read private data from the dWeb based on on-chain conditions. But this is only one half of the equation. What about writing data?

To facilitate this second use case we created two things: Lit Actions and Programmable Key Pairs (PKPs). Lit Actions are immutable JavaScript functions stored on IPFS. Actions can be thought of as smart contracts with superpowers: they have network access and the ability to make arbitrary HTTP requests.

PKPs are the public/private key pairs generated by the Lit network and are minted in the form of an ERC-721 NFT. The owner of the NFT becomes the sole controller of the underlying private key.

When these components work together, they have the power to facilitate complex condition-based automation. What if you could “tell” your wallet to execute a trade when your token fell below a specified price? Or to automatically list your NFT when the collection hits a certain floor price? Or what if you wanted to use off-chain or cross-chain data as a “trigger” to execute functionality within your decentralized application? With Lit, these use cases become possible.

These tools can also be harnessed within the context of proof generation. Conditional-based signing through Lit Actions opens up the possibility of verifying data from arbitrary sources, such as an off-chain API or cross-chain application. Get started with proofs here.

Keep reading about PKPs and Lit Actions here.

What can you build with Lit?

Lit infrastructure can be used to support an entire host of web3 applications. Here are some examples:

DeFi

  • Condition-based transaction execution (ex. on-chain limit orders).
  • Automated, recurring payments.
  • Liquid staking solutions.
  • Frictionless transaction execution (signing abstraction).
  • Vault applications for seamlessly trading asset “bundles”.

Infrastructure

  • Cross-chain bridges.
  • Oracles for off-chain data.
  • Event listening and condition-based execution.
  • Privacy-preserving transactions.
  • Decentralized key custodians.

Web3 Social

  • Private data for social apps.
  • Credentialing systems for privacy-preserving web3 login.
  • User owned social graphs.
  • Account abstraction with support for web2 auth methods (i.e. Apple Passkey).
  • Decentralized chat bots.
  • Verifiable, on-chain reputation building.

Gaming

  • Signing and wallet abstraction for blockchain-based games.
  • Condition-based reward systems and achievements.
  • Private data for multiplayer games.

Unlockable NFTs

Using HTML NFTs, you can create locked content that only owners of the NFT have access to. This includes dynamic content, like websites or metaverse spaces.

Here’s an example using our Lit Genesis Canvas NFT. Only holders can access the private canvas site linked within!

Add Token Gating to Web2 Apps

  • Shopify: Blockchain-based access control for your online store.
  • Zoom: Token-gated Zoom calls.
  • Google Drive: Add access control requirements to your Google Drive files.
  • WordPress: Gate access to WordPress sites and pages.

More Ideas

To read about more examples, take a look at our use cases page. You can also explore some of the projects that have been built with Lit here.

Join the Community

Discord is the home base for our Developer Ecosystem. Join us to stay up to date on the latest developments, ask questions and get programming support, and engage with the wider community!

Follow us on Twitter for updates.

Read our blog and subscribe to our monthly newsletter for news and announcements on the state of Lit Protocol.

Subscribe to our community calendar for events, hackathons, and other ways to meet the Lit team.

Have an idea for a project or currently building? Take a look at our Ecosystem RFPs and apply for a grant.