One of the most-anticipated bitcoin projects is planning a live network launch later this year.
Revealed in an interview with CoinDesk, startup RSK aims to soon go live with technology that will bring smart contract functionality to bitcoin in the form of an interoperable sidechain. According to RSK co-founder and chief scientist Sergio Lerner, with the formal launch, users will be able to use ethereum-like tools on bitcoin for the first time.
As profiled by CoinDesk, sidechains allow for tokens to be traded back and forth between bitcoin and other blockchains with different technical properties.
Lerner told CoinDesk:
"This will be the mainnet launch of RSK. You'll be able to transfer ... bitcoin to 'smart bitcoins,' the native cryptocurrency of RSK. You'll be able to deploy any contract in Solidity and deploy that using the bitcoin cryptocurrency."
There's a catch to that launch timing, however: RSK needs to wait for the Segwit2x hard fork coming up mid-month, which could (if implemented) split bitcoin into two competing tokens.
"We're waiting for the hard fork to pass to launch. We don't know which [cryptocurrency] will last. [...] The change is fork conditional. That's a must," he added.
The startup says it has additional long-term plans after that, such as adding new "opcodes" - or rules for blockchains that developers can use in their smart contracts - that it has been researching for the sidechain.
Lerner also noted the planned addition of "confidential transactions," which would shield some types of transaction data, and on-chain scaling improvements that could expand how many transactions RSK users can make per second. Both of these objectives, he said, could come to fruition in 2018.
"We have a lot to add in the future," he said.
The development notably comes at a time when other efforts to bring smart contracts to bitcoin are also seeing advancement.
For example, Blockstream infrastructure tech developer Russell O'Connor last week unveiled a white paper showing a new possible avenue for bitcoin's scripting language called Simplicity, a proposal which is currently under discussion.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which helped organize the Segwit2x agreement and has ownership stakes in RSK Labs and Blockstream.
Toy train image via RSK