Date - Cryptocurrency X Webflow Template
June 11, 2024
Reading Time - Cryptocurrency X Webflow Template
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 min read

What Are Discreet Log Contracts (DLCs) and How Do They Work?

DLCs are contract protocols that enable the creation of private, secure, and trust-minimized conditional payments directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. This article explains DLCs in detail and explores their applications in DeFi.

Key Takeaways

  • Discreet Log Contracts facilitate secure, private, and trust-minimized agreements directly on the Bitcoin blockchain, enhancing its functionality for decentralized finance.
  • DLCs have versatile applications, such as facilitating decentralized non-custodial Bitcoin bridges, futures contracts, sports betting, and hedging against price volatility for Bitcoin miners.
  • By leveraging advanced cryptographic techniques and reliable oracles, DLCs provide a robust solution for executing financial agreements without relying on intermediaries, ensuring security and efficiency.

Discreet Log Contracts (DLCs) represent a significant advancement in cryptocurrency and decentralized finance (DeFi). Developed at MIT by Tadge Dryja, a co-creator of the Lightning Network, DLCs are designed to facilitate secure, private, and trust-minimized agreements directly on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Unlike traditional contracts that rely on intermediaries or smart contracts that operate on programmable blockchains, DLCs offer a unique approach by leveraging advanced cryptographic techniques and oracles to settle contracts based on real-world events. This innovation not only enhances Bitcoin's functionality but also opens new avenues for its integration into the DeFi ecosystem, providing users with a robust tool for executing financial agreements in a decentralized and transparent manner.

What are DLCs?

DLCs are contract protocols that enable the creation of private, secure, and trust-minimized agreements/conditional payments directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. Unlike traditional contracts, which often require trusted intermediaries or third parties to enforce terms, DLCs use advanced cryptographic techniques to ensure the contract's conditions are met without requiring central authority. This is achieved through digital signatures and oracles, which provide external data necessary for contract execution.

Comparison with Traditional Contracts and Smart Contracts

Traditional contracts rely heavily on intermediaries such as lawyers, notaries, and financial institutions to ensure the terms of the agreement are honored. This reliance not only introduces potential delays and overhead costs but also exposes the parties involved to risks related to trust and security.

Smart contracts, on the other hand, are self-executing contracts with the terms directly written into code. These contracts operate on blockchain platforms like Ethereum, enabling automated execution and enforcement. However, smart contracts can be complex to write and audit and are limited by the capabilities and security of the blockchain they operate on.

DLCs provide a middle ground by combining the security and transparency of blockchain technology with the privacy and efficiency of cryptographic techniques. Unlike smart contracts, DLCs do not require the contract terms to be visible on the blockchain, thereby preserving the parties' privacy. This makes DLCs particularly suitable for financial agreements where confidentiality is paramount.

Role of Oracles in DLCs

Oracles play a crucial role in the functioning of DLCs. They act as external data providers that feed real-world information into the blockchain, which is necessary to execute the contract. In the context of DLCs, oracles provide the outcome of a particular event or condition that the contract is contingent upon, such as the result of a sports game, a stock price, or a weather event.

The process works as follows: both parties to the contract agree on an oracle to provide the necessary data. The oracle then signs the outcome of the event with its private key. This signed data unlocks the funds held in the contract, ensuring that the correct party receives the payment based on the agreed-upon terms.

Notably, using oracles in DLCs does not compromise the privacy of the contract itself, as the details remain hidden from the blockchain. This seamless integration of oracles ensures that DLCs can be used for a wide range of applications, providing the necessary flexibility and reliability for executing complex financial agreements securely and privately.

An Illustrative Example of How DLCs Work 

To illustrate how DLCs work, let's use the classic example of Alice and Bob, who want to enter into a bet on the outcome of a football game.

Contract Creation:

  • Agreement: Alice and Bob agree to a bet on the outcome of a sports game. They choose an oracle to referee the outcome of the game.
  • Key Pair Generation: Alice and Bob each generate a key pair (private and public keys). They exchange their public keys.
  • Oracle Selection: They agree on an oracle, Olivia, and obtain Olivia’s public key.

