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BIPs and BOLTs

Bitcoin Education

What are BIPs and BOLTs? I was 3+ years into Bitcoin before I even heard about BIPs, BOLTs, and what they were. While it is not necessary for the average user to know what these terms mean, I feel like it is important to understand that there are standards and processes that are followed when making proposals or changes to the Bitcoin protocol and the Lightning Network. After all, these standards and processes make a direct impact on how the network advances and improves its usability. These systems and processes are in place to protect and best serve the protocol. These rigorous processes help keep Bitcoin and Lightning resilient to attacks.

BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposals)

When proposing changes to the Bitcoin protocol, there is a formal standard process called a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP). Bitcoin has no central leader or board of directors, so the community uses this open-source, consensus-based system.

Anyone can propose a BIP as an informal proposal. Historically BIPs are submitted on the Bitcoin email list, IRC or Slack. Some proposals can take years, others go through iterations and changes, some are ignored. Once a proposal has been adjusted and passed consensus it is then assigned a BIP number and published to the Bitcoin Core GitHub repository of BIPs. While it is not yet approved or implemented, developers can test it before implementing it to Bitcoin Core.

If approved by the developers and the Bitcoin community through consensus, the community will decide on an activation path and begin activating the BIP. This process has the goal of creating ultimate transparency driven by community decision-making. This is why running a node is important. The activation of these proposals is decided by the nodes that are on the network.  

BOLT (Basis of Lightning Technology)

The Bitcoin blockchain and its network effects can not be replicated. All forks of Bitcoin in the past (like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV) have not grown in real-world adoption. There is only one true implementation of Bitcoin.

When it comes to Layer 2 of Bitcoin, the Lightning Network, there are multiple implementations. Each implementation has a standardized technical specification that must be followed. This allows each implementation to interoperate and interact on the same network. As the Lightning Network develops BOLTs are updated and improved. You can read more about BOLTs on github and the ion lightning wiki.

Conclusion

It is not important that we know every single way in which the internet works and operates. The same is with Bitcoin. You do not have to understand every aspect of how Bitcoin is built. But what I do find interesting is the fact that there is a deep global effort to validate by consensus any changes that are made. For all users of Bitcoin, this is bigger than a trust builder. This creates a consensus mechanism that protects the integrity of Bitcoin and the standards for which Lightning will operate. I hope on an entry-level this helped give you some insight into how advancements of Bitcoin and Lightning take place.


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