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Bitcoin technology: Rootstock (RSK) smart contracts

Rootstock (RSK) is a Turing-complete smart contract platform that is connected to the Bitcoin blockchain through sidechain technology

Rootstock (RSK) is one of the most interesting projects currently being developed over the Bitcoin blockchain.

At its core, RSK is a Turing-complete smart contract platform – much like Ethereum – that is connected to the Bitcoin blockchain through sidechain technology. It provides faster transactions and better scalability features, which will also enable new usage scenarios.

RSK is an open source project that was initially proposed in 2014. The white paper was formally written by Sergio Demian Lerner in 2015. The project is being released in stages following its initial Bamboo mainnet launch in early January 2018.

A blockchain powered by smart contracts

Instead of competing with Bitcoin, RSK aims to build on the core Bitcoin blockchain. The goal is to allow Bitcoin users to enjoy smart contracts that are easy to develop, use, and interact with.

The team at RSK is working on something bigger than just simple smart contracts. They are working on an infrastructure framework that is built on top of RSK smart contracts and enables AWS-like services to be built and used by the development community using a single token – the RIF token (Rootstock Infrastructure Framework). The network itself is called RIFOS.

RIFOS is game-changing for the whole blockchain ecosystem for many reasons. Developers will be able to deploy applications on top of BTC, consuming ready-made services for data storage, name resolution, oracles, and payments (using the in-house Lightning network called the Lumino Payments Protocol). The main characteristics of RIFOS are as follows:

  • Decentralised infrastructure services will utilise a single token – RIF
  • The development stack will be open to anyone who wants to become a provider of these services
  • All components are integrated on top of the RSK Smart Protocol and will be protected by the security of the Bitcoin Network
  • The smart contract engine will be Ethereum-compatible, meaning you can move your app to RIFOS with minimum migration work


RIFOS is enabling developers to build services (like a DNS system) and then providing those services to dApp developers who can use them to speed up their development time and reduce their costs.

RIF: A community-driven token

Price-wise, RIF has been underperforming against Bitcoin. Since it started trading on Bitfinex, it has lost close to 90% of its value vs Bitcoin.

Fundamentally speaking, there’s a lot of room for growth. When we look at the token dynamics, there’s clearly a strong use case, so if the project takes off, we could see the price of RIF do the same.

Consumption of the services will be paid for using the RIF token. This is a huge step forward since developers won’t need to hold 10 different tokens and do the logistics for every service they use.

For example, a typical AI dApp would use an AI computing engine (like SingularityNET), a decentralised database (like Ethereum or Bluzelle), a decentralised index (like the Graph), and a storage layer (much like IPFS). The developer would need to hold every single token of these services and pay for them accordingly.

On RIFOS, they can still use these services, but they can just pay for all of them with RIF instead. All of the services will run on top of the BTC blockchain, which secures the network with the largest community of PoW miners.

RSK does not mint coins. Instead, it rewards existing or new Bitcoin miners via merge-mining if they participate in the RSK network. In this way, the network can achieve the same security as Bitcoin (including double-spend prevention and settlement finality).

In essence, the RIF token is used to consume all the RIFOS services built on top of the RSK Smart Protocol. As stated in the RSK white paper:

“In summary, we aim to create an open standard infrastructure framework, which consists of a set of protocols together with corresponding API documentation enabling third-party developers to utilise such interfaces and introduce new components into the RIFOS ecosystem. This open standard framework will contain an initial working infrastructure service that will represent a proof-of-concept for how the protocol should work.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.