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Blockchain, trust, decentralization, Bitcoin, transparency, anonymity, blockchain, blockchain, blockchain. These words seem to appear randomly on the Web regardless the theme of an article you read. Don’t you know how to implement blockchain in art? There’s definitely someone who can tell you. Do you wonder how banking can benefit from blockchain? No worries, some projects already do it – just search for the use cases.

Elements Alpha functions as a sidechain to Bitcoin’s testnet, though the peg mechanism currently works through a centralized protocol adapter, as described in the Sidechains whitepaper. It relies on an auditable federation of signers to manage the testnet coins transferred into the sidechain via the “Deterministic Pegs” Element, and to produce blocks via the “Signed Blocks” Element. This makes it possible to immediately explore the new chain’s possibilities, using different security trade-offs. They plan to, in a later release, upgrade the protocol adapter to support fully decentralized merge-mining of the sidechain, and ultimately to phase in the full 2-way peg mechanism.
2) Yes – I had to keep things short/simple in this intro article in order to get across the key ideas. But you’re right: the sidechains need to be secured. But how that happens is a matter for the sidechain. If somebody can produce a false “proof” that the locked Bitcoins should be released on the Bitcoin side then that’s a problem for the sidechain, of course (somebody presumably just had their coins stolen!) but it’s irrelevant (at a macro level) on the Bitcoin side.
Sidechain transactions using a two-way peg effectively only allow for intra-chain transactions. A transfer from Bitcoin (parent chain) to Ethereum (sidechain) would allow a user to use the functionality of Ethereum (i.e., fully expressive smart contracts), but the underlying original asset would remain precisely that, Bitcoin. So, a Bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain technically remains a Bitcoin.
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.

@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:
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network.[1][18] This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively.[19] A blockchain database is managed autonomously using a peer-to-peer network and a distributed timestamping server. They are authenticated by mass collaboration powered by collective self-interests.[20] The result is a robust workflow where participants' uncertainty regarding data security is marginal. The use of a blockchain removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset. It confirms that each unit of value was transferred only once, solving the long-standing problem of double spending. Blockchains have been described as a value-exchange protocol.[13] This blockchain-based exchange of value can be completed quicker, safer and cheaper than with traditional systems.[21] A blockchain can assign title rights because, when properly set up to detail the exchange agreement, it provides a record that compels offer and acceptance.
The consensus mechanism involves ascertaining transaction validity and uniqueness. Smart contracts address the validity portion. To ensure uniqueness, the protocol program in Corda checks whether any other transaction has used any of the input states of this transaction. If no other transaction has used any of the input states, that this transaction is unique.
The consortium or company running a private blockchain can easily, if desired, change the rules of a blockchain, revert transactions, modify balances, etc. In some cases, eg. national land registries, this functionality is necessary; there is no way a system would be allowed to exist where Dread Pirate Roberts can have legal ownership rights over a plainly visible piece of land, and so an attempt to create a government-uncontrollable land registry would in practice quickly devolve into one that is not recognized by the government itself. Of course, one can argue that one can do this on a public blockchain by giving the government a backdoor key to a contract; the counter-argument to that is that such an approach is essentially a Rube Goldbergian alternative to the more efficient route of having a private blockchain, although there is in turn a partial counter-argument to that that I will describe later.

Sidechains are blockchains that allow for digital assets from one blockchain to be used securely in a separate blockchain and subsequently returned to the original chain. The term “sidechain” in this case is used for context, in that the paper initially refers to Bitcoin as the “parent chain” and connected blockchains (altcoins) as “sidechains,” but the term is interchangeable so that altcoins interacting with each other can each be a parent chain interacting with sidechains. You may have also heard of “childchains,” which are also sidechains.

A private blockchain network requires an invitation and must be validated by either the network starter or by a set of rules put in place by the network starter. Businesses who set up a private blockchain, will generally set up a permissioned network. This places restrictions on who is allowed to participate in the network, and only in certain transactions. Participants need to obtain an invitation or permission to join. The access control mechanism could vary: existing participants could decide future entrants; a regulatory authority could issue licenses for participation; or a consortium could make the decisions instead. Once an entity has joined the network, it will play a role in maintaining the blockchain in a decentralized manner.