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Here's what MAST does and how it'll increase privacy in Bitcoin.

My Quick Guide to MAST

In a previous article, I discussed how Segwit enables exciting technology like the Lightning Network. Another tech that is coming for Segwit enabled coins is MAST. Here’s a quick rundown of what it is:

A good depiction of how MAST should be conceptualized. What does MAST stand for?

Merkelized Abstract Syntax Trees.

How will it affect Bitcoin, Litecoin, and other Segwit enabled coins?

It’ll increase their speed, scalability, and privacy.

What will it do exactly?

MAST will allow nodes to interact with “Merkle Trees” created within the BTC/LTC blockchain. Below is a recreation from Jeremy Rubin’s paper (referenced in the source section) of what a Merkle Tree is:

A Diagram of a Merkle Tree

Nodes read the top of the Merkle Tree along with the Merkle Root. They can check to see if the specific data that’s being requested is actually somewhere in the Merkle Tree. In other words, the Merkle Root “z” allows you to see that the transaction (ABz) occurred. The cool thing about Merkle Trees is that it ONLY reveals that specific information. It does not reveal that (CDz) was also part of the Merkle Tree. This is the increased privacy that MAST provides.

What’s a Merkle Root?

Before we talk about the Merkle Root, let’s talk about what a hash is.

“A hash is data that is scrambled and condensed into a short and seemingly random string of numbers. This string of numbers can’t be used to reproduce the original script. But if you have the original script, the hash can be reproduced.” -Aaron van Wirdum

If this sounds familiar, it should. This is what Pay to Script Hash (P2SH or multisig wallets) use.

Therefore, a Merkle Tree is a data structure that has reduced different datasets into a single and compact hash called the Merkle Root. This root can’t recreate the data...

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