Katerina Stroponiati


Building economies on top of bitcoin: Rootstock (RSK) explained

Art by João Fazenda

The Bitcoin community, especially those who are around before 2014, know a thing or two about Rootstock and what they are working on. For those who don’t know, Rootstock (RSK for short) is enabling smart contract development and execution on top of Bitcoin. You can have all the goodness of Ethereum (and rest) platforms on the most secure blockchain, Bitcoin.

Smart contracts on bitcoin

RSK is a Turing-complete smart contract platform (just like Ethereum) that is connected to the Bitcoin blockchain through sidechain technology. It provides faster transactions and better scalability features, which we believe will also enable new usage scenarios.

The purpose of this article though is not to explain how exactly the smart bitcoin (RSK coins) works but rather to present something a few people know.

AWS infrastructure for the blockchain

The team at RSK is working on something bigger than smart contracts. They are working on an infrastructure framework that is built on top of RSK smart contracts and enables AWS-like services to be built and used from the development community, using a single token, the RIF token (Rootstock Infrastructure Framework). The network itself is called RIFOS.

Why this matters?

Because no developer wants to build (or figure out what to use for) their own compute engine, a storage layer, naming service every time they are thinking to develop an app. This is the reality of the Dapp development community right now and one of the key reasons we have not seen any dApps delivering on their promises. With RIFOS, developers focus on developing the apps and not figuring out things that — on the centralized world — have been solved decades ago.

Just ask any developer the effect that AWS or Google Cloud had on their business. 90% of the apps we use every day on our smartphones and web browsers, run on these services. And for a good reason: They take the headache of deploying and maintaining every little component an app will use from the developer and allow them to focus on the product they are building.

This is what RIFOS provides to the blockchain dev community.

The RIFOS is game changing for the whole blockchain ecosystem for many reasons. Developers will be able to deploy applications on top of BTC, consuming ready-made services for data storage, name resolution, oracles and payments (using their home-built Lighting network called the Lumino Payments Protocol).

The main characteristics of RIFOS

  • Most of these decentralized infrastructure services will be consumed utilizing a single token (RIF).
  • The development stack will be open to anyone who wants to become a provider of these services.
  • All these components might run smoothly and integrated on top of the RSK Smart Protocol while protected by the security of the Bitcoin Network.
  • The smart contract engine will be ethereum-compatible (i.e. you can bring your app to RIFOS with minimum migration work).

In plain words, RIFOS is enabling developers to build Services (like EC2 or a DB or a DNS system) and then provide them to DApp developers that can use them to speed up their development time and reduce their costs.

One token to handle everything

The consumption of the services will be paid using the RIF token. This is a huge step forward since developers won’t need to hold 10 different tokens and do the logistics for every service they use.

For example, a typical AI Dapp would use an AI computing engine (let’s say Hadron.cloud), a decentralized database (let’s say Bluzelle), a decentralized index (The graph) and a storage layer (IPFS). The developer would need to hold every single token of these services and pay them accordingly.

On RIFOS they can still use them and just pay them with RIF. All of them will run on top of the BTC blockchain that secures the network with the largest community of PoW miners, the bitcoin miners.

Merge-mining with bitcoin miners

RSK does not mint, nor has pre-mined coins. Instead, it rewards the existing or new Bitcoin miners via merge-mining if they participate in the RSK network. In this way, the network can achieve the same security as Bitcoin (double-spend prevention and settlement finality).

The RIF Token is used to consume all the RIFOS services built on top of (off- chain) the RSK Smart Protocol (in the graph shown below, these services are depicted in grey text within the dark blue boxes which represent service protocols).

Here is how the whole infrastructure is layered out:

In their own words (from the whitepaper of RIFOS that was only distributed to a handful of people):

“In summary, we aim to create an open standard infrastructure framework, which consists of a set of protocols together with corresponding API documentation enabling third-party developers to utilize such interfaces and introduce new components into the RIFOS ecosystem. This open standard framework will contain an initial working infrastructure service (i.e. the Naming Service / Directory Service referred to above) that will represent a proof-of-concept for how the protocol should work.”

Please note all opinions in this post are my own and only mentions the brief of our due diligence. Nothing in this post is intended to serve as investment advice.

Disclosure: Monday Capital is an early investor in RSK.

For more updates, you can follow me on twitter @katerinastro

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