Oracle Involvement:

  • Oracle Commitment: Olivia commits to signing the game outcome with her private key and publishing this signature.

Execution and Settlement:

  • Funding Transaction: Alice and Bob create a funding transaction that locks their bet amount (e.g., 1 BTC each) into a multisig address that requires both signatures to unlock.
  • Contingent Transactions: Alice and Bob pre-sign contingent transactions corresponding to all possible game outcomes. These transactions have yet to be broadcast.
    • For example, if Team A wins, the transaction sends the entire 2 BTC to Alice. If Team B wins, it sends the 2 BTC to Bob.
  • Event Outcome: Olivia observes the outcome after the game and signs the result (e.g., "Team A wins") with its private key. Olivia then publishes this signature.


Unlocking Funds:

  • If Team A wins, Alice uses Olivia's signature to create a valid transaction that she signs and broadcasts to the Bitcoin network. This transaction moves the 2 BTC from the multisig address to her address.
  • If Team B wins, Bob does the same with the appropriate pre-signed transaction.

DLCs Use Cases

Facilitating Decentralized Non-Custodial Bitcoin Bridges

DLCs enable decentralized non-custodial Bitcoin bridges, allowing users to securely use their Bitcoin on Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) chains. This method is the safest way to utilize Bitcoin in DeFi applications without relying on centralized custodians or risky bridges.

By locking Bitcoin in a DLC, users can mint wrapped tokens on EVM chains, maintaining full control and ownership of their assets while participating in DeFi activities such as lending, borrowing, and yield farming. This approach mitigates risks associated with centralized custody, enhancing security and trust in the DeFi ecosystem.

Additionally, platforms like and Shell Finance are experimenting with using DLCs to lock Bitcoin and utilize oracles to trigger liquidations, further showcasing the potential of DLCs in lending applications.

Futures Contracts

DLCs are ideal for creating and managing futures contracts. In traditional finance, futures contracts allow parties to agree on a price for an asset at a future date, providing a hedge against price fluctuations. DLCs bring this capability to the crypto space, enabling trustless and automated futures contracts on the Bitcoin blockchain.

DLCs use oracles to verify market prices at contract maturity, ensuring that the agreed-upon terms are met without requiring intermediaries. This application gives traders and investors a powerful tool to manage risk and speculate on future asset prices in a decentralized and secure manner.

Sports Bets

Sports betting is another compelling DLC use case. Participants can place bets on the outcome of sporting events, such as football and basketball games, using Bitcoin. The terms of the bet, including the outcomes and payouts, are encoded in a DLC, and an oracle reports the final result of the game.

Once the oracle publishes the outcome, the DLC ensures that the funds are automatically and securely transferred to the winning party. This method eliminates the need for traditional betting platforms and intermediaries, offering a fair, transparent, and tamper-proof betting experience.

Hedging for Bitcoin Miners

Bitcoin miners can use DLCs to hedge against future price movements. Mining operations have significant exposure to Bitcoin price volatility, which can impact profitability. By entering into DLC-based hedging contracts, miners can lock in future Bitcoin prices, protecting themselves from unfavorable price changes.

For instance, a miner can agree to sell a certain amount of Bitcoin at a predetermined price in the future. If the price drops, the miner is compensated through the contract, stabilizing their revenue. DLCs provide miners with a robust financial tool to manage risk and ensure more predictable income streams.


DLCs represent a significant advancement in crypto and DeFi. Using advanced cryptographic techniques and reliable oracles, DLCs ensure secure, private, and trust-minimized agreements directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. They enhance Bitcoin's functionality and open new avenues for integration into DeFi.

DLCs facilitate applications such as decentralized non-custodial Bitcoin bridges, futures contracts, sports betting, and hedging for Bitcoin miners. These use cases demonstrate the practical benefits of DLCs in providing secure and efficient financial agreements without intermediaries.