This week’s newsletter announces the release of LND 0.6-beta and the merge of BIP158 support into Bitcoin Core’s development branch. Also included are the regular sections about bech32 sending support and notable changes to popular Bitcoin infrastructure projects.

Action items

  • Help test Bitcoin Core 0.18.0 release candidates: Bitcoin Core’s fourth RC for its next major version is available. This resolves several issues found in previous versions and reverts the previous merge of a new feature that seemed to be causing problems for a minority of testers (see the notable code changes section for details). RC testers have already helped improve the quality of the final release and those trying this newest RC will further help contribute towards making 0.18 the best version of Bitcoin Core yet. Please use this issue for reporting feedback.


  • LND 0.6-beta released: seven months after the release of 0.5-beta, this new major version brings a large number of notable changes. Headlining the changes are Static Channel Backups (SCBs). These allow users to create a single backup file any time after a new channel has been opened so that they can recover funds from that channel and any previously-opened channels in the case of data loss (e.g. a hard drive crash). The system isn’t perfect—for example, money stored in unsettled HTLCs at the time data was lost can’t currently be recovered—but it represents a major improvement in LN backup safety and a baseline that can be improved upon via proposed protocol changes and watchtower support.

    Other changes include several major reductions in the use of memory and bandwidth, plus an improved autopilot feature that helps users automatically open new channels for payment routing. Release binaries were also built with everything necessary to use with Lightning Loop for trustlessly moving LN funds to an onchain address without closing a channel.

    For more information, we encourage you to read the comprehensive release notes.

  • Basic BIP158 support merged in Bitcoin Core: with the merge of a PR by Jim Posen into Bitcoin Core’s master development branch, users can now enable a new blockfilterindex configuration option (defaults to off) that will generate a BIP158 compact block filter for each block on the chain plus its corresponding filter header needed for BIP157 support.1 This will operate in the background while the program otherwise continues functioning normally, taking about one to three hours on most computers. The user can then retrieve the filter for a specific block using the new getblockfilter RPC. Filters for the entire block chain currently use about 4 gigabytes. Growth over time can be seen in the following chart:

    Plot of filter size over block height

    These filters are not currently used anywhere else in the program or exposed publicly via Bitcoin Core’s implementation of the P2P protocol. A proposed next step for the filters that seems to enjoy wide support among Bitcoin Core developers is to allow the local program to use the filters to quickly scan the block chain for historic transactions. For example, if you unload a wallet in Bitcoin Core’s multiwallet mode and then reload it later, it needs to look through every block that’s arrived since it was unloaded to see if any of them contained a transaction affecting the wallet. With filters, the wallet can just check the smaller and faster filters first and only take a full look at any blocks that the filter indicates are a match for containing wallet transactions.

Bech32 sending support

Week 6 of 24. Until the second anniversary of the segwit soft fork lock-in on 24 August 2019, the Optech Newsletter will contain this weekly section that provides information to help developers and organizations implement bech32 sending support—the ability to pay native segwit addresses. This doesn’t require implementing segwit yourself, but it does allow the people you pay to access all of segwit’s multiple benefits.

This week we look at some of the top-voted bech32 questions and answers from the Bitcoin Stack Exchange. This includes everything since bech32 was first announced about two years ago.

  • Will a Schnorr soft fork introduce a new address format? Although upgrading to bech32 sending support should be easy, you probably don’t want to repeat that work for Bitcoin’s next upgrade or the upgrade after that. Pieter Wuille answers this question by explaining how an upgrade to Schnorr-based public keys and signatures can still use bech32 addresses. (Optech will be covering this issue in greater detail in a future section.)

  • Is it safe to translate a bech32 P2WPKH address into a legacy P2PKH address? If you read Newsletter #38, you’ll notice that the difference between a P2WPKH and P2PKH address for the same underlying public key is only a few characters in a scriptPubKey, making it possible to automatically convert one into the other. This answer by Andrew Chow and its accompanying comments explains why that’s a bad idea that could cause users to lose funds.

  • Why does the bech32 decode function require specifying the address’s Human Readable Part (HRP) instead of extracting it automatically? The HRP is separated from the rest of the address by a 1, so it seems like the decoder could ignore that part all on its own. Pieter Wuille explains that calling the decoder with the expected HRP ensures that you don’t accidentally pay bitcoin to an address meant for testnet, litecoin, or some other network. Gregory Maxwell also corrects an additional assumption of the asker.

  • What block explorers recognize bech32 addresses? More than two years after bech32 was first proposed and a year after this question was first asked, several popular block explorers don’t support search or display of bech32 addresses. The answer to this question suggests anyone who wants to learn the bech32 status of various block explorers should check the bech32 adoption Bitcoin Wiki page.

Notable code and documentation changes

Notable changes this week in Bitcoin Core, LND, C-Lightning, Eclair, libsecp256k1, and Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs). Note: unless otherwise noted, all merges described for Bitcoin Core are to its master development branch; some may also be backported to its pending release.

