Stacks’ Mitchell Cuevas talks building integrated DeFi bridges for Bitcoin users

“It’s unlikely that a native on-chain solution will supersede [layer-one] solutions like Stacks,” said Mitchell Cuevas, head of growth at the Stacks Foundation.

The Stacks ecosystem is a collection of independent entities, developers and community members working to build a user-owned internet on the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain. Stacks’ STX cryptocurrency was distributed to the general public through the first-ever Securities and Exchange Commission-qualified token offering in the United States.

Mitchell Cuevas, head of growth for the Stacks Foundation, held an exclusive ask-me-anything, or AMA, session with Cointelegraph Markets Pro users on Dec. 2. During the session, he discussed the Stacks blockchain’s technological capabilities, future growth and major developments.

Cointelegraph Markets Pro User: PoW [proof-of-work] blockchains are known to be the most secure. Does Stacks PoX [proof-of-transfer] match BTC security or are there other vulnerabilities?

Mitchell Cuevas: Stacks’ consensus recycles PoW already done to secure Bitcoin. It does this via Proof of Transfer, a mining mechanism that provides a new take on consensus, allowing for a Proof of Work chain to be leveraged and extended in new ways. As a result, all Stacks transactions settle on Bitcoin, enabling Stacks transactions to benefit from Bitcoin’s security. Every Bitcoin block, Stacks transactions are batched and hashed on the Bitcoin blockchain. In addition, the history of all Stacks blocks produced is recorded to Bitcoin.

CT Markets Pro User: With smart contract capabilities, how long before Stacks will be able to integrate NFTs, gaming, and metaverse experiences?

MC: This can already be done and is being done today. We see massive growth of NFTs, reaching about $6-7 million in daily transacted value of late. The cost varies based on network activity. The minting cost is generally somewhere from $0.15 to $0.50. NFTs can be minted on Boom at Monday games are building an exciting metaverse style open-world game. We’ve got teams, such as Jolocom, working on various identity-related efforts, which will be important in the metaverse. It’s exciting because the idea of the metaverse was an early anchor point for folks working at Blockstack back in the day, it was our company book, and we had Neal Stephenson out to one of our summits!

CT Markets Pro User: I only know of a few other platforms that build off of BTC to maximize its security, decentralization, and popularity (Lightning, RSK, Sovryn). So why do you think there aren’t more protocols integrating with BTC?

MC: It’s the difficulty of it. It took core engineers and the Blockstack team a while to crack Proof of Transfer, making the fully expressive contract layer possible in a truly decentralized way. When you have the option of working with a restrictive and unmoving base like Bitcoin or something else (or creating your chain entirely), I think many will end up in that last bucket. It’s an easier path and with how hot crypto is, is I can assume it’s more immediately lucrative, so that’s where the focus has stayed.

CT Markets Pro User: There were congestion issues with Stacks. Has that been resolved?

MC: For the most part — the main bottleneck that was noticed was the popularity of some NFTs and the architecture of the stacks-blockchain-API. Since then, the architecture has changed a bit, so many read-only API nodes can be brought up during higher traffic events, as we noticed in the past. The API write node is still a 1:1 ratio to a Stacks node running in follower mode since any particular blockchain node can be slightly ahead/behind other nodes at any given moment, making load balancing very difficult. In addition, an upgrade to the chain is expected to go live around December 8th that will provide a 2-10x increase in capacity. There are additional exciting future scalability and speed solutions now being explored that should give developers several different options as they build.

CT Markets Pro User: Can you explain microblocks? Is that the main factor to allow Stacks to scale?

MC: This is a great question and one we’ve seen some confusion about in the past. However, it is essential to note that microblocks are NOT a scalability solution; they allow faster transaction confirmations. To put it simply, microblocks are intended to solve transaction latency, allowing transactions to confirm in seconds on the Stacks chain before they are later settled to Bitcoin.

