The Taproot soft fork upgrade was activated for the Bitcoin network on November 14, marking the first major upgrade to the world’s largest cryptocurrency since August 2017.
Taproot is designed to improve privacy, scalability, and security on the network through a variety of technical innovations.
A key feature of the upgrade is the introduction of the Merkelised Abstract Syntax Tree (MAST). According to one of Taproot’s main developers, Hampus Sjöberg, MAST makes smart contracts “more efficient and private by only revealing the relevant parts of a contract when spending”.
For example, this will allow Lightning Network transactions to no longer standout as unique from normal transactions on the blockchain, improving individual transaction privacy.
Additionally, the upgrade shifts the Bitcoin network from using ECDSA cryptographic signatures for transactions to new “Schnorr signatures”. These signatures are not only smaller and faster than ECDSA, but their linearity also improves privacy and allows for more complex and lightweight smart contracts.
In an interview with Cointelegraph, Sjöberg pointed out the importance of the upgrade in signalling that the Bitcoin network is still capable of being improved when needed, which is crucial to the cryptocurrency’s longevity.
Despite Taproot being activated, the work is far from done in terms of realising these upgrades across the network. Just over half of known Bitcoin nodes have updated to the necessary support package for the improvements, Bitcoin Core 21.1.
What’s more, users wont be able to send Taproot transactions until their Bitcoin wallet supports it, which could take months. Bitcoin’s last major upgrade, SegWit, took two years to reach 50 percent adoption, for example.
The main takeaway from the upgrade is that Taproot expands the arsenal of solutions at developers fingertips, providing new means to improve and build on the Bitcoin network.
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