Via Pieter Wuille and Co., Schnorr Signatures BIP Draft Now Posted

Via Pieter Wuille and Co., Schnorr Signatures BIP Draft Now Posted

Renowned Bitcoin developer Pieter Wuille has submitted a draft of a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) on Schnorr signatures to the OG cryptocurrency’s “bips” GitHub page. The proposal is a foundational standard that further BIPs can help to practically actualize — a standard experts say would provide considerable improvements over Bitcoin’s current ECDSA-based signatures.

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One Small Step for Man, One Future-Minded Leap for Bitcoin

Schnorr signatures, often touted as one of the most important forthcoming improvements to Bitcoin alongside Bulletproofs and Confidential Transactions, now has a submitted BIP draft on Bitcoin’s “bips” GitHub page courtesy of Bitcoin developer Pieter Wuille.

Schnorr signatures, if fully actualized, would offer a more efficient replacement to Bitcoin’s current ECDSA signature system, insofar as these new signatures could alleviate transaction storage burdens on the Bitcoin network by over 20 percent. Schnorr signatures are provably secure and non-malleable and would open up new privacy possibilities for multisig transactions.

Pieter Wuille.

As Wuille noted on the bitcoin-dev mailing list, the first step in bringing a BIP “to the table,” as it were, the proposal necessitates further work:

“It is simply a draft specification of the signature scheme itself. It
does not concern consensus rules, aggregation, or any other
integration into Bitcoin – those things are left for other proposals,
which can refer to this scheme if desirable. Standardizing the
signature scheme is a first step towards that, and as it may be useful
in other contexts to have a common Schnorr scheme available, it is its
own informational BIP.

If accepted, we’ll work on more production-ready reference
implementations and tests.

This is joint work with several people listed in the document.”

To that last point, Wuille cited “Johnson Lau, Greg Maxwell, Jonas Nick, Andrew Poelstra, Tim Ruffing, Rusty Russell, and Anthony Towns” as providing input on the BIP, which he specifically described as a “standard for 64-byte Schnorr signatures over the elliptic curve secp256k1.”

Notably, the implementation of the standard would require a soft fork.

Don’t Make Perfect the Enemy of the Good

As news of the BIP made its way to Reddit, one Redditor wondered what Wuille would have to say about so-called BLS signatures, another proposed improvement on ECDSA.

Wuille quickly chimed in and clarified his position, saying “I think [BLS is] awesome.” Though Wuille went on to argue it was best to start elsewhere:

“I think they’re awesome.

However, they’re also slower to verify, and introduce additional security assumptions. That roughly means there are additional ways in which they could be broken, which don’t apply to Schnorr or ECDSA. As a result, I expect it to be much easier to find widespread agreement to switch to Schnorr (which has no additional assumptions, and is slightly faster than ECDSA).

First things first.”

Indeed, you have to start somewhere. And the BIP at hand is most definitely just a start, albeit a significant one. Wuille noted at Stanford in January 2018 that it would be “a lengthy process” to bring the signature system to full fruition.

Things are full speed ahead for now, though, it seems.

What’s your take? Beyond Schnorr signatures, what other improvements are you waiting to arrive on Bitcoin? Sound off in the comments below. 

Images via Pixabay, Twitter

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