ERC-20-Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) Launches on Ethereum Network

Colin Muller

The Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) network has gone live, and at time of writing 65 bitcoin have been “wrapped” into Ethereum ERC-20 tokens.

WBTC is simply a method of representing bitcoin as an ERC-20 token, so that it may be more easily manipulated within the Ethereum ecosystem. Each WBTC is backed one-to-one with an equivalent amount of bitcoin.

One of the main selling points of WBTC is that it incorporates tradeable bitcoin into Ethereum decentralized exchanges (DEXs) such as IDEX.

How Does It Work?

In practice, the function of WBTC will be perhaps less laissez faire than it initially sounds. Rather than being a free function that users can employ to wrap their own bitcoin, a complicated supply chain has been set up by some big crypto entities to deliver the tokens - complete with Know-Your-Customer and Anti-Money-Laundering checks (KYC/AML).

Users wanting to wrap their bitcoin will have to approach “Merchants,” offering the bitcoin asset and completing KYC/AML through them. The whitepaper states that “Merchants are required to hold the identity information of the user securely.”

wbtc1.png(source: WBTC whitepaper)

But the Merchants themselves do not mint tokens. Only “Custodians” can actually mint WBTC coins, and only when requested to do so by designated Merchants - and at this point the sole Custodian is BitGo.

The whitepaper states that “[i]n some sense custodians are trusted in the wrapped framework, as assets could be stolen or they might not honour the one-to-one backing.” Custodians posses the private release keys for WBTC tokens which they issue, and only they can disburse bitcoin back to Merchants upon request.

wbtc2.png(source: WBTC whitepaper)

"Third parties" will conduct quarterly audits of all WBTC to ensure the corresponding bitcoin asset are stored by the Custodians, according to the whitepaper. All Custodians and Merchants are holders of multisignature keys, which are required to manipulate WBTC contracts on sidechains.

All of this is to say that: Not just anybody can wrap their bitcoin into WBTC. Rather, the function within WBTC’s process is highly curated. While BitGo is currently the only Custodian, there are currently eight Merchant members of the network.

Burn Satoshi's Bitcoin, Suggests Paxful CEO in Thought Experiment

John Moore
  • Paxful CEO Ray Youssef proposes 'burning' the stash of Bitcoin alleged to belong to Satoshi Nakamoto
  • Bitcoin creator said to hold up to 980,000BTC in dormant wallets, theoretically worth US$10 billion
  • Without complete consensus on the move,  burning the coins would cause another Bitcoin fork

One member of the global cryptocurrency community has come up with what can best be described as a scorched earth policy for settling the debate over who is Satoshi Nakamoto once and for all. 

With the spotlights of Bitcoin watchers firmly on the latest questionable claim to be the creator of cryptocurrency as we know it, Ray Youssef - CEO and co-founder of crypto marketplace and wallet service, Paxful - in a now-deleted Tweet - took to Twitter to propose a Bitcoin soft fork that would 'burn' the BTC its  pseudonymous developer is thought to hold in wallets that have never been active.

His suggestion was ignored by a group of crypto-luminaries who he tagged for support, and apparently rounded on by commenters. 

Blockchain analysis undertaken in 2013 by Security Researcher and Bitcoin Blogger, Sergio Demain Lerner , alleged that Nakamoto may have amassed something like 980,000 bitcoin as a lone miner in the early days of its existence. When the BitMEX exchange team revisited Lerner's work a year ago, they reduced this estimate to 700,000 - but didn't rule out the possibility that the figure could be much higher.

Thus, the cryptocurrency the creator fo bitcoin likely accumulated between Jan and August 2009 (or late-Jan 2010, depending on whose opinion you listen to) could, theoretically, be worth something in the region of $10 billion at the current market rate.

A more realistic assessment of their value, however, centers on the idea  that - as they are sitting in the most closely watched wallets on the crypto scene - any attempt to move or sell them would cause massive upheaval in the global cryptocurrency markets, crash the BTC price and gut their value before a significant amount could even make it to a hot wallet somewhere. 

This scenario has been a sword of Damocles threatening Bitcoin since the Satoshi's Stash theories first appeared amid early interest in the concept, explaining the appeal of simply removing control of the coins from their owner - especially to someone with a vested interest in Bitcoin's value. However, Youssef's suggestion that such a measure would 'smoke out' Nakamoto's real life persona, was obviously considered to be ethically outrageous by some and a logistical nightmare by almost everyone. 

It's not that it isn't technically possible. It is. However, unless it had the consensus of the entire Bitcoin network (saying it wouldn't is a pretty safe bet), the fork would create two blockchains and a 'Schroedinger's Nakamoto' - where Satoshi was very rich on one, but not on the other. 

Let it not be forgotten that a similar schism led to a fork in the Ethereum blockchain following The DAO hack a few years back, a split that we have to thank for the existence of Ethereum Classic, which stuck with the pre-DAO blockchain. Let it also not be forgotten that recent Bitcoin forks have not worked out so well for most of the parties involved. Let it also not be forgotten that Nakamoto is considered with almost deity like reverence by some crypto-evangelists. All in all, it seems Youssef is now regretting making the suggestion

So, while Youssef's suggestion could well have been a way to get the real Satoshi Nakamoto to please stand up, it would likely have done much more damage than good.