CT Markets Pro User: PoW blockchains have gotten labeled as substantial energy consumers thanks to one guy who will remain nameless. Where does Stacks PoX rate for energy consumption? Since it integrates with BTC, have you had to explain this difference?

MC: As for Stacks, it’s a straightforward narrative: PoX recycles PoW already spent on Bitcoin. This means we’re not burning or consuming new electricity for Stacks transactions. On a more personal note, I’ve been starting to work with some NFT artists that are passionate about making sure their environmental impact is zero or minimal, and they’ve been excited about Stacks. An early launch on Stacks included Cara Delevingne, and this was a vital issue for her as her NFT was going to benefit climate-related topics.

CT Markets Pro User: Each STX block is somehow recorded on the BTC blockchain. How much block space does this take? What is recorded?

MC: You can check this publicly! All of the BTC transactions are showing a size of 352 Bytes. The system’s state settles on Bitcoin — creating a new Stacks block entails sending a well-formed Bitcoin transaction that records the hash of a Stacks block and where it attaches to the blockchain. Settling the system on Bitcoin grants Stacks novel security properties not seen in other blockchains — it leverages the security of Bitcoin to guarantee that all Stacks forks are public and to help to bootstrap Stacks nodes identify the canonical Stacks fork and find Stacks blocks they have not yet downloaded.

CT Markets Pro User: How many full nodes are in operation? Is there a limit to the amount of decentralization that can be achieved?

MC: Short answer, there were a few hundred last we checked. For the rest, great question, and buckle up for a longer answer. It’s important to note that unlike PoW based networks, like Bitcoin, the number of STX miners alone is not an accurate reflection of a miner’s relative ability to win blocks over time. As a result, it does not reflect the security or decentralization of the network. To successfully attack Stacks 2.0, a miner would need to mine a genuinely longer chain than the rest of the network. Unlike a PoW based chain, the Stacks chain quality is measured by its length and not the total amount of BTC burned (or resources expended). This means that simply spending 100x the BTC of every other miner will not result in a longer or better Stacks chain tip. Instead, a miner would have to consistently out-mine every other participant to attack the Stacks chain successfully. To do this, a “bad actor” miner needs to effectively guarantee they could win every block over the period their attack occurs.

CT Markets Pro User: Any plans for interconnectivity with other blockchains? What solutions can be employed today?

MC: Yep! The community has several bridge efforts, including bridges to public blockchains such as Ethereum, BSC, SOL, Polygon, Klaytn, ICON, Orbit, etc. See some of the initiatives below: Stacks Bridge — cross-chain transfer service that allows owners of ETH or STX based NFTs to move their NFTs between blockchains; Banana Bridge — Megakongs will mint on Ethereum and be transferable back forth to Stacks, and this is an essential step. This opens them to Ethereum liquidity and, perhaps more importantly, it gives Bitcoin NFTs a gateway to access some of the exciting Metaverse projects vice versa; Orbit Chain — Orbit Chain is currently bridging Stacks and will soon welcome Bitcoin to the growing $100B+ DeFi Economy. Orbit Chain has built a notable reputation for itself in the past year, having bridged more than $10B worth of assets across other top chains, including Ethereum, BSC, Polygon, Klaytn, ICON, and Ripple.

CT Markets Pro User: Will the relevance of Layer-1/Layer-2 solutions on the BTC blockchain diminish over time should future updates like Taproot occur?

MC: Bitcoin is probably a stable blockchain precisely because it doesn’t change and is predictable. Any proposed changes can take a long time to merge since there is an incentive for the protocol not to change, and there is a large community with many opinions about any proposed change. Bitcoin is stable and predictable — so it’s unlikely that a native on-chain solution will supersede solutions like Stacks. Is it possible? Sure — but it’s also unlikely. Notably, Taproot doesn’t come close to bringing expressive smart contracts to Bitcoin.