  • Bitcoin Core #15839 reverts #14897 in the 0.18 branch only (not the master development branch). See the notable code changes section of Newsletter #33 for our detailed description of #14897, which was merged in early February. Several careful testers of the 0.18.0 Release Candidates (RCs) noticed that their node would sometimes stop requesting new transactions shortly after being started. This intermittent problem seemed to be related to the transaction-requesting improvement made in #14897 to reduce denial-of-service risk. At least two PRs (1, 2) have already been opened to attempt to address the issue, but there was general agreement in the project to remove the new feature in 0.18.0 so that it and its patches can be receive additional testing in the development branch before they are released in a production version. The goal of the RC cycle is to identify potential problems such as this before they affect regular users, so we think we speak for those users in thanking everyone involved in the testing so far.

  • Bitcoin Core #15557 enhances the underlying functions behind the bumpfee RPC and the equivalent menu option in the GUI to include additional inputs if the fee increase can’t be paid for by simply decreasing the value of an existing change output. This eliminates the failure mode for Bitcoin Core described in Optech’s RBF usability study and so allows fee bumps made by Bitcoin Core users to succeed more often.

  • C-Lightning #2541, #2545, and #2546 implement multiple changes to the gossip subsystem used for tracking which channels are available and calculating routes across them. This work was motivated by the million channels project and performance results from that project are included in many of the commit messages. If Optech is interpreting the results correctly, the difference between the first commit in the series and the last commit is an 79% reduction in memory use, from 2.6 GiB to 0.6 GiB, and an 80% reduction in the time to build a route to a randomly-selected node (within 20 hops) from 60 seconds to 12 seconds. (If even the improved values seem high, recall this is for a simulation network more than 25 times the size of the current mainnet network and 1,000 times the size of the network a bit over a year ago.) A notable part of this change is C-Lightning switching from its rather unique Bellman-Ford-Gibson (BFG) routing algorithm to a slightly-customized version of Dijkstra.

  • Eclair #885 adds a single UUID-style identifier for tracking payments no matter what HTLCs are used in relation to it, allowing simplified tracking of whether the payment itself ultimately succeeded or failed. This addresses the case where the program automatically retries sending a temporarily-failed payment using a different route and so generates non-ultimate failures and other information that may not be useful to a high-level API consumer. Although there are differences in implementation and motivation, this seems conceptually related to C-Lightning #2382 as described in the notable code changes section of Newsletter #36 in two separate bullet points.

  • Eclair #951 implements a channel backup mechanism and provides documentation for using it. Unlike the LND static channel backups described earlier in this newsletter, this needs to be backed up after every payment. A configuration option allows Eclair to call a script you specify to automatically handle backing up the data file whenever a backup is needed.

  • Eclair #927 adds support for plugins written in Scala, Java, or a JVM-compatible language. Plugins are implementations of the plugin interface. See the newly-added documentation for details.


  1. BIP158 introduces Compact block filters, which are based on an efficient method for encoding a list of equally-sized items. In the case of the “basic” block filters described in the BIP, this is a list of all the spendable output scriptPubKeys in the current block plus all the scriptPubKeys for the outputs spent by this block’s inputs (what developers call previous outputs (prevouts)). Each of the scriptPubKeys is hashed to give each item the same size and then these items are sorted into a list that has duplicated elements removed. This list is then encoded using the Golomb-Rice Coded Sets (GCS) algorithm also described in BIP158, losslessly reducing the size of the list. This specific basic filter provides enough information for anyone who knows a Bitcoin address to find any block containing a transaction either paying that address (output scriptPubKey) or spending funds previously received to that address (prevout scriptPubKey). The search may produce false-postive matches (so blocks which don’t contain transactions for that address will be included in the results), but will never result in false-negatives (so blocks that do contain transactions for that address will never be omitted from the results).

    A separate BIP, BIP157, describes how these compact block filters can be served over the network using the Bitcoin P2P protocol. BIP157 is designed to work with BIP158 “basic” filters but it can also be extended to support additional filters that encode lists of other items. One particularly noteworthy part of BIP157 is that it introduces the concept of filter headers where the header for each filter commits to a hash of the previous block’s filter header plus a hash of the current filter. This creates a chain of filters similar to Bitcoin’s chain of blocks and is designed to make it easy to compare filters from multiple peers: each peer can send just the filter header (32 bytes) and, if there are any headers that don’t match, the client can request earlier and earlier headers in the chain until the divergence point is found. Generating a filter header on demand for a particular block would require hashing all previous filters, so even though Bitcoin Core’s implementation doesn’t currently support BIP157, it still stores these headers on disk for potential future use. When retrieving a filter using the new getblockfilter RPC, both the BIP158 filter and the BIP157 header are returned:

    $ bitcoin-cli getblockfilter $( bitcoin-cli getblockhash 170 )
      "filter": "0357e49590040c79b0",
      "header": "349eaecc8bb7793c9f3c28e78df6675ef904515e9a310e4532785aeb45526090"

    We selected block 170 because its filter is the first to contain more than one element (it holds 3 elements) and because the latest block as of this writing (block 572,879) has a filter that contains 8,599 elements—far too much for us to print elegantly.