@Tradle. Thanks for elaborating. I’m also thinking about these things – and hear lots of other people talk about them – but I *really* struggle with the concept. It all comes down to the table I drew in this post: https://gendal.me/2014/12/19/a-simple-model-to-make-sense-of-the-proliferation-of-distributed-ledger-smart-contract-and-cryptocurrency-projects/
Consider a proof-of-existence application, where you want to authenticate your document in the Ethereum (for example) network, but you do not need your document to be online. So, you will store the hash generated from your document in the blockchain, but the document itself will be in your local machine, out of any blockchain-related structured, being off-chain.
However, the Lightning Network would, again, require a change to the existing Bitcoin protocol. (Though again it would be a “soft fork,” i.e. the existing blockchain would remain fully valid.) And/or — you guessed it — a Lightning sidechain. What’s more, one of the changes it requires, the elimination of transaction malleability, is handled by the Segregated Witness work in Sidechain Elements. (correction: all of of the changes required are incorporated into Elements Alpha — it’s Lightning-ready out of the box.)
The paper outlines some critical developments and associated problems that were both currently trending and forward-thinking at the time, many of them still very much relevant today. At the time, altcoins were quickly gaining prominence and the problems associated with their volatility, security, and lack of interoperability with Bitcoin raised concerns. The paper primarily addressed 6 issues that pegged sidechains aimed to provide a solution:
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.
The sidechains vision of the future is of a vast globe-spanning decentralized network of many blockchains, an intertwined cable rather than a single strand, each with its own protocol, rules, and features — but all of them backed by Bitcoin, and protected by the Bitcoin mining network, as the US dollar was once backed by gold. Sidechains can also be used to prototype changes to the fundamental Bitcoin blockchain. One catch, though: this will require a small tweak to the existing Bitcoin protocol.
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