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Bitcoin Core 0.21.0 Released: What’s New

Today marks the official release of Bitcoin Core 0.21.0, the 21st major release of Bitcoin’s original software client launched by Satoshi Nakamoto about 12 years ago. 

Overseen by Bitcoin Core lead maintainer Wladimir van der Laan, this latest major release was developed by well over a hundred contributors in a span of about six months. The result of over 600 merged pull requests, Bitcoin Core 0.21.0 is one of the biggest Bitcoin Core releases in recent years, introducing various new features as well as privacy and performance improvements, while taking a big step towards the Schnorr/Taproot protocol upgrade.

Below are some of the more notable changes.

Descriptor Wallets

When coins are sent to a Bitcoin address, what actually happens under the hood is that they are “locked up” in an unspent transaction output (UTXO), to only be “unlocked” (spent) in a later transaction if the conditions hidden in the UTXO are met. A typical condition is the inclusion of a valid signature corresponding to a specific public key. But conditions can for example also consist of the inclusion of a secret code, the lapse of a timelock or a combination of signatures (multisig).

Until now, Bitcoin Core was designed to manage the UTXOs in its wallet around their corresponding private keys — even though private keys are just one of several potential conditions for spending coins. Bitcoin Core 0.21.0 instead introduces “descriptor wallets.” Descriptor wallets let users categorize their UTXOs based on the types of conditions that are required to spend them. (For example: one wallet for UTXOs that just require a valid signature, and one wallet for multisig UTXOs.)

Descriptor wallets are especially useful for application developers who design software on top of Bitcoin Core. A particular application can now easily be designed to utilize only a specific type of UTXO, like multisig UTXOs, and ignore any non-multisig UTXOs.

Regular users may also notice...

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