March 27, 2024
Bitcoin Enthusiast Releases BitVM Paper, Introducing Ethereum-Like Contracts to Bitcoin
Bitcoin News

Bitcoin Enthusiast Releases BitVM Paper, Introducing Ethereum-Like Contracts to Bitcoin

A Bitcoin developer has introduced a novel approach to introduce more versatile off-chain smart contracts to Bitcoin without the need for a soft fork. In an October 9th white paper titled “BitVM: Compute Anything on Bitcoin,” ZeroSync’s project lead, Robin Linus, unveiled BitVM, a system that allows Turing-complete Bitcoin contracts without altering Bitcoin’s consensus rules. In a Turing Complete system, it is theoretically possible to solve any computational problem.

With BitVM, the execution of Bitcoin contract logic would occur off-chain, but verification would take place on the Bitcoin network, much like Ethereum’s optimistic rollups.

BitVM’s architectural foundation relies on fraud proofs and a challenge-response model, wherein a “prover” can assert claims, and a “verifier” can execute a fraud proof to penalize the prover in case of false claims.

Linus pointed out that Bitcoin, in its current state, is restricted to basic operations like signatures, timelocks, and hashlocks. However, BitVM has the potential to expand these capabilities, allowing for a wide range of applications. Linus explained:

“Potential applications include games like Chess, Go, or Poker, and particularly, verification of validity proofs in Bitcoin contracts.”

He also mentioned the possibility of bridging Bitcoin to other blockchains, creating prediction markets, or emulating novel opcodes. However, Linus acknowledged a limitation of the model: it only functions in a two-party setting with a prover and a verifier, and it requires a significant amount of off-chain computation and communication to execute programs.

Linus stated that the next “milestone” is the full implementation of BitVM, along with Tree++—a high-level programming language for writing and debugging Bitcoin contracts. BitVM relies on the Taproot soft fork, which was activated in November 2021.

Linus credited Ethereum’s research into optimistic rollups and a study on Merkle Trees as contributing factors to the development outlined in the eight-page white paper.

In response to BitVM, prominent Bitcoiner Eric Wall cautiously expressed excitement about the concepts presented in the white paper and looked forward to real-world experiments stemming from it. Bitcoin analyst Dylan LeClair also expressed admiration for the BitVM white paper.

However, Adam Back, a Bitcoin Core contributor, cautioned against excessive excitement about the development. Nevertheless, there is already a proof-of-concept available on GitHub.

Addressing concerns from Bitcoin maximalists, user Sam Parker emphasized that BitVM is an opt-in feature and won’t compel Bitcoin to be “locked” into these contracts. He noted that one of the strengths of the UTXO system is its security sandboxing. Others, like user “psage,” believe that BitVM will be among the factors driving Bitcoin’s price upward in the next bull market.

Image by partystock on Freepik

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