The Bitcoin Core development team has released version 0.16.0, a major release promising “full support for SegWit” in the wallet and user interfaces. Along with other performance enhancements and bug fixes, the new release also supports the “bc1” Bitcoin address format, helps users to more easily re-send “stuck” transactions, and uses the popular “bits” denomination instead of “µBTC”.
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Full SegWit Support and ‘bc1’ Address Formats
It’s the first major Bitcoin Core release since September 2017, when SegWit had only just activated and there was still a degree of uncertainty over whether Bitcoin would fork again to introduce larger transaction block sizes.
That version (0.15.0) allowed SegWit-compatible address creation for more advanced users, but didn’t default to that option in the UI.
0.16.0 means Core now supports the “Bech32” address format for Bitcoin. These addresses are also called “bc1” addresses because they start with those characters instead of the traditional “1” or “3”, and simplify the receiving address format somewhat.
Bech32 makes Bitcoin addresses shorter and simpler in general, giving them a distinctive new look and (although Core’s notes don’t mention it) distinguish them further from Bitcoin Cash (BCH) addresses, which often share the familiar “1” format and have caused confusion.
Wallets created with the newest Bitcoin Core version will be hierarchical-deterministic (HD) by default. This creates an incompatibility issue with previous versions, meaning anyone who creates wallets with 0.16.0 can’t then downgrade to older versions of Core. However, wallets created on older versions will not be upgraded to HD in 0.16.0.
Replace-by-Fee for Stuck Transactions Now Default
The “replace by fee” (RBF) option for transactions is now also enabled by default. RBF allows users to re-broadcast a transaction later with a higher fee, giving it priority should it be “stuck” with a fee that’s too low during periods of peak activity.
Excessive fees, and transactions that get stuck with what seemed like a reasonable fee at the time of sending, have been a major criticism of Bitcoin Core for the past few months. Developers have been working hard to increase support for SegWit (which theoretically allows for higher transaction capacity) and make options like RBF easier.
Users will now have to check a box on the sending screen if they want to mark a transaction as “final” (i.e. that it can’t be changed by RBF later).
Users wishing to upgrade are advised to completely shut down any running version first, and (if upgrading from a version earlier than 0.15.0) expect to wait for the chainstate database to convert to the newer version.
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