Introducing a Programming Language so Simple, It “Fits on a T-shirt”

Blockstream is introducing Simplicity, a new programming language for blockchain-based smart contracts, intended for inclusion in Blockstream’s sidechains and eventually in Bitcoin. The new language was presented by its creator, Russell O’Connor, Infrastructure Tech Developer at Blockstream, at the ACM SIGSAC Workshop on Programming Languages and Analysis for Security (PLAS 2017).”Simplicity is a blockchain programming language that is so simple, it fits on a t-shirt,” O’Connor told Bitcoin Magazine. “It is critical that smart contracts behave in ways that all participants expect, and applying formal verification to Simplicity allows us to achieve that.”Simplicity is still a Blockstream Research & Development project, but there’s potential for its use in Blockstream products in the future, according to the company’s announcement.“Simplicity is flexible enough that I anticipate many new, domain-specific, languages will generate Simplicity, and this will give users the freedom to generate smart contracts using the tools that most suit their needs,” added O’Connor.O’Connor’s paper, titled “Simplicity: A New Language for Blockchains,” presents Simplicity as “a new programming language, designed to be used for cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications, which aims to improve upon existing cryptocurrency languages, such as Bitcoin Script and Ethereum’s EVM [virtual machine], while avoiding some of the problems they face.”Bitcoin script is limited by design and unsuitable for complex smart contracts that need more than a small set of simple templates to perform tasks like digital signature verification. Ethereum, on the other hand, includes a more expressive and flexible, Turing-complete programming language, which allows for arbitrarily complex smart-contracts in principle. But, in practice, Ethereum doesn’t support static analysis to pre-determine the computing resources that a program will require and, thus, filter out too costly contracts and infinite loops. Therefore, pre-paid “gas” fees are lost when an Ethereum program “runs out of gas.” The simpler Bitcoin scripting, which supports static analysis, doesn’t present similar issues.In a post to the bitcoin-dev mailing list, O’Connor proposed Simplicity as an alternative to Bitcoin Script, noting that static analysis is important for both node operators and for Simplicity program designers.“Static analysis is a technique that provides a universal algorithm to determine how much any Simplicity program will cost to run before you stake your money on it,” O’Connor told Bitcoin Magazine.Simplicity can be seen as a more flexible alternative to Bitcoin scripting, not Turing-complete but expressive enough to build useful smart contracts for blockchain applications, or as an alternative to Ethereum, which will support static analysis and other desirable features including improved safety, formal semantics, and Merkelized Abstract Syntax Trees (MASTs). While Simplicity is intended as a low-level language for smart contracts, O’Connor envisages the possibility of compiling programs written in higher-level languages (like Ethereum’s Solidity) to Simplicity.“Ivy and the Σ-State Authentication Language are existing programming language development efforts that may be suitable for being compiled to Simplicity,” notes O’Connor in the paper. “For the time being, generating Simplicity with our [Haskell] and [Coq] libraries is possible.”The next step in Simplicity’s development will be a bare-bones SDK (Software Developer Kit) that will include formal semantics and correctness proofs in Coq, a Haskell implementation for constructing Simplicity programs and a C interpreter for Simplicity. Then, the new language will be ready for initial deployment in the Elements project, Blockstream’s open-source codebase for sidechains, so that developers can start experimenting with the code.But, as O’Connor stated on bitcoin-dev, “Only after extensive vetting would it be suitable to consider Simplicity for inclusion in Bitcoin.”The post Introducing a Programming Language so Simple, It “Fits on a T-shirt” appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Funding the Blockchain Future of the Digital Media Industry

BTC Media, the largest media group in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, announced the launch of BTC Labs, a venture studio focusing on launching and incubating blockchain applications for the digital media industry on September 25, 2017.  BTC…

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Qchain Charts New Native Advertising Roadmap

Today’s native advertising world, where a publication’s editorial content is paid for by an advertiser to promote their product or service is fraught with challenges threatening the ad industry. Due in part to the growing dominance of digital media …

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Robomed Network Unleashes Linkages Between Healthcare Patients and Providers

