What are Bitcoin Improvement Proposals(BIP)?

What are Bitcoin Improvement Proposals(BIP)?

You can’t just change the Bitcoin code.

Bitcoin is built on consensus and making changes to Bitcoin is no different.

Bitcoin is entirely decentralized and autonomous. The Bitcoin network runs on miners and nodes. Both are computers that run the Bitcoin software and work to keep the network secure. 

Bitcoin miners and full nodes decide on any upgrades to the network(software) by a vote, completely free of any third party.

Upgrades can range from bug fixes or feature changes to even hard forks, where the entire network splits

If you want to upgrade it, you have to convince the community that your proposal is good for Bitcoin.

The way to do this is with a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal or BIP.

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Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs)

Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) are design documents that introduce new features, processes, or information to the Bitcoin community.

They are a standardized way for individuals to propose changes to the Bitcoin protocol, the software, or the surrounding ecosystem.

Why do we need Bitcoin Improvement Proposals?

BIPs provide a structured way for developers and other interested parties to suggest improvements and changes to Bitcoin.

This ensures that everyone in the community has a chance to review, comment on, and understand proposed changes before they are implemented.

There are 3 types of BIPs submitted

1) Standard Track BIPs

Propose changes to the network protocol, transaction or block validation, or anything affecting interoperability.

2) Informational BIPs

Describe design issues, general guidelines, or provide general information. They don’t necessarily propose a new feature.

3) Process BIPs

Describe processes surrounding Bitcoin or propose a change to a process. They are similar to Standard Track BIPs but apply outside the Bitcoin protocol.

BIPs play a crucial role in ensuring that changes to Bitcoin are well-thought-out, vetted, and transparent. They allow for decentralized decision-making and collaborative innovation.

Where to Read all of the BIPs?

BIP Repository: The primary location for BIPs is the BIPs GitHub repository.

Here, you can find all the BIPs that have been proposed, their current status, and discussions related to them.

BIP Index: The BIPs repository also contains an index file named README.mediawiki that lists all BIPs by number and provides a brief description, status, and link to each one.

How to submit a BIP?

Before submitting, you should draft your BIP following the format and guidelines provided in BIP 2, which describes the BIP process in detail.

BIP Process

Here is the high level process from draft to approved or rejected.

  • Draft: Initial proposal stage.
  • Accepted: The BIP is agreed upon and is being worked on.
  • Final: The BIP has been implemented and is in use.
  • Rejected: The BIP is not being pursued by the original authors or the community.
  • Replaced: The BIP has been superseded by a newer proposal.

BIP Numbering

Each BIP is assigned a unique number.

For example, BIP-0032 introduces hierarchical deterministic wallets.

Who can write BIPs?

Anyone can write a BIP. Once written, the BIP is submitted to the Bitcoin community for review and discussion. People wishing to submit BIPs, first should propose their idea or document to the [email protected] mailing list.

1 – Submit a Pull Request

Once your BIP is written, you can submit it to the BIPs repository by creating a pull request.

This will allow the community and maintainers to review your proposal.

2 – Community Discussion

After submitting, there will be a discussion phase where community members can provide feedback, ask questions, and suggest changes.

It’s essential to be open to feedback and make necessary revisions based on the community’s input.

3 – BIP Number Assignment

If your BIP is deemed worthy of consideration, it will be assigned a unique BIP number by the maintainers.

Getting a BIP accepted and implemented can be a lengthy process. It requires thorough research, clear writing, and a willingness to engage with the community constructively.

The goal is to ensure that any changes or additions to Bitcoin are beneficial, safe, and well-understood by all stakeholders.

In essence, BIPs are the best way to foster collaborative development and ensure that Bitcoin remains a community-driven project for the people.

Notable BIPs & Upgrades to Bitcoin

BIP 001 – The first-ever BIP was created by Amir Taaki and was essentially a proposal on what a BIP should be and the process for drafting, reviewing, approving or rejecting proposals.

Segwit was one of the most popular Bitcoin upgrades and was the result of a collection of BIPs including: BIP-91, BIP-141, and BIP-148

Taproot, the most recent upgrade to Bitcoin and consisted of three BIPs: BIP 340 (Schnorr signatures), BIP 341 (Taproot), and BIP 342 (Tapscript). Taproot brings more privacy-friendly features and also brought support for Ordinals. 

It reduced the transaction data, introducing new features on the Bitcoin network, including new Signatures called “Schnorr Signatures” which allow for better security, lower fees, and even offer a multi-sig feature. It also allow for more complex conditional features that allow users to specify how a certain coin is spent.

New BIPs to watch for

Drivechain (BIP 300 & BIP 301) allows Bitcoin to create, delete, send BTC to, and receive BTC from “Layer-2”s called “sidechains”. Read more on www.drivechain.info

Hope you found this as interesting as I did researching this topic.

Let me know if you have any questions

Happy Hashing!

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