If the privacy and scaling upgrade Schnorr/Taproot makes it into bitcoin (BTC), it could pave the way for advanced and heretofore impossible projects. That is, as they say, good for bitcoin.
Schnorr/Taproot has made a great deal of progress recently, moving from a theoretical privacy and scaling idea into actual code. But while the community is very excited about its future, the change is rather confusing. Why? Because it bundles together several different technologies proposed over the years and each one is technically and conceptually unique.
First, there are Merklized Abstract Syntax Trees (MASTs), a smart contract technology developers have been talking about since 2013. Then we add Schnorr signatures, a scaling change first proposed in 2015 by Pieter Wuille, and finally Taproot, a privacy technology built on top of both, proposed in 2018 by Greg Maxwell.
Privacy and scaling are two things bitcoin still lacks. But as badly as these changes are needed, massive updates like this one are hard and, as such, are few and far between in bitcoin.
One thorny issue is simply deciding what would go into the upgrade.
"I think the biggest struggle in the process was to come up with the exact set of features to deploy at the same time," Blockstream researcher Tim Ruffing told CoinDesk.
Here's a rundown of what changes made the cut, and what didn't.
How big is this update?
First, we must remember this update is helpful but it's not a magic pill that instantly morphs bitcoin into a super-scalable and private currency, as experts debated on Twitter recently.
"It's the right thing to do these improvements but they won't suddenly make bitcoin a private currency," Ruffing said.
There will be some clear improvements. First, more complex types of transactions will be easier to use. In the most typical transaction, one person "signs" a transaction, proving he or she owns the bitcoin and can send it. "Multi-...