Instant Payments: Since the creation of Bitcoin there has been a race for faster transaction confirmations. Instant payments allow new use cases, such as retail store payments, and transactions in online games. RSK carefully chosen parameters and new theoretical protocols (such as DECOR+GHOST) allow creating blocks at 10 seconds average interval, with low stale block rate, and no additional centralization incentives.
Sidechains are responsible for their own security. If there isn’t enough mining power to secure a sidechain, it could be hacked. Since each sidechain is independent, if it is hacked or compromised, the damage will be contained within that chain and won’t affect the main chain. Conversely, should the main chain become compromised, the sidechain can still operate, but the peg will lose most of its value.
“Given all of this, it may seem like private blockchains are unquestionably a better choice for institutions. However, even in an institutional context, public blockchains still have a lot of value, and, in fact, this value lies to a substantial degree in the philosophical virtues that advocates of public blockchains have been promoting all along, among the chief of which are freedom, neutrality and openness.” 
“Such a move could allow retailers to lower prices and incentivize consumers to shop at one retailer over a competitor,” Cohen noted. “This idea is not as ludicrous as it might seem. Amazon recently registered three cryptocurrency-related domain names, suggesting a potential move into the cryptocurrency space. If large companies like Amazon, Walmart or Starbucks issued digital coins that inspired public trust, blockchain-based cryptocurrencies might gain acceptance by the public and other retail giants.”
A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records called blocks, these blocks are linked and secured using cryptographic algorithms. Each block typically contains a hash (a link to a previous block), a timestamp as well as transaction data. Full nodes validate all the transactions, but are unable to settle the disagreements in regards to the order in which they were received. To prevent double-spending, the entire network needs to reach global consensus on the transaction order. It achieves this by using centralised parties or a decentralised proof of work or proof of stake algorithm (and its derivatives).
The Blockstream Satellite network broadcasts the Bitcoin blockchain to the entire planet. The satellite network provides an opportunity for nearly 4 billion people without Internet access to utilize bitcoin while simultaneously ensuring bitcoin use is not interrupted due to network interruption. Utilizing the latest open source Software Defined Radio (SDR) technologies, the Blockstream Satellite network offers a breakthrough in the cost effectiveness of satellite communications.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies currently secure their blockchain by requiring new entries to include a proof of work. To prolong the blockchain, bitcoin uses Hashcash puzzles. While Hashcash was designed in 1997 by Adam Back, the original idea was first proposed by Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor and Eli Ponyatovski in their 1992 paper "Pricing via Processing or Combatting Junk Mail".
Since extension blocks can be implemented via soft forks, the features of the extension blocks are essentially opt-in for users. Even in the case of extension blocks with a larger block size limit, users are not forced to upgrade and validate or propagate blocks that are much larger in size. Those who wish to enjoy the level of decentralization offered by 1MB blocks can continue to do so, while those who would like to experiment with much larger block size limits can do so on an opt-in basis.
Bitcoin’s block interval is ten minutes so it takes about five ten minutes on average for a new transaction to find its way into a block, even if it pays a high fee. This is too slow for some people so they have experimented with alternative cryptocurrencies, based on the Bitcoin code-base, which employ quicker block intervals   [UPDATED 2014-10-27 to correct my embarrassing misunderstanding of mathematics…]
That is however not all. Sidechains also have some specific use cases, unique to a certain blockchain. One example is the usage of sidechains in EOS. EOS is currently facing a RAM problem. RAM is too expensive and developers are complaining. Sidechains could compete with the EOS mainchain by having lower RAM prices, this would lead to competition, incentivizing both the EOS mainchain block producers and sidechain block producers (mainchain and sidechains of EOS are maintained by the same group of block producers) to keep the RAM price as low as possible. This also means there is more RAM available, so the RAM price will go down as a result.
Blockstream is collaborating with industry leaders to create a Bitcoin micropayment system that supports high volumes of instant tiny payments using proportional transaction fees and that operates at the speed of light. We are now developing Bitcoin Lightning prototypes and creating consensus on interoperability. Our c-lightning implementation is the go-to code and specification for enterprise Lightning Network deployments on Bitcoin, and is what powers our easy-to-use Lightning Charge HTTP Rest API.
Are there any legitimate uses for it? Possibly, if you have an institution that can’t establish legal relationship between them. I am not sure where can we find this use case in the wild; most corporations and institutions usually thrive on the legal documents they have signed in order to keep each other from lying/hiding/deleting/changing data. Since each institution can keep the local copy of all transactions within their own database, the question becomes a matter of dispute resolution, as opposed to a lack of trust.
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The creation of sidechains have been a direct result of scalability issues associated with the main blockchain for projects such as Ethereum. Making sidechains increasingly popular way to speed up transactions. Lisk was the first decentralized application (dapp) to implement sidechains. With Lisk, each dapp created exists on its own sidechain without interfering with the mainchain.
Aelf uses a consensus algorithm called DPoS (Delegated Proof of Stake) that takes the best of both cooperative and competitive consensus algorithms. DPoS uses votes from stakeholders to achieve consensus. The competitive part is larger stakeholders having an influence on their delegate of choice. The delegates that have the most votes will take their turn to produce a block cooperatively in a sequence. DPoS makes transactions permanent. A rollback isn’t possible so a confirmation can be fast. DPoS is also scalable because anyone can participate in the consensus. Additionally, DPoS is environmentally friendly because electricity isn’t wasted like in Proof of Work.
