This post is also available in: Español
Schnorr, Bitcoin’s most substantial code upgrade since SegWit is poising itself to replace the currency’s existing signature structure. The upgrade is getting ready to launch with noted bitcoin software contributor Pieter Wuille disclosing a technical draft last week. Since SegWit’s implementation, Schnorr has been receiving code from Bitcoin’s developers in an attempt to improve bitcoin’s privacy and scalability issues.
Schnorr spells out a new signature model and changes how the code can be added to the bitcoin blockchain. The project’s authors include Gregory Maxwell, Johnson Law, Pieter Wuille, and other talented bitcoin developers. Schnorr will be the biggest code change to bitcoin since the adoption of Segwit, and as a digital signature structure, it will bring new ways of generating cryptographic keys that are used in sending and storing bitcoin. This change will enhance scalability and privacy, two of the most debated issues concerning the bitcoin blockchain.
While the current Bitcoin Blockchain uses the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), which signs each transaction differently, Schnorr’s digital signature scheme will activate ‘signature aggregation,’ allowing all data to be signed once. Though Schnorr will replace bitcoin’s current signature generation model, the two schemes will have one thing in common: “secp256k1”, the same mathematical “curve” that ECDSA uses to generate private keys.
Schnorr & The Bitcoin Network
Schnorr’s signature scheme will reduce the number of digital signatures needed for transactions, thus increasing the number of transactions per block. According to developers, Schnorr could improve bitcoin’s privacy by making it difficult to trace the origin of transactions carried out on the blockchain.
Additionally, the signature change will eliminate “spam attacks,” where a single node or entity engages in multiple, smaller transactions that take unnecessary space and clogs the network. Developers see a 25 to 30 percent boost to the bitcoin blockchain when schnorr is implemented. In February 2018, a cryptographer at ANSSI, Yannick Seurin, who’s been involved in the coding of Schnorr disclosed to CoinDesk that:
“Schnorr signatures and the applications they enable generate high hopes. As evidenced by the recent scaling debate, any efficiency improvement is highly beneficial to bitcoin”.
The Future of Schnorr
While Schnorr’s technical BIP implementation would mean privacy and scalability to the ‘front-end’ and ‘back-end’ users of bitcoin, on a highly networked level, it will serve as a standard for merchants and developers to implement a universal signature system.
On the development side, the Schnorr code is being built and once finalized, the challenge of implementation and integration will pop up.
As Pieter Wuille outlined “Like any consensus change, it will be a long process involving fully fleshing out a draft for integration, publishing it, gathering comments from the technical community and ecosystem, writing implementations of both consensus rules and integration in wallet software, proposing a deployment plan, and if all goes well, get it activated”.
Another Bitcoin Fork?
Even after all the code and development issues are tackled, another stumbling block awaits the team: the community’s approval. Will the entire bitcoin community go with Schnorr? Or will some members take up their bag and baggage to create a new cryptocurrency? These questions are yet to be answered.
Though a lot of changes are undertaken on the bitcoin code by a globally diverse team, not all code changes are the same. Similarly to SegWit, whose dissenters formed their own cryptocurrency, Schnorr is a huge upgrade that affects significant aspects of the bitcoin network, and might not withstand the community’s scrutiny.
Just as fans of SegWit anticipated scrutiny and rejection, supporters of Schnorr likewise recognize a battle lies ahead. Nevertheless, many are optimistic that the digital signature scheme will be added to the bitcoin blockchain. As developer Riccardo Casatta puts it, “it looks, for now, there are less detractors than there was for SegWit,” but “You cannot say how things will go and as always, it is better to be patient.”