What Is Nervos (CKB)?
What Is Nervos (CKB)?

What Is Nervos (CKB)?

Published May 15, 2024

Key Takeaways 

  • Nervos is an open-source modular blockchain network with a decentralized, permissionless, proof-of-work blockchain called CKB. 

  • CKB leverages a generalized version of Bitcoin’s UTXO model for accounting and a RISC-V instruction set-based virtual machine for transaction and smart contract execution.

  • In 2024, the "BTCKB" initiative was launched to enable CKB to be a Bitcoin Layer 2 (L2). The key components of this initiative include the RGB++ protocol, UTXO Stack, and “CKB Lightning,” which will connect CKB to Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. 


Bitcoin, recognized globally for its enduring presence, robust security, unmatched decentralization, and substantial market value, makes it a great platform for asset issuance. However, despite its numerous strengths, the Bitcoin blockchain operates with limitations; it is not Turing-complete and has significant performance constraints. This creates a pressing need for a flexible and programmable L2 solution that can go beyond Bitcoin's limitations.

Nervos (CKB) is an exemplary solution to this challenge. CKB is Turing-complete and stays true to Bitcoin's foundational principles, adopting the same PoW consensus mechanism and extending Bitcoin's UTXO model. This alignment allows for seamless integration and expansion, making CKB an ideal choice for those seeking to amplify the capabilities and performance of their Bitcoin L1 assets.

What Is Nervos (CKB)?

Nervos is an open-source modular blockchain network built from the ground up to ensure security, decentralization, flexibility, and interoperability. At its core is CKB, which stands for Common Knowledge Base, the foundation of the Nervos Network.

Launched in 2019, CKB has significantly evolved its role within the blockchain ecosystem. The CKB core team, in collaboration with the CKB Eco Fund, CELL Studio, and other key players within the Nervos ecosystem, launched the "BTCKB" initiative in 2024. 

The "BTCKB" initiative aims to tightly couple Bitcoin and CKB. By harnessing the power of their similarities, i.e., PoW consensus and the UTXO model, CKB can advance the Bitcoin blockchain with powerful new smart contract capabilities and bring Bitcoin L1 assets to CKB. 

CKB has been secured by ASICs mining since 2020, and the first halving of CKB issuance took place in 2023.

How Does It Work?

CKB is secured by PoW, and its specific consensus mechanism implementation is called NC-MAX, which is based on Bitcoin's Nakamoto consensus but optimized to remove bottlenecks that limit performance. NC-MAX is based on years of research by Dr. Ren Zhang and results in higher efficiency, throughput, and security for every joule of energy spent. 

CKB uses the Cell model (an extension of Bitcoin's UTXO model). This similarity enables a novel technology called “isomorphic binding,” which enables users to trustlessly transfer assets issued on Bitcoin's L1 to the CKB blockchain. 

In isomorphic binding, a Bitcoin UTXO is mapped to a Cell on CKB, and script constraints on both CKB and Bitcoin blockchains ensure the security of the asset and ownership transference. This process introduces Turing-complete smart contract scalability and performance to Bitcoin without the need for cross-chain transactions, bridges, or any compromise on security.

What Makes CKB Unique?

Compared to other Bitcoin L2s, CKB is more decentralized, secure (because of PoW consensus), and Bitcoin-compatible. It has a similar data structure (Cell and UTXO models) and a similar UX because users can use Bitcoin addresses and wallets to access CKB assets.

  • Cell model: Cells are the fundamental data structures of the CKB blockchain. They can store a wide range of data, from smart contracts to DOBs (Digital Objects). The Cell model facilitates Turing-complete smart contract functionality, underpinning a highly sustainable, flexible, and scalable programming environment.

  • CKB-VM: Powered by RISC-V instruction sets, CKB's virtual machine supports all current and prospective cryptographic primitives. This flexibility ensures that the CKB-VM can evolve alongside advancements in cryptographic technology, maintaining its relevance and security.