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />The global healthcare<br />market is vast and complex, with equity funding to digital health companies<br />having reached $5.8 b…

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Setting Bitcoin’s Price Mechanism: CME Group to Launch BTC Futures

On the anniversary of the publication of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper, the price of Bitcoin reached a new all-time high, following the news that CME Group, one of the world’s largest derivatives exchanges, will launch a Bitcoin futures product on November 14, 2017.Futures or derivatives in general are understood by their relationship to risk. They are investment products that can be bought and sold in the future based on being pinned to a fixed price through a contractual agreement. Basing futures off another fixed price allows investors to avoid financial risk or assume it for profit during price fluctuations.Like most futures, CME’s Bitcoin futures product will be cash-settled, based on the CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate (BRR). According to CME, the BRR is a standardized reference rate, which — along with a bitcoin spot price index, the CME CF Bitcoin Real Time Index (BRTI) — “accelerat[es] the professionalization of bitcoin trading.” Like most other financial institutions exploring cryptocurrency, CME is launching a Bitcoin futures product to both satisfy client interests and investigate the rewards of testing blockchain technology’s “transparency, price discovery and risk transfer capabilities,” as noted by Group Chairman and Chief Executive Terry Duffy.The BRR and BRTI are two tools that have become consistent and reliable price references for bitcoin globally. The BRR has been calculated and published by CME and Crypto Facilities Ltd. since November 2016. Designed according to the IOSCO Principles of Financial Benchmarks, the BRR computes price by compiling and calculating data from a number of Bitcoin exchanges including Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit and Kraken.The implications of this Bitcoin futures product launch are far-reaching. It signifies both mainstream network adoption and a reduction in price volatility. As an investment product, it can readily fit into the stock portfolio of a traditional investor.The post Setting Bitcoin’s Price Mechanism: CME Group to Launch BTC Futures appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Moody’s: Threat of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies Is Distant but Inevitable

A report titled “Consumer Digital Payments — US,” which was released on October 11 by Moody’s analyst Stephen Sohn and team, reassures the payments sector that blockchain technology is a distant threat. Moody’s thinks that blockchain technology is a…

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Blockchain Technology Takes Center Stage in Science Fiction Thriller (ID)entity

Philip K. Dick Award finalist (R)evolution, a 2015 near-future science fiction thriller by PJ Manney, ends with the main character’s consciousness transferred to a supercomputer, accompanied by the otherworldly notes of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”:…

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Bitcoin Gold Is About to Trial an ASIC-Resistant Bitcoin Fork

