In its first decade in existence, Bitcoin transformed out of an unknown project into a new kind of public infrastructure for value, one with its own currency for anyone, a digital commodity now recognized by everyday people and influential officials across the world.
To that end, we’ve seen where Bitcoin has been and how far it’s come.
In extension, it’s as interesting as ever to think about where Bitcoin goes in the coming decade. To attempt to take stock of that future, it’s worth tracking how the groundwork that will define the cryptocurrency’s next advancements is being laid in the here and now.
Satoshi’s Legacy Lives On in Bitcoin Core
Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto changed the game over 10 years ago when they (or them) released the original Bitcoin Core software client. All these years later, the client’s current maintainers just celebrated the release of its 19th version, which is much changed and considerably optimized from the software’s first rendition but still enjoys a direct lineage to it.
Released on November 24th, Bitcoin Core 0.19.0 was the culmination of more than 500 merged pull requests contributed since the springtime from more than 100 developers. The new software introduces a variety of upgrades aimed at optimizing and updating the client’s user experience (UX) flow.
For example, the “bech32” address style — bitcoin addresses that start with “bc1” — is now the default address format in the client’s Graphical User Interface (GUI). This address format will make it so that it will take less data to spend from SegWit-compatible bitcoin addresses.
Moreover, other upgrades in the 0.19.0 software make it more difficult to attack the Bitcoin network, specifically “partitioning attacks.” Such an attack can occur when a malicious agent controls enough Bitcoin nodes to cut off portions of the network from honest nodes and can launch double spends, i.e. fraudulent bitcoin payments.
Another 0.19.0 optimization is that so-called “Bloom Filters” have been kicked to the background, no long being a default setting in the client; these filters had been used to help light clients stay abreast of transactions of note without having to download a bunch of data they didn’t need. The problem? These filters leaked a lot of node information where privacy is concerned. They are no longer activated by default in Bitcoin Core accordingly.
Unto Better Privacy
Deprecating Bloom Filters is a privacy advancement for Bitcoin Core, but there’s also privacy research that’s happening beyond that software client’s direct purview that could have big benefits for the Bitcoin ecosystem in general.
Consider the case of the recently introduced SNICKER, which stands for “Simple Non-Interactive Coinjoin with Keys for Encryption Reused.”
Put forth as a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) by Adam Gibson, SNICKER is a type of coin mixing technology that allows bitcoin users to tumble their BTC without needing to interact or coordinate together. That could pave the way for bitcoin privacy being a lot simpler and streamlined for users.
The Lightning Network, the Bitcoin-based micropayments dApp, could be fertile ground for messaging apps going forward. That’s per Joost Jager, who recently unveiled his Whatsat Lightning app, a messenger service that can’t be censored.
“The world needs censorship-resistant chatting and with Lightning, compensating the network for message relay comes naturally,” Jager explained on Twitter earlier this month.
At the end of the day, freedom and empowerment are the end goals of the open-source blockchain development community, with Bitcoin being far from an exception to that rule. Governments and Big Tech companies are currently well poised to be disrupted in that vein.
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