I’ve seen discussions of a Bitcoin Summer in the decentralized Stacks ecosystem which is this idea that various devs in the ecosystem can pick a few key things to focus on during a 10-week sprint/hackathon.
I’m an engineer at heart and miss the days when I could spend more time coding. Some of the most productive times I’ve had building stuff were in small teams with tight deadlines. What I like about the Bitcoin Summer idea is that it can help open-source devs to organize in small groups and sprint towards concrete goals this summer. There is so much excitement around building on Bitcoin these days and such a sprint can help build momentum across the decentralized ecosystem.
With that context in mind, here are some things that have come up in various working group meetings as the top things that working groups want to make progress towards:
(1) sBTC mini: the current sBTC working group (my company Trust Machines participates in this group) has been making solid progress: see this UX of sBTC test coins. The current WG plan is to publish sBTC as a smart contract on Stacks L2 first. This step does not require any consensus-level changes. This enables the Bitcoin threshold wallet to go live on the Bitcoin L1 and devs can test the full flow of sending BTC on L1 and using sBTC on Stacks L2 in a more centralized/white-listed manner and without consensus integrations. Once this part is live, then focus can shift to the consensus-level integration of sBTC and full decentralized launch.
(2) Safer blocks: there are currently two issues on the live system that devs are working towards: (a) Bitcoin MEV and (b) orphan blocks. The Bitcoin MEV solution will require a hardfork. One interesting idea is to potentially implement new Nakamoto forking rules as a hardfork before the full Nakamoto release. This has the added benefit that it takes care of current orphan block issues. This forking rules upgrade can go live independent of faster blocks and sBTC i.e., sooner than the full Nakamoto release. Breaking things down into such smaller components and shipping them seems like a good idea to me; it builds momentum and de-risks the full Nakamoto release, as sub-systems go live sooner and can be better tested.
(3) Faster blocks: one of the biggest current challenges for Bitcoin L1 and L2s is the 10-30 minute Bitcoin block time. Modern users are used to a few seconds of delay and expect reliability (not a variable block time that can be an hour at times). With the VDF proposal, it’s possible to have cryptographic proofs of passage of time in-between Bitcoin blocks meaning Stacks L2 can have 4-5 second fast blocks using these VDF (Verifiable Delay Function) proofs. This would be a massive upgrade to the UX and bandwidth of Stacks L2 and will require quorum signatures or other BFT-style consensus for these fast blocks. The current WG plan is to work on the v1 prototype of fast blocks during Bitcoin Summer.
Other than the top-3 things above, there is general consensus that more work towards testing needs to be done in the ecosystem. The recent bugs were very costly in terms of dev time and any live bug can push back Nakamoto development by several weeks or even a few months (depending on the live bug). There is an initial workstream proposal for improving testing during Bitcoin Summer.
Many different startups in the ecosystem may participate in the Bitcoin Summer hackathon, but I wanted to highlight the workstreams that impact the Nakamoto release in this post.
In summary, three ways to measure progress can be:
[ ] Is sBTC mini live i.e., as a smart contract.
[ ] Are the new forking rules live (Nakamoto forking rules)
[ ] Is there a prototype implementation of fast blocks
I think meaningful progress can be made towards these three things during Bitcoin Summer. Then in the next phase of development, say late 2023, focus can be on (a) sBTC consensus-level integration and (b) fast blocks mainnet integration.
I’m really excited about all the progress being made and how the independent entities and devs in this decentralized ecosystem are coming together to push towards the Nakamoto release! It’s time to build on Bitcoin