Smart Contracts Coming To Bitcoin?

October 12, 2023 1:20 pm Comments

A new white paper titled: “BitVM: Compute Anything on Bitcoin” has proposed a radical, new solution to build more advanced smart contracts on top of the Bitcoin network.

The paper argues that two users or entities can enter into a smart contract together and calculate any computation by handling most of the processing work off-chain.

BitVM is similar to the Bitcoin Lightning Network and rollups, though the tech and capabilities are different.

Currently, a limitation of BitVM is that it is limited to two-party transactions and requires some trust in centralized, third parties to function properly.

However, Robin Linus, the author of the BitVM proposal paper, claims that the tech is ready to use on the Bitcoin network today with no soft forks or additional infrastructure needed.

Bitcoin News asked: “These more expressive smart contracts enable functionality that was previously believed to require a soft fork. Is this an altcoin killer?”

Bitcoin Illustrated provided this helpful graphic breaking down how BitVM works and why this could potentially be a huge deal for the world’s leading decentralized network.

According to Decrypt:

Without getting too far into the weeds, BitVM introduces a way to execute smart contracts “off-chain” so all these computations don’t clog up Bitcoin’s limited space. On Bitcoin’s base layer, it can only handle roughly a maximum of four MB of data a minute. That’s not a lot.

CoinDesk Chief Content Officer Michael J. Casey had this to say: “This is why I remain excited about this industry. Winter or not, It never stops innovating. Turing complete Bitcoin smart contracts from Robin Linus of Zero Sync. Things getting interesting.”

Robin Linus, the author of the BitVM paper, explained: “Here’s a first sketch of a solution for the “1 prover vs n verifiers” case of running a BitVM. The multi-party setting enables much more interesting use cases. Still, it’s not quite a trustless bridge for BTC on sidechains.”

CoinDesk further elaborated:

The protocol involves two parties: a “prover” and a “verifier”. The prover makes a claim of a specific function producing a particular output when given certain inputs.

They pre-sign a sequence of transaction, enabling a challenge-response game between the two of them.

In theory, there should be no limits on the complexity of the computations as they are carried out off-chain, so there is no risk of clogging up the network at the expense of other users.

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