Bitcoin’s Taproot Activation Gains Momentum From New ‘Speedy Trial’ Proposal

Taproot is the largest upgrade Bitcoin has seen in years, and many are proposing projects on top of it.

AccessTimeIconMar 8, 2021 at 9:23 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:23 p.m. UTC
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Bitcoin developers have been debating the best way to activate the Taproot upgrade for at least a year. Some are hopeful a new proposal called "Speedy Trial" might put an end to the debate, by bringing forth a solution that more developers can get behind. 

Ideated by Blockstream developer Russell O'Connor and written up on the Bitcoin developer email list by technical Bitcoin writer David Harding, "Speedy Trial," would take a quicker approach than some of the other proposals in determining if miners are ready for activation of Taproot. All of the largest mining pools have already indicatedthey plan to upgrade

"The idea received significant discussion and seemed acceptable to several people who could not previously agree on a proposal (although this doesn't necessarily make it their first choice)," Harding wrote on the email list. 

Taproot is the largest upgrade Bitcoin has seen in years, and many are proposing projects on top of it. It will boost privacy and scalability, and will bring a variety of other technical benefits. 

Tentative Taproot agreement

Consensus for changes to Bitcoin is hard because people from all over the world contribute to it and have different opinions about how things should work. But so far it seems like "Speedy Trial" is getting a fair amount of support. 

"Seems almost everyone is on board," developer Ben Carman tweeted

Looking through the comments on GitHub, 100% of developers so far have responded with "ACK," which indicates support for the proposal. Meanwhile, Bitcoin developer AJ Towns has already coded up a draft version of the activation proposal, which similarly has a long train of ACKs.

That said, it takes time to build consensus over such a consequential proposal. CoinDesk messaged several Bitcoin developers who have not yet voiced an opinion. Most said they had not yet had time to read the proposal. Another said he did not have an opinion yet. 

'Quickly succeed' or 'quickly fail'

The change itself, Taproot, isn't being debated at all. Rather, developers are debating the best way to push through the change. No CTO or central leader is in charge of the network to impose new rules. Instead, a sizable portion of the global network needs to be prepared for the new Taproot rules. 

If they aren't prepared or if not all miners upgraded to the new software in time, there's a chance the network could split into two. 

Developers have different ideas of how to deal with this dangerous possibility. The above article goes into much more detail about the history of this debate and its potential consequences.

Speedy Trial would give miners a chance to flag if they're ready or not – but would do so on a shorter time line than other proposals. Rather than giving miners a year to flag support as once proposed, which opponents argue is too much time, Speedy Trial gives miners three months. 

Another key part of the proposal is that after this three-month lock-in, there's a waiting period of six more months before Taproot will activate.

"The goal of Speedy Trial is to allow a Taproot activation attempt to either quickly succeed or quickly fail – without compromising safety in either case," Harding writes. 

Beyond that, the proposal shares a lot of similarities with other proposals. If 90% of Bitcoin blocks in a window of time flag readiness, this should show that roughly 90% of miners are ready. At this point, the change will be locked in.

If this 90% lock-in threshold isn't reached in three months, however, activation fails. 

"There is no mandatory activation and everyone is encouraged to try again using different activation parameters," Harding writes. At this point, users would need to come up with a new plan.


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