Bitcoin Cash Locks in Schnorr Signatures for May Upgrade, Devs Say More Privacy and Efficiency

Bitcoin Cash Locks in Schnorr Signatures for May Upgrade, Devs Say More Privacy and Efficiency

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) developers have agreed to include Schnorr signatures and better SegWit recovery mechanisms into the protocol for its May 2019 upgrade. The enhancements will allow more efficient transaction verification and more private interactions with features like smart contracts, payment channels and atomic swaps — allowing these to appear as regular transactions.

Also read: Bitcoin Block Size: Getting Fatter, But Decrease Chatter Growing

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Big Schnorr? No, Actually a Major Improvement

Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin (BTC) currently use ECDSA (Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm) signatures for authenticating transactions. Developers have discussed Schnorr adoption as a potential major improvement for both networks for years, including a draft proposal (BIP) from BTC developer and Blockstream co-founder Peter Wuille.

Schnorr signatures, which are shorter than the ECDSA kind at 64 bytes, allow multiple signatures to be “batched” into one transaction. As well as reducing the amount of transaction data overall, it provides for more complex off-chain smart contracts and eliminates any signature malleability.

Contracts can be settled, payment channels opened and utilized, and tokens swapped for others without the need for exchanges (“atomic swaps”) — while remaining indistinguishable from normal transactions to blockchain data analysts. This means users can deploy these more sophisticated features without their actions being immediately obvious.

Diagram of how Schnorr signatures mask atomic swaps
Diagram of how Schnorr signatures mask atomic swaps

A lack of standardization over what constitutes a Schnorr signature, at least compared to ECDSA, has slowed their implementation on Bitcoin BTC thus far. However BCH developers have agreed it’s adequate to do so now.

The other major proposal, SegWit Recovery, makes it easier to recover BTC coins sent via SegWit transactions to BCH addresses, though users will still need a miner’s assistance to accomplish this.

The Bitcoin Cash Development Process

Bitcoin Cash is structured to upgrade via a hard fork every six months, meaning miners and full nodes must update their software to remain on the network. As long as the various development teams don’t have any deep-seated divisions over what should be included, these hard forks are mostly routine and non-contentious.

New features are “frozen” into the code three months before the hard fork actually happens, to allow time for testing and bug-fixing on the BCH Testnet. Participants suggested preparations for the next upgrade should happen even sooner in the future.

Mark Lundeberg, who pushed for Schnorr implementation on BCH
Mark Lundeberg, who pushed for Schnorr implementation on BCH

The fourth meeting, like others, was livestreamed and posted on YouTube to promote transparency in the development process. This time it included developers Amaury Sechet, Antony Zegers, Andrea Susani, Mark Lundeberg and Jason B. Cox, along with BitPay’s Matias Garcia and organizer David R. Allen.

As a major merchant payment processor, BitPay’s participation in the upgrade process is significant. Garcia reaffirmed his company’s support and thanked developers for their efforts.

Compelling Upgrades, but BCH Faces Challenges in the User World

The May 2018 upgrade plans are happening at a time Bitcoin Cash faces some tough challenges. Despite a dedicated community of developers and evangelists pushing its adoption with merchants, it has lost some of its highest profile backers and much of its fiat value in the past few months. It now fights a two-front battle for Bitcoin hearts and minds against Bitcoin (BTC) fans, and former members of its own community who split to support the recently-forked Bitcoin SV (BSV).

Outspoken media magnet Dr. Craig Wright (and the nChain team) now promotes BSV as the true successor to Bitcoin’s original spirit, taking with him names like Ryan X. Charles and Daniel Krawisz. Bitmain’s Jihan Wu has stayed out of the spotlight in 2019 amid Chinese media rumors the company is set to replace him as CEO.

That leaves Roger Ver as the most recognizable Bitcoin Cash spokesperson outside the crypto industry. BCH has also seen its value drop from $420 USD at the time of its last hard fork to its current $122. Many who would have spent BCH in an effort to show off its charms as a fast, cheap, and on-chain-scalable cryptocurrency have been shocked into hodling in the hope it regains some of its former glory.

Are the proposed upgrades enough to spur new interest in, and adoption of, Bitcoin Cash? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Images via Pixabay, YouTube, GitHub

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