Hard asset cage match: Bitcoin vs Gold - Personal Liberty®

Ethereum's advantages for Bitcoin highlight how Ethereum has won the smart contract market for years to come - at a minimum

If you're new to Ethereum, but in love with Bitcoin, you may be thinking, "well, Ethereum is winning now, but Rootstock is still a contender". This topic come up frequently and has been addressed community members quite well. Because posts get censored elsewhere, and deleted over time, I thought I'd reiterate the points here.
tl;dr Using Ethereum to create bonded side chains has advantage to Bitcoin holders that cannot be obtained by non-currency agnostic chains (such as the proposed chain called Rootstock). Ethereum is better for Bitcoin, and with PoS, is more secure.
Rootstock is currently a proposal to be the path to creating smart contracts with Bitcoin. There is this idea out there called “bitcoin maximalization” in which a some cryptocurrency enthusiasts will only accept Bitcoin as THE blockchain of the future. Well, the challenge with that idea is that, while Bitcoin was the first successful blockchain, it is also slow, expensive, and the least-developed. Bitcoin maximalists believe that will change. They believe that bitcoin will adapt. They think Bitcoin will incorporate more technological innovation and maintain global dominance. Sadly, this belief still holds true for many, despite the clear conflicts between mining, development, and exchanges that have driven the long drawn out block size debate. Bitcoin ability to adapt and incorporate new technology is clearly questionable.
One technological revolution brought on by Ethereum has been the smart contract (programmable automated contracts). Ethereum has had a year long monopoly on this innovation, and the monopoly appear to be maintain for the foreseeable future. Bitcoin maximalists do not like that idea. They feel it is a threat to Bitcoin dominance.
While bitcoin and Ethereum COULD make lovely music together, the idea that Bitcoin could lose its dominant position (by market cap) is likely true. Ethereum has many more use cases. This doesn’t mean Bitcoin will go extinct. As a streamlined, non-bloated, currency, it may still be very useful, but I digress.
What if Bitcoin could simply gain Ethereum’s technological sophistication? Rootstock desires to do just that, well, sort of, and for a piece of the pie. For that reason, it’s often promoted by /Bitcoin (a highly censored bitcoin community similar /btc).
So how will Rootstock plan to achieve this?
First, understand Rootstock is currently vapor. An idea and an implementation can be worlds apart. At the time of this post, there is not a single line of code on Github, while Ethereum has just matured to "Homestead" and is running perfectly. While some describe Rootstock as “open source”, currently, nothing is open. Ethereum development took years to get where it is today, and the open aspect of the development led to Etherum’s current remarkable sophistication and stable platform.
But let’s assume, fairly, that Rootstock does eventually emerge from vapor. Rootstock developers are borrowing some of Ethereum’s technology. Thus, in some sense, some of the work is provided for them thanks to Ethereum. Of course, it is easy to overstate. You can’t just cut and paste Ethereum and have it work. It requires a massive amount of development.
So what will Rootstock look like.
Currently, they have two major version planned:
vovobov (throwaway account) had this nice contribution:
Ethereum as a bonded sidechain of Bitcoin with advantages over Rootstock
What is a sidechain?
According to block stream:
A sidechain is a blockchain that validates data from other blockchains
Ethereum already does that with BTC Relay. So how about pegged assets?
This is an idea for an Ethereum contract that makes Bitcoin-backed tokens without any softfork or trusted Bitcoin multisig managers. Instead, Bitcoin IOU's are created on the Ethereum blockchain and backed by Ether bonds which are governed by Ethereum contracts like BTC Relay or price oracles. The Bitcoin IOUs are backed by Bitcoins held by the escrow managers but if they steal/lose the Bitcoins (or refuse to redeem them) the Bonded Escrow Contract will observe their naughty behaviour and sell their Ether bond to redeem the Bitcoins from someone else!
Rootstock vs Bonded Escrow Contract on Ethereum
There are two methods that Rootstock developers plan to use for issuing Bitcoin IOUs (called "Roots") on their Bitcoin "sidechain". AFAIU the first involves merged mining and a multisig wallet that entrusts a quorum of Bitcoin miners with the entire basket of Bitcoin eggs that were "moved" to the Rootstock chain. The second method requires softforking the Bitcoin blockchain for a two-way peg.
Pseudonymous, distributed, untrusted issuers
Rootstock dev maaku7:
“It's a known trade-off made by any presently deployable implementation of the 2-way peg. It's also something that we were very upfront about in the sidechains paper, and part of the reason why many of us are so concerned about decentralization of bitcoin mining.
In any non-SNARK, non-extension-block version of the 2-way peg a bitcoin node does not perform full validation of the sidechain as part of the consensus rules. Therefore it is perfectly possible (by design) for a threshold majority of the miners / signers to steal the coins in the peg pool, and censor any attempt to stop them. Why by design? Because that's the promise of sidechains: performant permissionless innovation at the cost of SPV trust in the honest majority of signers / miners.
