Miniscript: Developers Forge New Bitcoin Smart Contract Language

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Bitcoin developers Pieter Wuille, Andrew Poelstra, and Sanket Kanjalkar have created a new programming language that can help bitcoin transactions become more versatile.

Announced on August 19th to the [bitcoin-dev] mailing list, Miniscript relies on the simple smart contract language already usable in Bitcoin, Script, to extend the conditional possibilities around bitcoin payments through a mixture of hash locks, time locks, and signatures.

“It’s a language for writing (a subset of) Bitcoin Scripts in a structured way, enabling analysis, composition, generic signing and more,” Wuille explained.

Just announced our Miniscript project website on the bitcoin-dev mailinglist: https://t.co/vOceWbgPe0

— Pieter Wuille (@pwuille) August 19, 2019

Wuille added that Miniscript was “designed for Bitcoin as it exists today,” and no consensus changes were necessary to use it. The developers said they planned to “support future script changes Bitcoin may include” so as to evolve with the blockchain. Wuille later noted on Twitter that the new language could eventually be rolled into the Bitcoin Core repository if the Bitcoin community agreed to it.

“I’ll work on incorporating parts of this in Bitcoin Core if that’s desired (I believe it could be very useful), but ideally it gets included in many pieces of wallet technology,” he said.

Notably, the developers created a so-called “policy compiler” for Miniscript. Among other things, the tool lets users get an idea for when conditional bitcoin transactions can be spent.

Lessons Learned for the Future

Pieter Wuille and Andrew Poelstra are rockstar developers in the Bitcoin community (Sanket is an up-and-comer in his own right!). That’s not only because of what they’ve already built but also because the technology they’re still working on that could shape the future of Bitcoin for years to come.

Some of that tech includes in-progress developments like Schnorr Signatures and Taproot. The former is an efficient algorithm for cryptographic signatures, and the latter would make bitcoin smart contract transactions private by making them appear like normal transactions.

In the wake of revealing Miniscript on Monday, Wuille that the project wasn’t directly related to Taproot but did provide the participating developers with insights on how to improve the Script language itself, which could lead to wider implications later in the Bitcoin ecosystem:

“It’s also mostly unrelated to our work on Taproot, as Miniscript works with Bitcoin as it exists today. Of course, working on Miniscript did teach us a bunch of things about script that inform designs for future improvements to Script, and Miniscript can be extended as needed.”

Another technology being worked on generally in the Bitcoin community is PSBTs, or partially-signed bitcoin transactions. Wuille also noted that the advancements made possible by the new scripting language could work in a complementary fashion with such transactions.

“My hope is that Miniscript, together with things like PSBT can reduce some of the barriers between pieces of software,” he said.

In Other Dev News, Square Crypto Hires Matt Corallo

One of the most esteemed coders in the entire cryptocurrency space has come aboard Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s bitcoin outfit.

Square Crypto — the recently launched open-source bitcoin development arm of popular mainstream payments company Square — announced their hiring of Bitcoin developer Matt Corallo on August 20th. Corallo later confirmed his new employment on Twitter.

So excited to be joining the @sqcrypto team over the coming weeks. Experimenting with different models to accelerate Bitcoin OSS is awesome!

Gonna miss the @ChaincodeLabs folks, but given they host anyone who works on Bitcoin OSS, I'll probably be there every other day anyway. https://t.co/L00gqV1LLD

— Matt Corallo (@TheBlueMatt) August 20, 2019

In being one of the world’s leading Bitcoin experts and builders, Corallo brings a veteran presence to the upstart development team that only hired its first employee, former Google product director Steve Lee, in June.

The project comes as part of Jack Dorsey’s person mission to contribute to building out the Bitcoin ecosystem.

“Work from anywhere, report directly to me, and we can even pay you in bitcoin,” Square CEO Dorsey had said in announcing Square Crypto back in the spring.

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