Key Takeaways:

  • Who introduced BitVM, and what does it entail?
  • The project’s theory and practice are not yet in sync.
  • The crypto community is divided over the implications.
What is BitVM and Why It’s Trending in Crypto World

YEREVAN ( — BitVM is a computing paradigm to express Turing-complete Bitcoin contracts, i.e., in principle (not necessarily in practice), it could be used to solve any computation problem.

Simply put, BitVM aims to introduce smart contract capabilities to the Bitcoin blockchain.

Robin Linus, head of the blockchain developing firm ZeroSync, released the whitepaper on Oct 9, sparking a heated debate in public forums about the project’s utility. However, before referring to the discussion, here is an overview of what BitVm is and what changes it hopes to introduce.

Bitcoin Smart Contracts — Theory Vs. Practice

According to the whitepaper, BitVm contracts are similar to optimistic rollups on Ethereum. Rather than executing computations on Bitcoin, the contracts are verified without requiring changes to the network’s consensus roles.

Simply put, BitVM contracts could add functionality without complicating things for other network participants.

Taptree on the Bitcoin blockchain. Source: BitVM whitepaper
Taptree on the Bitcoin blockchain. Source: BitVM whitepaper

A prover makes a claim that a given function evaluates for some particular inputs to some specific output. If that claim is false, then the verifier can perform a succinct fraud-proof and punish the prover. Using this mechanism, any computable function can be verified on Bitcoin.

reads the introduction.

How BitVM contract works

According to the whitepaper, the technology mostly relies on hash locks (cryptographically scrambled versions of public keys), time locks, and large Taproot trees (soft forks on Bitcoin). Linus pointed out that the potential applications now include “games like Chess, Go, or Poker,” particularly verification of validity proofs in Bitcoin contracts.

The protocol is as follows: Firstly, the prover and verifier compile the program into a huge binary circuit, as if communicating through simple yes-or-no questions. Both pre-sign a sequence of transactions, enabling a challenge-response game between the prover and the verifier.

Simply put, if they were playing a chess game, they agree upon the rules beforehand.

After collecting all the required data, the prover and the verifier make their on-chain deposits to the Taproot address. They start the game and make their moves to continue the chess analogy.

This activates the contract, and they can start exchanging off-chain data. The verifier can take their deposit if the prover makes any incorrect claim. “This guarantees attackers always lose their deposits,” explained the whitepaper.

the mechanism required in the case of fraud
The mechanism required in the case of fraud. Source: BitVM whitepaper

It’s important to note that BitVm is still in its infancy and, for now, is mostly intended for two people at a time, as it requires a lot of work done ‘off the record.’

Crypto Community Divided Over Smart Contract Proposal

BitVMs are not the first attempt to introduce smart contract-like capabilities to the Bitcoin blockchain.

However, the responses to Linus’ introduction on varied from “sensational” to “bullsh*t.” Francesco Madonna, the chief executive of Helios Fund, cited veteran venture capital investor Tim Draper, calling Bitcoin the “Microsoft of crypto.”

Bitcoin is the Microsoft of crypto, says Tim Draper, and Francesco Madonna agrees.

Tim Draper was right. Bitcoin is like Microsoft and will scoop up all of the crypto use cases! We were talking about it with Giacomo Zucco just recently. Great great improvement.

said Madonna

@sunnydecree, a crypto analyst with a large following, was also enthusiastic.

Whitepaper enables all Altcoin utilities on Bitcoin! No soft fork required! Officially as of today: Altcoins are 100% unnecessary. Congrats to everyone holding the correct coin: Bitcoin.

he tweeted.

However, not all the followers shared his enthusiasm. “Nah, I’m good. I’ll stick to altcoins on other chains, and so will everyone else,” commented one user. Another one added that if Ethereum is already slow and expensive, Bitcoin has no chance.

BitVMs are far from replacing altcoins, says a @sunnydecree follower

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