The term “sidechains” was first described in the paper “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains”, circa 2014 by Adam Back et al. The paper describes “two-way pegged sidechains”, a mechanism where by proving that you had “locked” some coins that were previously in your posession, you were allowed to move some other coins within a sidechain.
A side-chain is a separate block-chain that runs parallel to the main chain, for example the Bitcoin network, and is attached to the main chain through a simple two-way peg, or special 'address'. A user sends coins to this special address and this amount is effectively 'locked' out from use on the main chain and available on the side chain. This currency is released back to the main chain once its been proven that the side chain is no longer using it.
Setting up an environment to test and research blockchain requires an ecosystem with multiple systems to be able to develop research and test. The big players in the cloud industry like Amazon(AWS), Microsoft(Azure), IBM(BlueMix) have seen the potential benefits of offering blockchain services in the cloud and started providing some level of BaaS to their customers. Users will benefit from not having to face the problem of configuring and setting up a working blockchain. Hardware investments won’t be needed as well. Microsoft has partnered with ConsenSys to offer Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure. IBM(BueMix) has partnered with Hyperledger to offer BaaS to its customers. Amazon announced they would be offering the service in collaboration with the Digital Currency Group. Developers will have a single-click cloud-based blockchain developer environment, that will allow for rapid development of smart contracts.
“Further, contribution is weighted by computational power rather than one threshold signature contribution per party, which allows anonymous membership without risk of a Sybil attack (when one party joins many times and has disproportionate input into the signature). For this reason, the DMMS has also been described as a solution to the Byzantine Generals Problem[AJK05].”
The Bitcoin White Paper was published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008; the first Bitcoin block got mined in 2009. Since the Bitcoin protocol is open source, anyone could take the protocol, fork it (modify the code), and start their own version of P2P money. Many so-called altcoins emerged and tried to be a better, faster or more anonymous than Bitcoin. Soon the code was not only altered to create better cryptocurrencies, but some projects also tried to alter the idea of blockchain beyond the use case of P2P money.
In order to spend them, you have to prove you’re entitled to do so. And you do that by providing the solution to a challenge that was laid down when they were sent to you in the first place. This challenge is usually just: “prove to the world that you know the public key that corresponds to a particular Bitcoin address and are in possession of the corresponding private key”. But it can be more sophisticated than that.
Side chains have two main advantages. Their first advantage they have is that they are permanent. You do not have to create a new sidechain every time you need to use one. Once a side chain is built, it is maintained and can be used by anyone doing a specified task off the main chain. The other advantage of sidechains is that they allow interaction between different cryptocurrencies. Developers get the opportunity to test software upgrades as well as beta coin releases before they are released on the main chain.
Confidential Transactions — At present, all Bitcoin transactions are completely public, albeit pseudonymous. Confidential Transactions, as the name implies, conceal the amount being transferred to all except the sender, the recipient, and others they designate. The resulting transaction size is significantly larger, but includes a sizable “memo” field that can be used to store transaction or other metadata, and is still smaller than eg Zerocoin.(Note that this isn’t as confidential as Zerocash, which conceals both the amount and the participants involved in any transaction, through the mighty near-magic of zk-Snarks. Mind you, Zerocash would require an esoteric invocation ritual to initiate its network. No, really. But that’s a subject for a separate post.)
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By contrast, the Bitcoin blockchain is not Turing complete since it has little to no ability for data manipulation. It has no ability for a user to deploy if else or goto statements. This is a bit of a simplification but anytime you hear someone say something is “Turing complete” you can do a quick check to see if there is functionality for data changes, memory changes and if/else statements. If there is, that’s usually what they mean.
Imagine there is a Bitcoin-like system out there that you’d like to use. Perhaps it’s litecoin or ethereum or perhaps it’s something brand new.   Maybe it has a faster block confirmation interval and a richer scripting language. It doesn’t matter.   The point is: you’d like to use it but would rather not have to go through the risk and effort of buying the native tokens for that platform. You have Bitcoins already. Why can’t you use them?
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If you’ve been keeping track of developments in the bitcoin industry, you’d know that the blockchain refers to the public ledger of transactions associated with the cryptocurrency. As the bitcoin ecosystem has grown in size and scale throughout the years, the blockchain has also increased considerably in length and storage size, prompting debates on whether or not to increase its block size limit.
Sidechains as an idea have existed and had been floating around for quite some time now, the bases is to extend the decentralization of trust into other sectors and to other digital assets. However, while this all sounds great it's a perfect example of good in theory but not so much in practice. Nevertheless, this hasn't stopped people from trying with groups such as Blockstream exploring the idea and our friends over at Rootstock co-creating a Sidechain which is allowing Litecoin and Bitcoin to execute smart contracts and all without changing the core software of the original currency.
Blockchain-based smart contracts are proposed contracts that could be partially or fully executed or enforced without human interaction.[55] One of the main objectives of a smart contract is automated escrow. An IMF staff discussion reported that smart contracts based on blockchain technology might reduce moral hazards and optimize the use of contracts in general. But "no viable smart contract systems have yet emerged." Due to the lack of widespread use their legal status is unclear.[56]
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