Smart Contracts On Bitcoin: The Rootstock Initiative

By Steven Gleiser
Published Jan 18, 2017 and Updated Jan 15th, 2022
Smart Contracts On Bitcoin: The Rootstock Initiative

Rootstock – or RKS – has been experimenting with a side-chain initiative since May 2016 to bring bitcoin into the realm of smart contracts. Based out of Argentina, this experiment gained a lot of steam and it is about to enter its production phase. If successful, the Rootstock initiative could take bitcoin to the next level without going through the tedious political process of getting the community to approve an upgrade. This is not only great news for the network, but a welcome development in which members of the community can choose to take the risk of participating, without risking the core bitcoin construct.

Rootstock can enhance Bitcoin many times over

Many bitcoin users would like to see a well-structured system that could add smart contract technology to the network. Rootstock is doing this by learning from the mistakes that Ethereum, the DAO and its investors made. The RSK smart contract proposal, takes into account human weaknesses and assumes that smart contracts are themselves largely experimental. To overcome these challenges, RSK has decided to partner up with security experts from around the globe to encourage security audits on its system. Additionally, RSK is taking a “defense-in-depth paradigm” approach to its side-chain, placing more safe-guards on it than Ethereum.

Rootstock smart contracts may enjoy a much more rigorous approach than their Ethereum counterparts, but the side-chain also provides some other added benefits which will make it even more attractive to the Bitcoin community. The RSK side-chain provides the possibility of increasing transaction volume and speed, without altering the existing bitcoin blockchain. To do this the creators of Rootstock adopted a merge-mining mechanism. This means that miners will be able to conduct their mining activities on the bitcoin network and with the same equipment they will be able to mine on Rootstock.

Rootstock at a glance

In the simplest terms, Rootstock has the potential to eliminate the whole bitcoin block size issue, apart from enabling bitcoin-backed smart contracts. Since it is sort of a bitcoin ‘add-on’, any Bitcoin user or miner can choose to use it or stay away from it. This means that if it fails, there will be no direct implications for the Bitcoin network.

This is what the RSK project seeks to achieve:

  • Securing smart contracts through an opt-in, merge-mining mechanism for the already robust network of bitcoin miners.
  • Miners who engage in the RSK smart contract side-chain will be rewarded, although mining on the Rootstock side-chain will not yield tokens of its own.
  • The Rootstock side-chain will also increase transaction speed and volume, by allowing for the creation of 1 new block every 10 seconds, with no incentives for centralization.
  • RSK is built to allow 100 transactions per second, putting the transaction volume it can handle at the same level with that of PayPal.

If Rootstock is widely adopted…

There is no doubt that this project has the potential to invigorate the Bitcoin community in many ways. Apart from side stepping the political minefields of the community by creating an opt-in project, Rootstock is conducting rigorous tests and covering all its bases in order to avoid DAO-like debacles. It seems that the RSK project will be able to take bitcoin into the realm of smart contracts while making bitcoin transactions faster and more robust. Its success will also serve as an example of how diversified blockchain development has become, by putting Argentina on the map.

Click here to learn more about the Rootstock project.