Ever since Pieter Wuille created SegWit, Bitcoin enthusiasts have been enjoying faster transactions thanks to less mess going into blocks. Wuille hasn’t wasted any time hanging around, and has begun work on creating his next implementation – Taproot. However, this time his implementation isn’t aimed at the Bitcoin network, but instead the Lightning Network. Taproot should help the Lightning Network become even faster and much more scalable thanks to its properties.
It might get a bit technical, so if we go a bit too fast for you here, let us know in the comments below and we will do our best to clear the air!
Cutting Down on 32 Bytes of Data
Currently, the Lightning Network – as proposed by Joseph Poon and Thaddeus Dryja – includes two scripts in the final hash – Alice’s signature and time lock requirement as well as the same set from Bob. This equates to 64 bytes of data to relay the same message to the network. While 64 bytes doesn’t sound like much, when you multiply this by millions of transactions per day – once the Lightning Network reaches that stage – and you have a lot of unnecessary data. What Taproot proposes to do is cut out one set of signature and time lock requirement from the final hash. This in turn cuts the transaction size down to 32 bytes, reducing the block size by half!
Just a Soft Fork
The proposed Taproot upgrade would have zero negative consequences on the network – unlike SegWit – meaning it would result in just a soft fork. Once all clients on the Bitcoin network upgrade to the newer version, Taproot would be live and transactions on the Lightning Network would be able to move faster thanks to their smaller size, making it far more scalable than it already is. Unfortunately, despite having no negative side effects, it could be some time before we see a soft fork occur with the Taproot upgrade in it.
Could ZK-Snarks Fix Bitcoin?
If you don’t want to use the Lightning Network – for whatever reason you have – then there are other potential upgrades to the Bitcoin network that can be made. Seeing as increasing block size will create a larger blockchain that takes more time to sync and decreasing block time just means more blocks per hour – not more transactions – there needs to be a better solution. One developer has proposed using ZK-Snarks to create instant sync full nodes to validate more transactions, helping transactions sail through the network faster than ever before. However, this is a highly controversial upgrade and will likely result in a major hard fork.
The Lightning Network is sailing along for now, and Taproot can afford to be delayed for a few months while developers squabble about it. However, as more people begin using the Lightning Network, it will get more congested and scaling solutions like Taproot will become vital to its longevity.