Bitcoin’s Next Year in Tech Development Is Coming into Focus

Developers of the most popular bitcoin implementation software have big dreams of crafting a truly global form of money, and as such, you can say they have a lot on their plates.

The breadth of their to-do lists was easy to see at a recent annual meeting in New York, where, in a change of pace from the internet channels they’re known to frequent, many of the software’s most-active developers come together to coordinate. In a conversation transcribed by contributor Bryan Bishop, they discussed a mish-mash of code priorities for the coming year, giving a peek into how the team makes decisions and the technical hurdles they hope to jump next.

Though not all developers were in attendance, the transcript provides an inside look into the near-term focus of a few key developers, including long-time Bitcoin Core contributors Pieter Wuille, Matt Corallo and Cory Fields. It also provided a look behind the scenes, where contributors are toiling away on an array of changes to the code that now secures more than $147 billion.

Indeed, much of the conversation centered on touching up the way the team reviews and adds new code. One major pain point is that, while developers are submitting tons of code changes, there are only so many developers knowledgeable enough to battletest them for bugs, ensuring they’re ready to be added to the code securing so much money.

“As a reviewer, there’s no way I’m going to get through all of this and it’s actively discouraging,” one developer said.

Some code changes are even getting lost due to the load. Another developer even went so far as to call the growing list of proposed changes “a dead graveyard of cool ideas.”

Scattered priorities

Yet, this isn’t stopping developers from working on other new features.

Fields, a contributor at MIT, has long been working on sprucing up the peer-to-peer network code connecting all the nodes across the global network.

In an earlier interview with CoinDesk, he called bitcoin’s code a “monolithic blob” that developers have been trying to untangle since it was first put forth in 2009. Though he’s been combing through the code’s peer-to-peer layer for years, he revealed in the meeting that he’s “almost done.”

He’s also working on a feature building upon bitcoin’s unspent transaction outputs (UTXOs), the pool of bitcoin transaction data that can be spent in new transactions. Though his description of the new feature was thin, he said he plans to reveal more “soon” in an email to the popular bitcoin developer mailing list.

This goes to highlight the distributed nature of working on open-source code, where each developer works on whatever he or she chooses. Though developers are constantly chatting about their work on the internet, some might not have any idea that someone else is working on a big feature until they post it to a widely-read forum – such as the official mailing list.

Then there’s Wuille. Perhaps the best-known Bitcoin Core contributor, he’s responsible for SegWit, a much-lauded scaling code change that activated on bitcoin last year.

His update at the meeting was succinct, but he reiterated that he’s focused on another much-anticipated scaling change, signature aggregation. Plus, he’s looking at increasing privacy by hiding messages sent across the with “peer-to-peer” network – the very same layer Fields is tearing apart…

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