The Bitcoin Core development team released version 0.1 of its wallet software packages for all platforms this morning. The wallet was made available via the BitTorrent protocol, specifically to better serve regions of the world where Bitcoin.org official servers are either banned or hard to access. Among the goodies bundled in the new release were faster block transfer and a new way of setting transaction fees (details follow).
Faster Block Chain Sync
The new wallet drastically improves the speed of the initial block chain synchronization. This method is called “headers first,” and Bitcoin subreddit user thorjag reported that this is faster than even downloading the block chain via BitTorrent. The official release notes explained it like so:
… we first ask peers for block headers (a total of 27 megabytes, as of December 2014) and validate those. In a second stage, when the headers have been discovered, we download the blocks. However, as we already know about the whole chain in advance, the blocks can be downloaded in parallel from all available peers.
With this improvement came changes to some of the remote procedure calls (debug window commands), as well as the addition of a new one, getchaintips, which “lists all known branches of the block chain, including those we only have headers for.”
Variable and/or Lower Minimum Transaction Fees
Perhaps most important to the protocol is the wallet’s ability to automatically estimate the optimum fee to charge based on the size of the transaction. Using the settings as they are out of the box “will create transactions that confirm quickly,” the release promises.
As you can see from the screenshot below, there are a number of options a user can now toggle to get the most out of their Bitcoin, including “Send as zero-fee transaction if possible.” According to a tooltip in the wallet, this feature “may take longer ” whilst minimum fee transactions run the risk of never actually confirming if blocks do not have space for them.
On the whole, this institution of fees based on the actual size of the transaction shows Bitcoin getting more in step with its actual competitors at this point – services like Western Union and the financial networks used by traditional bankers which charge exorbitant fees that often increase with the amount of money being transacted.
In the case of Bitcoin, though, the fees are nominal even at their highest. Users have the option to pay higher fees in order to complete their transactions more rapidly, a service that merchants will find useful. Additionally, miner‘s rewards should increase in many cases, thereby (hopefully) reinvigorating the incentive to mine/confirm transactions which has been lost in recent months thanks in large part to the tumbling and inconsistent fiat valuation of BTC.
Numerous other, more technical improvements were made to the wallet software that you can read about here.
Version depicted is Bitcoin Core v0.1 for 64-bit Linux.
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