Support for Bitcoin’s Taproot Upgrade Grows – Here are the Details
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Support for Bitcoin’s Taproot Upgrade Grows – Here are the Details

Bitcoin's long-awaited Taproot upgrade would expand smart contract flexibility, and offer more privacy. But first it needs miners' approval.
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Taproot, a Bitcoin protocol upgrade initially proposed by Bitcoin Core contributor and former Blockstream CTO Gregory Maxwell, is up for another vote. The update, which promises lower transaction costs, increased privacy, more flexibility, and lightning boost, requires support from at least 90% of miners to be deployed. Here’s everything you need to know about the upgrade that’s gaining in popularity.

What is Bitcoin’s Taproot Upgrade?

Initially proposed in 2018 by Gregory Maxwell, Taproot is an update essentially expected to enhance Bitcoin’s smart contract flexibilities and expand privacy. Technically, Taproot combines the Schnorr signature scheme with MAST (Merklized Alternative Script Tree) and a new scripting language named Tapscript.

The Schnorr signature is valuable for Bitcoin because of its “linear math,” which allows for signature aggregation. In simple terms, Schnorr allows several signatures in the same transaction to be combined into one — in turn saving size and potentially reducing fees. Moreover, MAST (Merkelized Abstract Syntax Tree) is a proposed solution that uses Merkle trees (a compact data structure invented by cryptographer Ralph Merkle) to address the size and privacy problems related to the complex smart contracts. 

Combining the Schnorris signature aggregation property with MAST, Taproot makes a complex smart contract identıcal to a regular bitcoin transaction, enabling extensive privacy. In brief, these are the main advantages of this promising upgrade:

  1. Privacy: The Taproot upgrade will enhance anonymity by making it impracticable to distinguish different types of transactions. The update will make complex smart contracts — those demanding multiple signatures or those with a postponed release date — indistinguishable from ordinary transactions in terms of on-chain footprint.
  2. Fees: Taproot would reduce the data size, which in turn will reduce the transaction fees.
  3. Smart contract flexibility: Taproot facilitates users to set more complicated conditions for a transaction.
  4. Speed: Taproot reduces the data size, consequently, increasing the processing speed. Taproot also makes transactions on the Lightning Network cheaper.

According to the official release note for the update:

“Taproot and schnorr also include efficiency improvements for full nodes such as the ability to batch signature verification. Together, the improvements lay the groundwork for future potential upgrades that may improve efficiency, privacy, and fungibility further.”

Taproot Requires Miners’ Endorsement

After a long period of discussions, Bitcoin Core developers David Harding and Russell O’Connor eventually settled on “Speedy Trial” as the deployment method for this update. It was April this year that the “Speedy Trial” code for the Taproot update was merged into Bitcoin Core. With the “Speedy Trial” already merged into Bitcoin Core, all that’s required is a support signal from miners.

The Speedy Trial, which commenced in May, allocates a three-month activation period. During this period, at least 90% of miners have to get on board and signal support for the upgrade by adding a “signal bit” in the blocks they mine. This 90% threshold has to be accomplished within an approximately two-week-long (or 2016 blocks) difficulty period prior to the termination of the activation period — August 11, 2021. 

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Taproot: Where We Are Now

So far, two signaling periods have passed, and Taproot has failed to accomplish the 90% threshold within these two periods. In the last signaling period, some mining pools showed inconsistency, signaling with most blocks and not signaling with few. Though, it can be argued that the inconsistency is rather due to technical failures than a change of mind.

In the current signaling period, a sum of 439 blocks has already signaled, with 1577 more signals to come — to complete the 2016 blocks difficulty period. 430 of the 439 blocks signaled readiness for the Taproot update, which indicates that 97.9% of miners in the current period have shown support. If miners keep this pace, by the end of this period the threshold will be reached and Taproot will be locked in.

Miners Show Strong Support for Taproot

Almost all Bitcoiners along with all the major mining pools support the Taproot upgrade. Binance Pool was the last mining pool with over 10% of the Bitcoin network hashrate that showed support for the Taproot update in the final days of 2020. 

Alejandro De La Torre, Vice President at Poolin, the third largest Bitcoin mining pool, described his stance on Taproot in an interview with Forkast.News, he stated:

“Taproot is an upgrade that we see not only benefiting Bitcoin. When an upgrade benefits bitcoin, it benefits everyone using it. It is a long-term stance from us at Poolin, [and] we foresee the benefits slowly building throughout the next couple of years.”

De La Torre, who also happens to lead Taproot Activation, believes this upgrade would bring a feeling of goodwill among Bitcoiners. “I believe a MAST would help heal some wounds from prior upgrades and hopefully garner a feeling of goodwill amongst all participants in Bitcoin,” he said.

Do you think the 90% threshold will be reached in the current signaling period? What are your thoughts regarding the Taproot update? Let us know in the comments part.