Why Merlin Chain is Betting Big on Bitcoin's Layer 2

29 May 2024

Welcome to another episode of "Behind the Startup," where we delve into the innovative world of startup culture and technology. Today, we're joined by Jeff Merlin, the driving force behind Merlin Chain, a "Bitcoin Native" Layer 2 solution designed to enhance the functionality and scalability of Bitcoin. Jeff shares insights into the origins of Merlin chain, highlighting the challenges and breakthroughs his team encountered while addressing the inherent limitations of Bitcoin Layer 1. Join us as we explore how Merlin Chain is pioneering advancements in Bitcoin's ecosystem and what this means for the future of digital currency.

Ishan Pandey: Hi Jeff, welcome to our 'Behind the Startup' series. Can you share the story behind Merlin Chain's inception? How did recognizing the limitations of Bitcoin Layer 1 inspire your team to develop a Layer 2 solution?

Jeff Merlin: The inception of Merlin Chain was inspired by the recognition of limitations of Bitcoin Layer 1 by the team. With extensive experience in Bitcoin, the team believed that the key to success in Bitcoin Layer 2 is influencing Layer 1 asset protocols, owning high-value assets, and maintaining a substantial community base. The team developed Merlin Chain as a "Bitcoin Native" Layer 2 solution to unlock the potential of Bitcoin through its native assets, users, and protocols, not merely for transferring money inexpensively or supporting DApps.

Ishan Pandey: What were some of the significant challenges your team faced during the initial development of Merlin Chain, and how did you overcome them?

Jeff Merlin: When launching the $MERL token, our preparations for asset bridging were insufficient. Merlin Chain supports a wide range of assets, including BTC, BRC-20, NFTs, ETH, USDT, and Manta, which adds complexity to the bridging process. Initially, our approach was less cautious, integrating various protocols.

Actually, for BTC, our bridging is very stable, with around 190,000 BTC bridging in and out the past month, second only to Binance and Coinbase. However, for assets like NFTs, runes, Manta, Tron, and MODE, as well as some Layer 3 assets, the complexity has exceeded our control. When we try to integrate everything from the start, it leads to inferior user experience.

After some effort, we made all assets fully unstakeable, and our ecosystem project Unicross improved rune bridging. We're now turning these challenges into strengths.

Ishan Pandeey: Your platform aims to 'Make Bitcoin Fun Again.' Can you explain this to the average Bitcoin user and the broader cryptocurrency community?

Jeff Merlin: Merlin Chain aims to "Make Bitcoin Fun Again" by enhancing Bitcoin's functionality and increasing its adoption. Merlin creates new concepts and applications on the Bitcoin network, such as issuing BRC-420 assets, as well as promoting Bitcoin expansion and re-staking. At the same time, Merlin Chain allows users to trade Bitcoin ecosystem assets at faster speeds and lower costs. Through DeFi, GameFi, and SocialFi, these assets can realize unique value, increasing the enjoyment and value of using Bitcoin.

Ishan Pandey: How does Merlin Chain's decentralized oracle network ensure data availability and accuracy while maintaining decentralization?

Jeff Merlin: Merlin Chain ensures data availability and accuracy while maintaining decentralization through its distributed oracle network. Sequencer nodes collect and process transactions, generating data that is compiled by the oracle network and made publicly accessible on Bitcoin's Taproot. It also implements a fraud-proof mechanism for ZK proofs to confirm on Bitcoin, and allows users to verify the correctness and validity of the data through ZK proofs. Recently, Merlin Chain completed a PoS upgrade, incorporating a slashing mechanism that allows validators to penalize malicious nodes, further ensuring the decentralization and security of the network.

Ishan Pandey: Security is paramount for any blockchain project. Can you discuss the role of the Merlin Security Council and how it contributes to the security and stability of your ecosystem?

Jeff Merlin: Merlin Security Council includes renowned security teams such as Slowmist, BlockSec, Salus, Secure3, ScaleBit, and Revoke.Cash. The council is responsible for funding research, education, and technological development, and it encourages more white-hats and dApps to join this decentralized organization to contribute to the further development and construction of the Merlin ecosystem. The council was established to ensure the safety of funds as the Merlin Chain.

Ishan Pandey: Looking ahead, what key milestones and developments do you foresee for Merlin Chain in the next 2-3 years?

Jeff Merlin: In the next 2-3 years, we have some exciting milestones and developments planned for Merlin Chain.

Make Bitcoin Fun Again: Our first goal is to make Bitcoin more engaging by integrating a variety of DeFi, gaming, and social activities. We envision a thriving Merlin ecosystem where Bitcoin isn't just a store of value but also a platform for diverse and rich user experiences.

Enhancing the Bitcoin Staking Ecosystem: Our second goal is to advance the Bitcoin staking ecosystem. Currently, over 27% of Ethereum is staked, and we aim to replicate and surpass this success for Bitcoin. By leveraging our ecosystem projects like Solv and Stone, we plan to strengthen and expand Bitcoin staking and re-staking opportunities, providing Bitcoin holders with a wide range of passive income options.

Ishan Pandey: What are your predictions for the future of Web3? How will advancements in Layer 2 solutions contribute to the evolution of decentralized technologies and mainstream adoption?

Jeff Merlin: I am confident about the future of Web3 and Bitcoin! This is why our team is passionately building the Bitcoin ecosystem. Advancements in Layer 2 solutions can provide new use cases that cannot be built on Bitcoin Layer 1. In the meantime, there is a need for Layer 2 platforms to build ecosystems that specifically support the unique needs of their respective communities, such as the native Bitcoin communities like Runes and Ordinals, rather than merely replicating concepts from other networks, to foster excitement and adoption.

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Vested Interest Disclosure: This author is an independent contributor publishing via our business blogging program. HackerNoon has reviewed the report for quality, but the claims herein belong to the author. #DYOR.