Chris Pacia, a Bitcoin Cash enthusiast and programmer, has revealed a method of performing complex actions on-chain using the coin. This type of behavior is similar to how contemporary smart contracts work.
To perform these actions, programmers need to make use of Opcodes— a tool used to add functionality to Bitcoin Cash. Opcodes have not been available to Bitcoin (BTC) users for years since they were removed from the blockchain, but since Bitcoin Cash’s update in May, users of the forked coin have access to them.
To understand the significance of this, we first need to understand what Opcodes are. Opcodes (or operational codes) are functions which are now enabled in the Bitcoin Cash scripting language. They allow Bitcoin Cash users to have more control over how the blockchain is utilized.
Opcodes are not exactly new— the early iterations of Bitcoin (BTC) had them. They only disappeared when Bitcoin developers noticed some major bugs within the Opcodes which had the capability to damage transactions. Between 2010 and 2011, these errors were discovered, and since then, Opcodes have been removed from Bitcoin’s scripting language.
Bitcoin Cash decided to re-enable these Opcodes in its hard fork on May, but rather than simply add them back, the developers examined the particular Opcodes that presented issues and chose to rewrite them.
Some people are calling Opcodes a type of smart contract tool. You could argue this, but comparing Opcodes to the functions of Ethereum, NEO, or even EOS would be inaccurate, as coins with fully fleshed-out smart contract capabilities have a much more expansive set of tools to pull from.
With that said, the fact that Opcodes are being utilized in Bitcoin Cash is a hugely positive sign for the future. While Opcodes are not much compared to the likes of Ethereum’s smart contracts, they are much better than nothing, and many coins and tokens do not have any capabilities whatsoever. The May hard fork also means that Bitcoin Cash could use this opportunity to add more functionality to their Opcodes and could effectively try and compete with Ethereum sometime in the future.