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An introduction to RChain

Bitcoin proved the viability of a decentralized, peer-to-peer digital currency. Ethereum demonstrated the demand for a world computer that can support decentralized applications, that is, applications that don’t rely on a central authority. However, widespread adoption of these platforms isn’t currently possible because they don’t yet scale.

Bitcoin proved the viability of a decentralized, peer-to-peer digital currency. Ethereum demonstrated the demand for a world computer that can support decentralized applications, that is, applications that don’t rely on a central authority. However, widespread adoption of these platforms isn’t currently possible because they don’t yet scale.

RChain’s blockchain is designed to be scalable from the outset. RChain is the brainchild of Greg Meredith, the mathematician and developer who created Rho Calculus, architected Microsoft’s BizTalk Process Orchestration, served as CTO of Synereo Ltd. through December 2016, and now is President of RChain Cooperative. Greg also advised the Ethereum Foundation and is collaborating on aspects of the Casper proof-of-stake protocol with Vitalik Buterin and Vlad Zamfir.

Meredith designed the decentralized, general computation platform for building secure applications that will aim to address a variety of social, political, and economic problems. He is especially motivated by those issues that are global in scope and that will be made more tractable by a platform capable of coordinating human activity at a larger scale than a nation. Problems that he hopes to address include climate change, environmental sustainability, poverty, and disruptive monetary/trade policies, among others.

The open source RChain Platform is being developed by the RChain Cooperative. Many dApp projects built on the platform will be developed by RChain Holdings, the for-profit entity of the project. Both are based in Washington State and have team members around the world.

Problems and Opportunities

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Bitcoin and Ethereum, blockchain architects have eight years worth of cryptoeconomic history to study when designing new systems. They represent brilliant innovations, demonstrating how consensus can be achieved among thousands of nodes running independently across the planet, forming a network resilient to attackers trying to disrupt its functioning.

However, modern commerce demands networks capable of handling billions of transactions per day. Broad adoption by consumers running everyday applications requires networks that can handle tens of thousands of transactions per second. The two most well-known blockchains can handle less than 10 transactions per second.

Solution and Unique Value Proposition

Early developer tests indicate RChain will be capable of providing 40,000 transactions per second, putting the platform on par with major credit card companies like Visa. Unlike credit card companies, there would be no centralized database that is vulnerable to hacks. User data will reside on RChain’s decentralized storage infrastructure, encrypted by a user’s private keys that are off-chain.

Existing blockchain developers are struggling to address several additional issues, including: efficiency of the consensus protocol, burdensome node requirements, and provable correctness of smart contracts.

RChain takes a novel approach to solving these problems. It leverages several branches of mathematics, most notably, Mobile Process Calculi and game theory. By combining insights from this foundational work with computer science discipline and experience building decentralized content-delivery applications, Greg and the team developed a formal model for decentralized computation. This model is the basis for a truly scalable blockchain.

Key design features include:

  1. Rho Calculus, a mathematical model of computation with formal models and formal verification.
  2. Rholang, a strongly typed smart contract programming language.
  3. RhoVM, a concurrent virtual machine.
  4. Correct-by-construction software engineering.
  5. Formally verified smart contracts (because of above reasons).
  6. Proof-of-stake consensus protocol.
  7. Multiple blockchains on a single node. (Compositional blockchains, which in effect allow a small node to support multiple blockchains.)
  8. Nodes configurable as public, private, or consortium blockchains.

These features can enable delivery of trustworthy decentralized solutions. If individuals aren’t required to trust sensitive personal and financial information to retailers storing data on non-secure private servers, then the Internet will become more trustworthy. Small businesses could gain access to new capital markets.

While there are several competing blockchains with strong support and equally ambitious visions, the completeness and consistency of RChain’s technical architecture gives it a competitive edge.


An RChain node has several components including the P2P network, the Java Virtual Machine and the Rho Virtual Machine. Much of the core functionality is programmed in Rholang itself.

A single node will support:

  1. Multiple blockchains.
  2. Public and/or private blockchains.
  3. Multiple application tokens.
  4. Proof-of-Stake consensus.
  5. Leased storage.

Native Economic Tokens for Staking, and Application Tokens

RChain will include at least one native economic token (similar to bitcoin or ether), the first of which will be called the REV.

The inherent value of the REV comes from a few of its qualities. Users will need REVs to interact with a node’s system contracts. REVs are used to compensate node operators in exchange for compute, storage, and bandwidth resources. REVs are also a staking currency in the consensus protocol, required for validator bonding.

“Application tokens” will be supported through a system contract similar to Ethereum’s ERC-20 standard. App tokens can be used to raise funds through token sales, or to gamify usage of applications. RChain’s speed and scalability makes micropayments practical, enabling new business models across a variety of domains: Internet of Things, content monetization (creation, promotion, and consumption), disruptive advertising models, and many others.

The Co-op has created an interim promotional credit token called “RHOC” on Ethereum. RHOCs will be redeemable for REVs before RChain’s release.


The path towards the type of mainstream adoption that Bitcoin and Ethereum are starting to enjoy may not be easy for RChain. Existing platforms have a first mover advantage, and competition between new blockchains with similar goals will be fierce. As with every startup in this space, navigating the regulatory landscape will not be a simple feat for the Rchain Co-op and Holdings companies.

RChain is designed to be a solution for both enterprise clients and decentralization enthusiasts, so balancing the needs and desires of these separate audiences may prove challenging.

Rholang will be difficult for even experienced developers to learn. It is based on the concurrent computing programming paradigm which differs significantly from more commonly used languages based on object-oriented and functional paradigms.

Building a healthy, cohesive community could be the biggest challenge of all. We’ve seen how differing opinions on how these protocols should evolve have caused deep divisions within the Bitcoin and Ethereum communities to form. As a result, these projects have occasionally suffered from the sort of messy politics from which many enthusiasts sought to escape by participating in new blockchain-based systems.


Blockchains are being actively explored by major organizations across the globe. Toyota has partnered with MIT labs and the Oaken Institute to develop technology for driverless cars. The CEO of Fidelity expressed her “love” for blockchain technology and acknowledged that Fidelity has “set up a small bitcoin and Ethereum mining operation…that miraculously now is actually making a lot of money.” The Country of Georgia has started the process of moving its national land registry onto the blockchain.

RChain’s core team is confident in their ability to deliver technology that will satisfy the needs of individuals and organizations demanding high levels of throughput (transaction speed and volume) with formal verification in their blockchain-based solutions. An alpha version of RChain is scheduled to be released between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018.

For more details, see the RChain source code and platform architecture.


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