Witnet is a decentralized oracle networkthat connects smart contracts to the real, off-chain world. Broadly speaking, it allows any piece of software to retrieve information published at any web address at any point in time, with complete and verifiable proof of the information’s integrity, without blindly trusting any third party.
The Witnet protocol achieves this by permitting a network of computers to act as a “decentralized oracle” that retrieves, attests and delivers information to smart contracts, with no single point of trust.
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Smart Contracts Are Not What You Were Told
In recent years, blockchain technology has promised to revolutionize business through “smart contracts” that, unlike paper contracts, are impossible to breach. These smart contracts are simple programs, coded to automatically control the transfer of assets between two or more parties, and can be run in a trustless manner. Once they are deployed, no one can stop them from doing exactly what they were programmed for. They obey their own source code, and censorship is just impossible.
Given that smart contracts need to be completely deterministic 1 to ensure all nodes execute the same code, they do not support input of data from non-deterministic sources such as APIs or websites.
As a result, smart contracts are mostly isolated from the rest of the Internet, which dramatically reduces their transformative potential. After all, the output of a program does not depend solely on its source code, but also on the input data it operates upon.
Of course, as the creator of a smart contract, you can create a method that allows specific parties to act as an “oracle” by introducing information from the outside when necessary. However, this undermines breaking the trustless nature of a smart contract. If trust is put in any single entity, then you have a single point of failure that can be attacked or corrupted.
The Witnet protocol aims to create an overlay network that connects smart contracts to any online data source. Sport results, stock prices, weather forecasts and other blockchains can be queried through APIs.
The protocol sees a distributed network of peer nodes -colloquially referred to as witnesses– who earn WIT tokens as a reward for retrieving web information and securely delivering it to the smart contracts. That is, a Decentralized Oracle Network
More precisely, they outline a Decentralized Oracle Network as:
100% Truth, 0% Trust
Data retrieved, attested and delivered using the Witnet protocol is reliable not because of authority but because it comes from anonymous, randomly selected nodes, and so non-coordinated, who are incentivized to remain honest and to compete for rewards.
In addition, integrity of this data is guaranteed by a consensus algorithm that detects fraudsters, who are immediately punished.
The progressive reputation protocol plays a central role in maintaining every participant active and honest by creating short, middle and long term incentives for them to abide by the protocol and not to tamper with the data they broker.
Flow of the protocol
The Witnet protocol runs a single purpose blockchain with a token called WIT that relies on a P2P network. The nodes of the network are called witnesses, and are incentivised by the WIT token to.
So far they have seen a bit of the main ideas of Witnet’s protocol and its architecture, but how is Witnet really built? The Witnet Ecosystem consists of several parts and so it has different development areas. Some of them are:
- Sheikah and Radon, for Data requests
- Rust, for nodes in the Network
- Smart contract languages
As Witnet is a decentralized oracle network for smart contracts, the bridge nodes need to be able to understand and interact with each smart contract language is needed. As explained in the bridges section, for now it has only been implemented a bridge with Ethereum wherefore it has been created a Witenet-Bridge contract in Solidity.
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