Jeff Garzik, Satoshi client developer and futurist
Jeff Garzik, co-founder of Bloq

Bloq, the company founded by long-time Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik, covers a lot of ground across the public and private blockchain space, including the promise of Turing-complete smart contracts plugged into Bitcoin, written in JavaScript and Python.

The recently unveiled suit of BloqEnterprise applications will serve as a blockchain operating system (BOS) for private and public blockchains, including enterprise-friendly development tools, 24/7 enterprise-grade support, and a network level dashboard and data analytics service. Its BloqRouter component is "the fastest, most secure Bitcoin full node on the planet, with a hardened Bitcoin Core fork and option to switch to Bitcoin Classic (BIP 109)". Bloq is also working with Deloitte on its "digital bank" initiative.

Garzik, who helped provide scalable Linux software solutions to businesses a decade ago with Red Hat, is taking a similar approach with Bloq, which has added Gavin Andresen, Nick Szabo and William Mougayar as advisors.

Bloq's smart contract application is a piece of software called Bloq Ora (short for oracle). It allows users to run their favourite programming language, Java, JavaScript, Python, C++, and write Turing-complete smart contracts on any blockchain.

Garzik told IBTimes: "It's essentially designed as an Ethereum plug-in for Bitcoin. But it has several qualities that make it, in my opinion, better than Ethereum, where you have to learn a new programming language, you have to download a new debugging software, new development tools, everything - sort of the ink is not yet dry.

"This [Bloq Ora] is an example of what I refer to as a 'layer 2 technology'. With Bitcoin you don't necessarily put all the features into the Bitcoin protocol itself."

Garzik agreed that at a high level Bloq Ora functions rather like the Counterparty protocol with Bitcoin. He added that the technology is in a preview stage, and not yet shipping to Bloq enterprise customers. It has been released to developers to experiment with on github.

Garzik has been in close discussion with some other prominent startups in the space about how Bloq Ora could be used. He said he has been very impressed by Argentina-based startup Rootstock.

"Rootstock takes the Ethereum Virtual Machine, the Ethereum environment and uses it on the Bitcoin network, linked to Bitcoin security and Bitcoin technology," said Garzik. "So Rootstock is another example of how Bitcoin can be extended without having to update the Bitcoin protocol itself. And that's another way that Bitcoin governance happens in the free market through companies like Rootstock," he said.

So is Bloq proposing a merged mining solution like Rootstock? Garzik said: "It's a sufficiently generic technology that it can be used with merged mining, yes. It can be used individually, sort of like your own web server, outside of Bitcoin or Litecoin or Ethereum. It can be built into Bitcoin itself and there are some very early stage developments exploring that.

"Merged mining is one security method that we are definitely looking into. A second one is having multiple companies, each one with Bloq Ora software, such as Blockstream, Coinbase, BitPay etc, and then users would contact all of those in a multi-signature type-fashion.

"So you don't have to trust Bloq individually. You contact five companies running Bloq Ora and they each execute the smart contract in exactly the same fashion. Then you verify that at least three of five of those companies' Bloq Ora instances return the same answer.

"That's how you can create trust in a decentralised world; you have to look across organisational boundaries to provide users that full picture of security that they deserve."

Garzik added that Bloq's economics and game theory expert Paul Sztorc has been working with Sergio Demian Lerner, co-founder of Rootstock, to come up with an alternative to merged mining, that is possibly going to be a generic sidechains security mechanism incorporated into Bitcoin itself. "That would allow Bitcoin miners themselves to secure all of these sidechains and you don't have to individually contact a group of miners and say, 'hey, would you add my chain'. That skips that question and process entirely by adding a sort of a sidechain security feature to Bitcoin itself."

For some time Jeff has been front and centre of the on-going governance debate over Bitcoin. He said self-governing decentralised systems are utterly unique, likening the set of consensus rules underpinning Bitcoin to the US Constitution, "the founding documents, as it were; the core foundation of the entire economy".

He said: "The next step in governance is asking the question, how to change consensus rules. It sounds like an almost circular argument: how do you come to consensus on consensus rules?"

Some lessons could be learnt from Ethereum, which seems to be light-years ahead of Bitcoin when it comes to agreeing on changes. Garzik pointed out that when Bitcoin was a little over a year old it too experienced a rapid iteration phase.

"It was when Satoshi was there and, to be frank, Satoshi in the early days was acting just like Vitalik [Buterin, Ethereum inventor] is today. Not a lot of people know this - several hard forking consensus rule changes, Satoshi simply put into the code, published the code, and everyone had to follow.

"But in the very early days when Bitcoin was worth a penny a bitcoin rather than today's $450 a bitcoin, everyone knew that it was an experiment. Everyone knew that it would rapidly iterate, and everyone knew that these sort of quick changes were needed.

"Ethereum will slow over time as more and more people depend on the original Ethereum rules. I would expect Ethereum to follow a similar trajectory as it gets older.

"I agree Ethereum absolutely informs Bitcoin governance and when Vitalik does a hard fork successfully, I might add in 28 days, that's informative to Bitcoin developers.

"The flip side is Bitcoin can take many lessons from Ethereum and develop even better than Ethereum capabilities and add those onto Bitcoin. A specific example is sidechain technology, where you can add experimental features, maybe take a little more risk and if, after six months or a year, those features prove valid in the field, then we can add those to Bitcoin itself."