It’s forking season.After Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) forked from the Bitcoin blockchain to create a new cryptocurrency (BCH), and ahead of the SegWit2X fork that may do the same thing, a third Bitcoin fork is in the making: Bitcoin Gold (Bgold; BTG). But where Bcash and SegWit2X are scaling-related forks — both mainly increase Bitcoin’s block size limit — Bgold wants to re-decentralize mining by implementing a new proof-of-work algorithm.“What was born as decentralized is now centralized,” Bitcoin Gold contributor J. Alejandro Regojo told Bitcoin Magazine, referring to the current state of Bitcoin mining. “With this fork, we want to show how Bitcoin can be as ‘Satoshi’ as possible, as social as possible, and as decentralized as possible.”Mining CentralizationBitcoin Gold was initiated by Jack Liao, CEO of Hong Kong–based mining hardware producer LightningASIC, and was first announced in late August. The open project has been gaining traction and support in the wider cryptocurrency space since, with a dedicated Slack as a main hub for discussion and organization. Bgold is currently being developed by the pseudonymous developer “h4x3rotab” along with a small group of volunteers contributing to the project in other ways.The attention Bgold has attracted is probably in part because anyone who owns bitcoin (BTC) on October 25th will receive the equivalent amount of BTG. While this model has been criticized, particularly because it presents a burden on service providers and users, it has also proven successful. With the launch of Bitcoin Cash in particular, users eagerly accepted their batch of “free money,” while exchanges, wallets and other service providers proved relatively willing to integrate the new coin. Further, the Bgold team believes that this distribution method should also benefit Bitcoin over altcoins as it provides an extra incentive to hold BTC on particular dates.“But the key goal that we are trying to achieve with this fork is to build a perpetually ASIC-resistant version of Bitcoin,” said Robert Kuhne, another Bitcoin Gold contributor, in explaining the purpose of the project to Bitcoin Magazine.Bgold contributors like Regojo and Kuhne think that Bitcoin’s proof-of-work hashing algorithm was essentially broken by the introduction of specialized ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) mining hardware. In the early years of Bitcoin’s existence, individual users were often also miners; this has since become concentrated into relatively centralized data centers operated by professionals.“And we’re now in a situation where 65 percent of hash power comes from a country that doesn’t like Bitcoin,” Regojo noted, referring to China’s recent clamp down on cryptocurrencies.An Uneven Playing FieldAnd while mining is centralized, ASIC production is even more centralized, the Bgold contributors pointed out. Only a handful of companies currently produce such specialized chips. This means that anyone who wants to be a miner in any meaningful way is beholden to these companies, Kuhne argued.“The way the monopoly manufacturer currently operates is abusive to its customers — individual miners — and the industry at large,” he said, referring to major Chinese ASIC producer Bitmain. “Manufacturers can produce ASICs at a tiny cost, but miners have to buy at a high price. This violates the one-CPU-one-vote ethos as described in the Bitcoin white paper, because while everyone can buy CPU at the same price, the same is not true for ASIC hardware.”Regojo and Kuhne see this as a fundamental problem — not something that free market dynamics can realistically resolve. They suggest that the barrier of entry to the ASIC market to compete with existing manufacturers is fundamentally too high to allow for open competition.“You can’t build a factory without approval from the government and banking system. So there are really only a handful of entities in the world that have total authority over who can and can’t manufacture ASIC machines. And all this could potentially get much worse if and when those institution really start feeling the disruption from Bitcoin, which hasn’t begun in earnest yet,” Kuhne said.Bitcoin GoldAs opposed to the Bitcoin Cash and (especially) the upcoming SegWit2X forks, Bitcoin Gold very specifically does not make a claim to be the “real” Bitcoin. Instead, the Bgold project hopes it can prove a valuable exercise for Bitcoin; a sort of test case for a hard fork that Bitcoin itself may one day require.Concretely, Bitcoin Gold is now implementing the Equihash proof-of-work algorithm. This is already used by Zcash and is relatively ASIC-resistant. Full ASIC-resistance, however, is thought to be impossible: Any mining algorithm could be subject to specialized chips. Like Vertcoin, the Bgold community therefore plans to re-deploy a new proof-of-work algorithm hard fork if it is found out that ASIC-chips for Equihash are being produced. (This plan alone, of course, could be a deterrent for any potential ASIC-producer.)For security, the project plans to implement strong replay protection to avoid loss of funds for unsuspecting or non-technical users. It will also adopt a new difficulty re-target algorithm to prevent the blockchain from stalling: Difficulty is re-adjusted at every block instead of once every two weeks.While the coin is set to launch two weeks from now, the Bgold codebase is not yet fully developed and ready to be deployed. Implementation of the new proof-of-work algorithm and replay protection, as well as the new difficulty re-adjustment scheme, are yet to be finished.Nor are all the details for the project even ironed out.Early announcements indicated that Bitcoin Gold would have a closed launch and a presale of coins. A new batch of BTG was to be mined in the first week after the fork and subsequently distributed to designated investors, not unlike an ICO. Proceeds of this “ICO” were then to be used for development and other Bgold-related purposes.However, as interest in the project grew, this idea became more controversial. Not everyone involved with Bitcoin Gold likes the idea of an additional founders reward — something Bcash, for example, did not have.Kuhne addressed the issue by stating: “We have heard a lot of feedback from the community, so this proposal will be replaced with an updated and improved plan. But we will not completely rule out the possibility of a modest pre-mine to provide a basic level of funding for the project.”Disclaimer: The author of this article holds BTC and will therefore also own BTG at launch.The post Bitcoin Gold Is About to Trial an ASIC-Resistant Bitcoin Fork appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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