The distributed Bitcoin mining network performs quadrillions of calculations every second that maintain the integrity of its blockchain. Other blockchains aren’t remotely as secure, but they innovate much faster. Sidechains, an innovation proposed and developed by the startup Blockstream, allow for the best of both worlds; the creation of new blockchains “pegged” to Bitcoin, so that value can be transferred between them, which can conceivably be automatically secured by Bitcoin miners via “merged mining.”
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.
2. I have not had a chance to read the original article on side chains, but I am sure they deal with my next problem quite adequately. However it is not addressed in the above article. The primary problem that must be addressed with the notion of side chains, as I see it, would be the issue of the mining required to authenticate transactions and enter them into the block chain. The article mentions that side chain system more or less leaves the issue of verification within the side chain transactions as something of a black box, somewhat implying that they don’t have to be considered. But for any user, they would need to be both considered and understood. Such a process would presumably require mining verification of some kind, (our mental model must include consideration of the somewhat unusual verification method for bitcoin transactions themselves, – as everyone would agree, the verification process is not just a “checklist” of valid transaction strings. The validation process requires mining in much the same sense as mining new coin. None of this is mentioned or discussed in the article. ) As a result, the verification of side chain transactions outside the block chain introduces whole new layers of risk into the Bitcoin model, and new layers of unknowns.
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Sidechains with specific purposes could be formed with specific features while still enjoying the widespread adoption and value that Bitcoin holds. Most importantly it can add these features without consensus from the Bitcoin community. Sidechains have the potential to replace many Cryptocurrencies as it allows features that were previously unique to these currencies to be available on Bitcoin. It also allows developers to experiment with sidechains and scope its full potential while still keeping coins linked to Bitcoin.
Blockchains that are private or permissioned work similarly to public blockchains but with access controls that restrict those that can join the network, meaning it operates like a centralised database system of today that limits access to certain users. Private Blockchains have one or multiple entities that control the network, leading to the reliance on third-parties to transact. A well-known example would be Hyperledger.
Decentralization and distribution are seen by many to be a major benefit of public blockchains, but not everybody shares this ethos. But this is not the only benefit of public blockchains, of course. Perhaps most importantly, their transparency makes them very secure: because they can be audited by anybody, it is easy to detect fraud on the chain. Security-via-openness is a principle well known in the open source world, and this strategy is also popular among some in the digital currency community. For example, all of the tools and content produced by the Ethereum team is open source. This helps to make Ethereum widely accessible and more secure.
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