The message is the medium

Top Network “Extensions”

Blockstream’s version of the “sidechain” concept – pegging other blockchains to the Blockchain of Bitcoin.

Quick Links:
Blockstream
Stroem
The Lightning Network
Ghost
Blocknet
Othercoin

For years the debate has raged on how to move forward when it comes to upgrading and adding new functionality to the Bitcoin network. The core protocol is updated through a concencus mechanism, historically prioritizing security and reliability over “bells and whistles”. However, a number of projects designed to enhance or add functions to the Blockchain are in the works world-wide. Here are a few of the most interesting ones;

Sidechains

(These services are all in the “beta” stage so far, but they are all well worth a closer look.)

Blockstream develops the concept of “sidechains” to facilitate experimentation and new types of businesses built on top of the Bitcoin network.

A bitcoin can be “transferred” over to a sidechain (when this code is fully operational), where it can follow other rules than a bitcoin has to follow within the Bitcoin network (for instance to provide quick and cheap off-chain microtransactions). The sidechain is “pegged” to the Bitcoin network, meaning that when the bitcoin is transferred back to the backbone Bitcoin network it is still a bitcoin, it can’t inflate/deflate while bouncing around on the sidechain.

Payment channels

Stroem develops its own version of “payments channels”. This concept opens up a type of channels between Bitcoin users and merchants (using a “hub”). While these channels are “open” the transaction costs can be zero.

The Lightning Network is another take on the payments channels concept. Using this network transactions between designated users/merchants/hubs can also be free of charge, until all transactions settle on the Bitcoin Blockchain.Chains of blocks

This paper outlines a proposal for a change to the Bitcoin network called GHOST (The Greedy Heaviest-Observed Sub-Tree) where miners would search for and validate blockchains of 600 blocks at a time, reducing block times to 1 second (allowing for 600 MB of block content per 10 minutes, compared to today’s 1MB).

Blocknet proposes an interoperable

Blocknet proposes an interoperable “Internet Of Blockchains”.

Blocknet is another proposed solution for “inter-operability” between blockchains, described as an “Internet Of Blockchains”.

Hardware

Othercoin is another interesting solution to the problem with microtransactions on the main chain.

The above developments are all in the beta-stage, and the only real “extension” currently live on the Bitcoin network are the so-called merge-mining solutions, such as Namecoin (the new distributed name, title and domain database) which is merge-mined with the Bitcoin network, for security reasons.