Obelisk is a full bitcoin node and data server. It provides up-to-date blockchain data in a binary format using what is called ØMQ sockets, pronounced as Zero MQ sockets. ØMQ is an intelligent transport layer that can be used to handle distributed apps. Currently, several leading organizations use ØMQ including AT&T, Cisco, NASA, Weta Digital, Samsung Electronics and even Microsoft.
According to the ØMQ website, the ØMQ software can be used to connect code in any language or platform. It supports a number of protocols including IPC, TCP and TPIC. It supports smart patterns such as pub-sub, push-pull and router-dealer. Using ØMQ it is possible to build any kind of architecture whether centralized, distributed, small or large. The software is supported by a large and active open source community.
Obelisk however does not support Bitcoin’s RPC-JSON protocol, which is a huge drawback for the system, and makes it a much more difficult interface to work with. Very briefly, the RPC-JSON protocol enables a system to send out notifications and multiple calls to the server that can be answered out of order. Obelisk does not operate as a wallet, but it does understand the bitcoin wire protocol, and functions as a full bitcoin node on the P2P network.
The question that arises therefore is why we should use Obelisk in spite of its limitations. Currently there are a number of blockchain data providers, some funded, others pursued as a hobby. Coinkite believes that the bitcoin network becomes stronger with the use of open source code for design.
Currently Obelisk is being used by Dark Wallet. Dark Wallet is an upcoming community of projects that are designed to offer privacy, scalability and integrity. The projects which are currently in the alpha phase will offer multi-signature cooperative wallets, escrow support, stealth payments including coinjoin mixing and web integration. Though not endorsing Dark Wallet, Coinkite does have high hopes for many of the company’s ideas. Coinkite believes that more niche-specific wallet developers will start using the Obelisk server in the future.
In addition to the Obelisk server, Coinkite has a number of other APIs that enable REST integrations for adding bitcoin functions into a business or application. Some of the supported functions enable sending of funds using bitcoin, litecoin and blackcoin to any public key address, creating vouchers that can be redeemed after being sent out via email, or text message. The API is also able to handle security concerns too. It allows your application to create a new public key for every transaction, and also supports real time events for almost anything that happens on the account, including real-time notifications seconds after a customer pays you.
Images from Shutterstock and Coinkite.