Bitcoin and altcoins took a hit, but derivatives data reflects a calmer market

BTC and altcoins took a beating over the weekend, but data shows a market with healthier trading conditions, even if prices consolidate for the foreseeable future.

Looking at the winners and losers of the past week clearly shows that traders endured some serious heat as the total crypto market capitalization dropped by 12.7% when Bitcoin fell to $41,000. This sharp downside move knocked the figure from $2.37 trillion to $1.92 trillion on Dec. 3 and a total of $2 billion long future contracts were liquidated.

Top winners and losers from top 80 coins. Source: Nomics

Bitcoin (BTC) price retraced 14.6% over the past week, effectively underperforming the broader altcoin market. Part of this unusual movement can be explained by the performance seen in decentralized applications which held up better than most of the market. Data shows Ether (ETH) traded down 6.0%, Binance Coin (BNB) lost 7.3% and Solana (SOL) dropped by 7.8%.

This week’s top gainers include OKEx’s OKB token (OKB) and Bitfinex’s UNUS (LEO). Perhaps these benefited from not having a United States entity because the regulatory uncertainties in the region continue to increase. Moreover, scaling solutions Polygon (MATIC) and Algorand (ALGO) benefited from Ethereum’s $40 or higher network transaction fees.

Terra (LUNA) featured on last week’s top performers after its built-in token burn mechanism significantly reduced the supply. Meanwhile, Stacks (STX), previously known as Blockstacks, pumped after D’Cent wallet included support for SIP010 tokens.

Sharing solutions had a disappointing week

Among the worst performers were three decentralized sharing solutions: Theta Network (THETA), Filecoin (FILE), and Internet Computer (ICP). They were not alone, as some of the sectors’ altcoins below the top-80 also crashed. Siacoin (S.C.) endured a 34% drawdown and Ankr Network (ANKR) dropped by 31.8%.

Chiliz (CHZ) suffered direct competition after Binance successfully launched an independent soccer fan token called SANTOS. Initially, Chiliz’ platform was created to host exclusive promos, services and voting for their fan tokens and more recently the project ventured into the non-fungible NFT market. However, that initiative also lost impact after soccer player Neymar launched a collection with NFTStar.

Despite being among the bottom performers, decentralized exchange aggregator 1inch Network (1INCH) concluded a $175 million Series B investment round and these funds will be used to expand the protocol’s utility.

Tether’s premium and the futures’ perpetual premium held up well

The OKEx Tether (USDT) premium measures the difference between China-based peer-to-peer (P2P) trades and the official U.S. dollar currency, and in the past week it decreased slightly.

OKEx USDT peer-to-peer premium vs. USD. Source: OKEx

Currently the indicator has a 98% reading, which is slightly bearish, signaling weak demand from crypto traders to convert cash into stablecoins. Even at its best moment over the past two months, it failed to surpass 99%, so Chinese players have not been excited about the general market.

The overall impact of last week’s correction was a drop in the total futures open interest, down 28% to $16.7 billion. Nevertheless, the move was expected since the total market cap retraced and some $3.9 billion worth of liquidations took place during the week.

More importantly, the funding rates on Bitcoin and Ethereum futures quickly recovered from Dec. 3 price crash. Even though longs (buyers) and shorts (sellers) are matched at all times in any futures contract, their leverage varies.

Consequently, to balance their risk, exchanges will charge a funding rate to whichever side is using more leverage and this fee is paid to the opposing side.

BTC and ETH perpetual futures 8-hour funding rates. Source:

Data reveals that a modest bearish trend occurred on Dec. 3 and 4 as the 8-hour funding rate went below zero. A negative funding rate shows that shorts (seller) were the ones paying the fees, but the movement faded as soon as BTC and ETH prices bounced 15% from their lows.

The above data might not sound encouraging, but considering that Bitcoin suffered considerable losses this week, the overall market structure held nicely. If the situation was worse, one would definitively not expect a 99% Tether premium or a positive perpetual funding rate.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.