early this morning and the update includes
several changes that have huge implications for
. The release deploys the first soft fork on the Bitcoin network to
use the methodology outlined in
(Version Bits), which allows multiple soft forks to take place at
the same time.
The three BIPs (
) included in Bitcoin Core 0.12.1 have huge implications for the
, which many believe to be Bitcoin's best chance for long-term
scalability. Although the code for the soft fork has been deployed,
miners cannot signal their support for it until May 1st.
A Huge Step Forward for the Lightning Network
The three BIPs implemented in this latest release of Bitcoin
Core combine to enable relative
. This means that
can now be closed without a predetermined date, which would be set
when the channel is initially opened. This provides more
, such as the Lightning Network, because users will be able to exit
channels in a more timely manner.
reached out to Bitcoin Core contributor and
for further details on how these new changes will affect the
flexibility between channels on the Lightning Network, and he
"It depends on the locktime duration -- it's a tradeoff. Too
short a time means not enough time to enforce a revocation (and
steal back the funds). Too long a time and you risk waiting a
while to force the channel to close if the counterparty is
Lombrozo also added, "I'm not sure we've settled on an optimum
According to Lombrozo, the reliability of outsourced revocation,
the number of hops between channels, and other variables must also
be considered. The Ciphrex CEO added, "Ideally, the locktime is
never used. It's there to prevent broadcast of revoked
In a scenario where a user wants to close a channel and the
counterparty complies, Lombrozo claims the channel can essentially
be closed in the next block.
Block Space More About Users Than Transactions?
One of the key points that Lightning Network co-creator
has made lately (along with co-creator
) is that his generalized network for payment channels turns
the block size limit into an issue of users rather than
transactions. This is because bidirectional payment channels with
relative locktimes can theoretically stay open forever.
While it's unclear what percentage of Bitcoin users will want to
use the Lightning Network for the vast majority of their
transactions, it's clear to see that this system requires block
space for opening and closing channels rather than actual
transactions. Although, it should be noted that a user can also
send funds in a transaction that is meant to close a channel.
If everyone were using the Lightning Network, the block size
limit would be a limit on the number of users who can open channels
with other users. Having said that, this scenario is unlikely as
there are still reasons to use the underlying Bitcoin blockchain
for reasons other than opening or closing a payment channel.
Multiple Soft Forks at the Same Time
The soft fork rolled out in Bitcoin Core 0.12.1 will also not
delay the deployment of
because Version Bits was used to implement these new features.
Version Bits has
for the pace at which scalability solutions can be added to
Bitcoin, and it also enables a warning system to alert older nodes
when new rules are going to be activated. The new rules become
active when 95 percent of miners have upgraded to the new version
of Bitcoin Core.
Thank you to Bitcoin Core contributor and Ciphrex CEO Eric
Lombrozo for providing technical details and feedback for this
Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following
Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE
Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT's Keiser Report, and
many other media outlets. You can follow