The individual behind the whitepaper, Robin Linus, has designed the architecture of BitVM by drawing inspiration from Ethereum’s optimistic rollups, incorporating fraud proofs and recent advancements in Merkle tree technology.
A Bitcoin developer has introduced a novel approach to introduce more expressive off-chain smart contracts to the Bitcoin network without requiring a soft fork.
Unveiled in an October 9th whitepaper titled “BitVM: Enabling Computation on Bitcoin” by ZeroSync’s project lead, Robin Linus, BitVM empowers Turing complete Bitcoin contracts without the need to modify Bitcoin’s underlying consensus rules.
A Turing Complete system has the capacity to theoretically solve any computational problem.
BitVM operates by executing the “logic” of Bitcoin contracts off-chain, while verification remains on the Bitcoin blockchain—akin to Ethereum’s optimistic rollups.
BitVM’s architecture relies on fraud proofs and employs a challenge-response model, where a “prover” can assert claims, and a “verifier” can employ fraud-proof techniques to penalize the prover when false claims are made.
Linus pointed out that Bitcoin, in its current state, is confined to basic operations like signatures, timelocks, and hashlocks. However, BitVM has the potential to expand these capabilities, allowing for various applications.
“Possible applications encompass games such as Chess, Go, or Poker, and notably, the validation of proofs of authenticity within Bitcoin contracts.”
“Additionally, it might be plausible to bridge Bitcoin to external blockchains, establish a prediction market, or simulate innovative opcodes,” Linus added.
Linus acknowledged a limitation of the model, which is its constraint to a two-party setup consisting of a prover and a verifier. Moreover, a considerable amount of off-chain computation and communication is required to execute programs.
Linus emphasized that the next “milestone” is the complete implementation of BitVM, alongside Tree++—a high-level programming language tailored for composing and debugging Bitcoin contracts.
BitVM leverages the capabilities introduced by the Taproot soft fork, which was activated in November 2021.
Linus acknowledged the contributions of Ethereum’s research into optimistic rollups and a study on Merkle Trees in the creation of the eight-page whitepaper.
Bitcoin Community’s Reaction to BitVM:
Notable Bitcoin enthusiast Eric Wall expressed his approval of the concepts outlined in the BitVM whitepaper, describing it as promising and expressing cautious excitement about potential real-world experiments stemming from it.
Bitcoin analyst Dylan LeClair also found the BitVM whitepaper impressive. However, Adam Back, a Bitcoin Core contributor, advised caution and suggested that enthusiasm should be tempered.
In the blockchain industry, one developer known as “dotta” highlighted the existence of a proof-of-concept on GitHub.
Another user, Sam Parker, addressed a common concern among Bitcoin proponents by explaining that BitVM does not impose any obligation for Bitcoin to be “locked” into these Turing complete contracts.
“Lastly, it’s important to note that participation is optional. If you are not comfortable with your coins being locked into a Turing complete contract (which is entirely reasonable), you can choose not to engage with Turing complete smart contracts. One of the strengths of the UTXO system is its security through sandboxing.”
Others, including “psage,” believe that BitVM contributes to the list of factors that will drive Bitcoin’s price forward in the next bullish market.