Sidechains are an extremely important innovation for cryptocurrency. They also extend and incentivize the cryptocurrency mining opportunities and industry.

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Sidechains as an idea have existed and had been floating around for quite some time now, the bases is to extend the decentralization of trust into other sectors and to other digital assets. However, while this all sounds great it’s a perfect example of good in theory but not so much in practice. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped people from trying with groups such as Blockstream exploring the idea and our friends over at Rootstock co-creating a Sidechain which is allowing Litecoin and Bitcoin to execute smart contracts and all without changing the core software of the original currency.

A Sidechain, in simplest terms, is just a separate blockchain but is attached to the parent through the use of a two-way peg which allows for assets to be interchangeable and moved across the chain at a fixed deterministic exchange rate. This two-way peg works by utilizing simple payment verification or SPV as it’s otherwise known. To show and prove ownership of the assets on the parent chain.

Using Rootstock as an example, in order to transfer assets from one chain to the other a user on the parent first has to send their coins to a special output address where they will consequently become locked and un-spendable. Once the transaction is completed, SPV then confirms it across the chains and after waiting out a contest period, which is just a secondary method to help prevent double spending, the equivalent amount will be credited and spendable on the Sidechain and vice versa.

The original Litecoin we started out with are now Rootstock Litecoin, which I can use for creating smart contracts and as previously mentioned Sidechains can exist for all types of digital assets with propositions of not only smart contracts but the ability to provide more freedom for experimentation with Beta releases of core software and Altcoins, as well as the taking over of traditional banking instruments such as the issuing and tracking of shares, bonds and other assets.

Sidechains, just like any other Blockchain, need their own miners to help protect them from nefarious actors and attacks which people would like to leverage against the network. However, since wealth isn’t actually created on the Sidechain there is far less incentive for miners to actually work on it and help protect it. Because of this, transaction fees are the basic reward that is offered to miners. However, these often equate to mere pennies.

So if you want to create a more secure Sidechain, we would seriously need to have a look at incentivizing miners in other ways. These could include things such as the Sidechain raising outside funding from investors in order to pay the miners. Staggering mining award so miners have an incentive to keep mining as they will be paid later on rather than at the time or the Sidechain could issue its own mining award on top of the already existing transaction fees and essentially just become an Altcoin.

However, even this would have its own separate value and wouldn’t necessarily solve any issue especially if a market is deemed to be, well, worthless. The two-way peg isn’t perfect however. Especially since SPV can theoretically be tricked into crediting more coins than were originally deposited. If the attack will then transfer those coins back onto the parent it would take coins from another user on the Sidechain to fund the imbalance. And in the process create a permanent dissilience between the two chains. In order to strengthen the security of a Sidechain beyond just SPV, it would require the parent to soft fork and upgrade its core wallet software so that both chains can then validate transfers between them.

Whilst there are a few big hurdles to jump, Sidechains go a significant way to helping create a connected financial digital ecosystem. And even now its uses are just predominantly speculation. So who knows what the future holds and what other innovations this technology will bring.

A big thanks to Diego Salvador for helping me write this episode. Him and the rest of the team over at Rootstock are doing fantastic work with cryptocurrency and Sidechains. We wish them all the best. I’ll be sure to leave a link to their website in the top of the description so you can go check it out and learn more if you wish. And as always, be sure to subscribe and I will see you next time.