Sidechains we are working on (e.g. Alpha, Liquid) and Rootstock, by the looks of it, make use of a fixed set of signers instead of or in addition to reliance on >50% honest hashpower. This is because while less pure, it is ultimately safer to work with known, contracted entities as functionaries rather than 50% hashpower which at the moment is just a small handful of unaccountable people.
EDIT: Although obviously the ideal end goal is fully decentralized mining, where creating a 50% hashpower cabal requires organizing thousands of people at minimum. In such a case we may be able to consider a pure SPV peg to have a reasonable security model. But we're a long way from there yet...”
says this about sidechain security:
“In any non-SNARK, non-extension-block version of the 2-way peg a bitcoin node does not perform full validation of the sidechain as part of the consensus rules. Therefore it is perfectly possible (by design) for a threshold majority of the miners / signers to steal the coins in the peg pool, and censor any attempt to stop them. Why by design? Because that's the promise of sidechains: performant permissionless innovation at the cost of SPV trust in the honest majority of signers / miners.”
Ether bonds can remove most of the need for this trust and allow pseudonymous, permissionless participation in issuance and escrow management. Without anonymous, untrusted validators, distributed around the world, Bitcoin is looking more and more like Chinese Liberty Reserve or E-gold. …
Bonded sidechains decentralize pegged assets
Even with a Bitcoin softfork, Rootstock has just one Bitcoin IOU with all the Bitcoins sitting like a duck in one "wallet". Since Roots are just one Bitcoin IOU from one issuer, they can't be used to back/bond IOUs the way Ether can. If Rootstock's multisig/SPV wallet is robbed by it's signers/miners or (as they always say) hackers, the value of Roots become "zero" along with any asset or contract using Roots. Ether continues to have value if Bitcoins are stolen. Theft just thins out the herd and makes people more cautious. Ether bonds make issuers mostly responsible for their IOUs with IOU holders assuming some risk if Ether loses too much value to Bitcoin.
Issuing servers and indie issuers
A basic Bonded Escrow Contract is practically complete since BTC Relay does the difficult part. "Bonded Escrow Contract" is completely decentralized and requires no modification to Bitcoin. It would allow anyone to "anonymously" manage Bitcoin escrow wallets or issue Bitcoin IOUs. They only need to obtain Ether for the bond, send it to the Bonded Escrow Contract along with their Bitcoin escrow address and the terms of the IOU they wish to create. Indie issuers don't have to babysit a "server" (that needs to be online all the time) if they create IOU contracts that won't have harsh penalties if they take some time to redeem the tokens. IOU buyers who want faster redemption can buy IOU's from issuing servers. Issuers are free to choose alternatives to SPV such as prediction markets, to verify Bitcoin transactions.
Bonded Escrow Contract options
Here are some options that the Bonded Escrow Contract could make available: * Designate how much Bitcoin the IOU tokens are to be worth and how much Ether will back them. This may be a fixed rate or it may be based on other Ethereum price oracle contracts. If a price oracle is used the issuer may have to add Ether to prevent the IOU from going into default if the Ether price goes down relative to Bitcoin. * Set exchange or rental rates for the Bitcoin IOUs. These rates may be in Ether and/or Bitcoin and could be based on oracle/derivatives contracts.
When IOUs aren't redeemed (right away)
What happens if the IOU's are sent back to the issuer but the Bitcoins aren't released right away?
In more recent news:
Rootstock devs (RSK) clarified that instead of creating a token, like Ether, which is sold to the public to fund initial development. With Rootstock, “every time a person or a corporation runs a smart contract on RSK, 80% of the fuel paid goes to the miners and the remaining 20% to RSK Labs, so we can continue the development of the open source platform”.
In other words, Rootstock is a sidechain business venture centrally controlled by RSK. Unlike Ethereum, it is NOT a public resource. This does not foster independent, open source, development, such as what we are seeing with ventures like Ethcore and Consensys and well, the many many other Ethereum developers well deserving of attention. If you’re planning to build on Rootstock, RSK labs get a cut of your expenses. Enjoy having a new boss. That doesn’t exist with Ethereum!!! The Ethereum Foundation started the enterprise, but Ethereum development is already much bigger than a single foundation.
sjalq also makes these fair comments:
Add to this is that Ethereum's PoS will be far more scalable, with Casper development reaching high levels of sophistication.
Basically, unless you absolutely refuse to hold anything but Bitcoin, there is no reason to ever use what's proposed for Rootstock. It's less capable, less secure, less scalable, more centralized, and will be two years behind Ethereum's remarkable network effect (at a minimum). Ethereum's monopoly is going no where for the foreseeable future.
Update: March 18th 2016
What About Counterparty?
