Blockstream recently released a whitepaper on “strong federations,” which is essentially their vision of a federated two-way peg system. Liquid is a sidechain created by Blockstream that uses the strong federations model. The sidechain is used to transfer bitcoins between centralized bitcoin institutions, such as exchanges, at a faster pace than the public Bitcoin blockchain.
A public blockchain is a platform where anyone on the platform would be able to read or write to the platform, provided they are able to show the proof of work for the same. There has been a lot of activity in this space as the number of potential users that any technology in this space could generate is high. Also, a public blockchain is considered to be a fully decentralized blockchain. Some of the examples are:
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.
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.)
Instead, what if the game was played in its own “channel”? Each time a player made a move, the state of the game is signed by each player. After an epic battle where the Protoss player takes out the remaining Zerg forces and forces a gg, the final state of the game (Protoss wins) is sent to a smart contract on the main chain. This neutral smart contract, known as a Judge, waits a while to see if the Zerg player disputes the outcome. If the Zerg player doesn’t, the Protoss player is paid the 1 ETH.
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.