BitVM Converts Bitcoin to Ethereum Without a Hard Fork

Bitcoin’s development community has a history of groundbreaking work.

Robin Linus, CEO of ZeroSync, the company developing a zk-proof light client for Bitcoin, released the white paper “BitVM: Compute Anything on Bitcoin” yesterday. This study introduces a novel approach that has the potential to radically alter how Bitcoin’s capabilities are seen.

BitVM presents a new computing paradigm that can fully describe Bitcoin contracts in the form of Turing machines. This is significant since it does not call for any changes to the consensus rules governing the underlying network. Similar to the practice of optimistic rollups, Bitcoin calculations are not really executed but rather checked.

Communities on Reddit and other online forums have been quite enthusiastic. The release of BitVM, it reads, “renders all altcoins useless.” The idea to “compute anything on Bitcoin without a fork” has sparked heated discussion on Reddit and X (previously Twitter).

The CEO of Bioniq Market, Bob Bodily, provided his evaluation in the form of a tweet: “BitVM, developed by Robin Linus at Zero Sync, is a novel computing paradigm that combines Optimistic Roll Up, Fraud Proof, Taproot Leaf, and Bitcoin Script. BitVM delivers the primary advantage of improved BTC programmability with no update, but it is slower, more costly, and more sophisticated than EVM.

Sam Parker, co-founder and head of technology at Blockchain Transition, elaborated, “Bitcoin is currently as Turing complete as any other blockchain without requiring any modifications to the Bitcoin protocol.” But he also made it clear that although Bitcoin is theoretically more Turing Complete than other cryptocurrencies, it is “Turing complete enough” to run any actual software.

Parker also underlined that using BitVM is entirely voluntary. A user is not obligated to store their money in a Turing-complete contract if they do not feel comfortable doing so. The prospect for moving from trusted/semi-trusted services to a totally trustless interaction was also addressed, as was the elimination of dependency on centralized “Bitcoin edge” services.

After reading the whitepaper, Taproot Wizard Eric Wall was cautiously optimistic. He had some concerns regarding the implementation phase, particularly with regards to the exchange of extremely large pre-signed transactions, but was keen to see actual trials carried out.

Wall neatly summed up BitVM’s present role, arguing that it specifies how a verifier might steal a bond from a prover depending on the outcome of a Turing-complete computation. A complete architecture for external participant plug-ins and outputs is not yet described.

The CEO of Blockstream, Adam Back, gave a more critical answer. He compared it to Greg Maxwell’s 2016 case study on the implementation of ZKP dependent payments.

LNP/BP Standards Association’s Maxim Orlovsky praised the concept but voiced several reservations. He said that Bitcoin script lacks the multiplication and modulo division necessary for real-world systems like zk-STARKS. Consensus on the Bitcoin network places a hard limit of 2127 NAND gates on any practical implementation of this. It’s an impressive bit of computational science, but getting useful findings may take years or perhaps a soft fork.

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