  • Layered architecture: CKB's architecture is characterized by its multi-layered approach, which can support a range of scalability solutions. This includes state channels, payment channels, sidechains, and even the capability to deploy EVM-compatible rollups. This layered architecture is pivotal in enhancing the network's throughput and efficiency while providing a robust framework for future innovations.

  • Account Abstraction: CKB features native or protocol-level account abstraction for flexible cryptographic operations without the need for protocol level changes, making the blockchain more user-friendly and accessible and encouraging broader adoption and use cases, such as the JoyID wallet.

  • Tokenomics: To ensure long-term sustainability, CKB has a dual issuance model. The primary issuance is the same as in Bitcoin, with a hard-capped supply and an issuance rate that halves every four years. The secondary issuance is uncapped and constant but directed at users storing data on CKB. The secondary issuance aims to solve the state explosion problem* plaguing smart contract platforms and to ensure miners have a predictable long-term block reward.

What Is the CKB Token?

CKBbyte token (CKB) is CKB's native token, serving a dual purpose: facilitating transactions (paying for transaction fees) and, more importantly, representing storage rights on the blockchain. Each CKB represents one byte of storage on the blockchain, which is capable of storing any type of data. 

This creates a natural demand among developers and users, making CKB a true store of value. As the network expands, so does the demand for CKB, likening it to fertile land—a scarce resource on which to build. Ownership of CKB equates to owning a piece of this digital landscape.

The CKB Ecosystem

CKB is a very flexible blockchain on which developers can build any type of application. Here are some examples of what has been built:

  • Decentralized Identities (DIDs): Leveraging CKB's robust support for various cryptographic primitives, DIDs (such as .bit) built on the CKB blockchain can support any blockchains' wallets, including Ethereum, BNB Chain, Polygon, TRON, and Dogecoin to register and manage the identities.

  • Passkey Wallets: The Passkey technology, pioneered by the FIDO Alliance, revolutionizes identity verification by eliminating the need for traditional usernames and passwords. In a blockchain context, it can eliminate the need for seed phrases. Passkey technology allows users to authenticate their identity in a secure and straightforward manner. You can use this technology today on CKB using the JoyID wallet.

  • Spore DOBs: The Spore protocol infuses digital objects (DOBs) with enduring value backed by tokenomics, redeemable at any time. It ensures true on-chain ownership, privacy, creative freedom, and frictionless interaction. 

  • RGB++ Protocol: The RGB++ protocol is a new L1 asset standard for the Bitcoin blockchain. It allows for the seamless transfer of Bitcoin L1 assets to the CKB blockchain without needing a cross-chain bridge. Additionally, RGB++ can support moving assets issued on CKB to Bitcoin. 

How to Buy CKB on Binance

CKB has been available for trading on Binance since January 26, 2021. You can buy CKB directly via the Binance app or the official website using USDT, USDC, or TRY (Turkish Lira). For a detailed tutorial, please refer to this guide.

What’s Next for CKB?

During the HongKong Web3 Festival 2024, a lineup of projects scheduled for rollout in the coming months was shared:

  • UTXO Stack: The UTXO Stack is a platform for launching high-performance Bitcoin Layer 2 chains secured by CKB. It offers near-unlimited scalability without compromising network security, thus fostering the growth of the Bitcoin ecosystem.

  • DeFi Expansion: AMM-based decentralized exchange, decentralized money markets, over-collateralized stablecoins (CDP), etc.

  • Lightning Network Integration: Connecting CKB with Bitcoin’s Lightning Network to achieve a bi-directional, censorship-resistant, permissionless, and trustless flow of assets across the two networks.

  • Nostr client with support of CKB Lightning Network and integrated with the RGB++ protocol.

Closing Thoughts

CKB is an ideal Bitcoin L2 that is steadfast in its adherence to the PoW consensus mechanism, extending Bitcoin’s UTXO model and achieving Turing-complete smart contracts. The Nervos network and its CKB token will likely continue to extend their influence within the broader Bitcoin ecosystem, contributing to its advancement and further adoption.

Further Reading