On November 14th, block height 709,632, Bitcoin’s Taproot upgrade was activated. The update brings with it improvements to the flexibility, security, and efficiency of bitcoin transactions. And as Bitcoin’s first protocol upgrade in over four years, it’s a major milestone in the development of the network.
Below, we outline the Taproot upgrade, what it changes, and how it will impact the bitcoin network going forward.
Three interconnected upgrades, deployed simultaneously
The Taproot upgrade is actually an umbrella term referring to three interconnected Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) set to activate simultaneously:
- BIP 340, or Schnorr. This proposal introduces Schnorr signatures, a digital signature scheme that is faster, more secure, and less data-intensive than the cryptographic method currently in use (Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm, or ECDSA).
- BIP 341, or Taproot. This proposal defines Pay-to-Taproot (P2TR), a new way to send bitcoin that enhances privacy and flexibility for users. It also implements Merklized Alternative Script Trees (MAST), which compress complex Bitcoin transactions into a single hash. This reduces transaction fees, minimizes memory usage, and improves Bitcoin’s scalability.
- BIP 342, or Tapscript. This proposal defines Tapscript, an update to Bitcoin’s original scripting language that enables P2TR transactions, leverages Schnorr signatures’ improved efficiency, and allows for more flexible upgrades going forward.
Taproot adoption timeline
On June 12th, 2021, these upgrade proposals reached a 90% consensus among miners, thus locking in their November activation as a soft fork to Bitcoin’s protocol. As a soft fork, the Taproot upgrade is backwards compatible with older versions of bitcoin and does not create a separate, parallel blockchain, as was the case with Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
Adoption of taproot is expected to grow slowly over a period of years, just as it did with SegWit, the last major Bitcoin upgrade. Two years after SegWit’s activation, roughly 50 percent of transactions used it; today, four years after, that proportion is 80 percent. The main reason for this slow rate of adoption is that cryptocurrency wallets and service providers choose to opt-in on their own schedule.
The Taproot upgrade will improve Bitcoin in a number of ways, such as:
- Lower fees: Since the data size of complex transactions will be reduced, transaction fees will decline proportionally.
- Improved lightning network efficiency: Taproot will make transactions on the Lightning Network cheaper, more flexible and more private.
- Enhanced smart contract functionality: With Taproot, Bitcoin will be able to host smart contracts with any number of signatories while retaining the data size of a single-signature transaction. This lays the technical foundation for DeFi on the Bitcoin network.
- And many others
In other words, the Taproot upgrade is a massive improvement to the Bitcoin protocol. Lightning network improvements and expanded smart contract capabilities will improve bitcoin’s utility; meanwhile, lower transaction fees and increased network speed will improve its scalability.
For this reason, we’re thrilled to welcome BIP 340, 341, and 342 at block height 709,632 and beyond.