  • In most repects, Counterparty's model has the exact same issues as Rootstock's outlined above, so it's the same problems as that described above. Unlike Rootstock, there will be an altcoin, but instead of currency agnostics, it's connected only to bitcoin.
  • Counterparty is also greatly limited by bitcoin's slow blocktime.
  • Detail discussion here.. Basically, Counterparty's model is a model that the Ethereum founders abandoned because it is a technologically poor decision.
  • More perspective from Ethereum dev Alex van de Sande.
    • "many ex-xcp developers who are migrating to Ethereum due to ease of development and better tools. [such as Bitnation] ... Also I don't understand the advantage of counterparty 'using Bitcoin': they also have their own token and their own Blockchain, what is gained by having a ten minute block time?"
    • "The 'there's only one Blockchain' crowd is what we call 'Bitcoin maximalism'. I think this is more a political position than a pragmatic one: Ethereum Blockchain is secure and created from the ground up for contracts. Counterparty is hack trying to put them into a Blockchain that wasn't made for it and doesn't seem to want contracts. I do wish them the best, I just never saw their software stack."
    • "... they claimed they had cloned us and then the next day Vitalik answered that he had implemented counterparty in X lines of codes in ethereum."
  • VB response to "What Ethereum can do that Counterparty cannot"
    1. <15s block time
    2. Light client support
    3. Lack of exposure to Bitcoin development politics (personally, I think this point alone is enough to outweigh whatever 8x difference in dollars wasted per hour on PoW the maximalists like to wave around, and was the original reason for not making ethereum itself a bitcoin-based metacoin)
    4. Lack of exposure to the possibility of Paul Sztorc convincing bitcoin miners that XCP decreases the value of BTC and so should be censored by miners.
    5. Lack of artificially low block size limit
    6. Has a coherent long-term scalability roadmap
    7. Just to throw a bitcoin maximalist argument right back at them, ETH has way better liquidity than XCP so there's less overhead in acquiring the token to pay fees (alongside other network effects like developer tools, user community, etc)
    8. We have DELEGATECALL implemented, they as I understand don't
  • VB does give Counterparty one benefit
    "That said, counterparty is more closely linked to the bitcoin blockchain, so it's easier to make crowdsales that accept bitcoin directly; that's the primary point in favor of a bitcoin blockchain-based metacoin. Though now btcrelay makes up for quite a bit of that difference."
What About Lisk?
It's basically trying to be Ethereum, but using javascript (rather than Ethereum's clients which make a hell of a lot more sense, such as Go, C++, Python, Rust, Java, Ruby, .net). A Javascript Ethereum is a terrible idea, and even if it wasn't, why devote a whole new blockchain to it. Seems pointless, leading to some to suggest this may be an elaborate scam. I doubt it's a scam, but it does seem poorly thought out.
Ethereum's Solidity is VERY close to Javascript, but MUCH better for smart contracts.
As noted by Itsaconspiracy and Nevermindthequestion :
  • The javascript is sandboxed but unrestricted. They have half a dozen rules you're supposed to follow in contracts, to avoid breaking consensus. Nothing's stopping you from putting a call to math.random() in your contract and then nobody gets the same results. Every contract runs in its own sidechain so at least you're not breaking global consensus, but contracts can call each other so it's not totally isolates easier for bugs to sneak in. For example, if someone passes the string "1" into a parameter where you're expectd either.
  • Javascript numbers are all floating-point, so you can get rounding errors in your contracts. (It's possible that they provide a bignum library, but I don't think so, their rules for contract writers don't say "please use our bignum library.")
  • Javascript has weak dynamic typing, so it'ing a number, and you haven't written explicit code to convert it to a number, then you can end up with the wrong answer. ("1" + 2) / 3 = 4 in Javascript. (Try it yourself online).
  • Not to mention that the LISK contracts will be stored in plaintext, which means they'll be vastly more expensive to publish.
OK, so Bitcoin focused smart contracts and LISK are bad ideas, but sometimes bad ideas win, after all, bla bla "network effect"
Ethereum already has its own network effect within the smart contract space. Bitcoin is far behind. There really is no mechanism to catch up. At this time, there appears to be just as much fresh money going into Ethereum development as Bitcoin, if not more (200+ project and counting) and over a billion dollars in investments estimated this year by Vinay Gupta. Bitcoin is certainly used as a currency in more places, but its use as a currency is still pretty much a joke. An Ethereum credit card would make this "currency network effect" absolutely pointless. What people don't seem to get it that Bitcoin's market cap is larger as an artifact of it being around longer, but soon, that will change. The amount of new investment in Ethereum, the number of devs deeply involved in Ethereum projects, has already made Bitcoin's history irrelevant. It seems very obvious to me. In my opinion, it really is over already. Ethereum has already won its place as the primary public blockchain. It's just a matter of time before people realize it. And some very clever investors, already have.
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