It is impressive to see how much has been achieved in the blockchain and crypto community since the inception of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Interestingly, some different rules or protocols guide the operations and functionalities of the various cryptocurrencies. Technology keeps evolving and getting better by the day, and thus developers are always at the drawing board looking for ways to make blockchain and cryptocurrency better for everyone.
If you are used to using computers, you will notice that there is always one update or the other, or perhaps you may have had to update an application on your smart-phone. These updates are supposed to deal with improving the application or program. The same applies to cryptocurrencies because they need to adjust for better usability and functionality.
In 2015, a Bitcoin developer called Pieter Wuille introduced the SegWit idea at a Bitcoin conference. He proposed that the SegWit patch would deal with a flaw in the Bitcoin protocol, which could be exploited by hackers and bad actors within the network. It was noticed that transaction malleability was a flaw that needed to be tackled, or people could lose their Bitcoins just by altering some data in the transaction records.
What is Segregated Witness (SegWit)?
SegWit refers to a process that involves the removal of signature data from transactions within the Bitcoin network. The block size limit within the blockchain network gets increased, and this creates more space that allows for the addition of more transactions. We can say that SegWit is the separation of signatures (witnesses) involved in a transaction.
When Pieter proposed SegWit in 2015, there was a big debate about its efficacy, which was not implemented until 2017. The activation of the SegWit protocol brought some improvement to Bitcoin because it solved the transaction malleability issue and enhanced some other features within the Bitcoin protocol. However, many users of the Bitcoin protocol did not agree with the new change, which led some of them to create other cryptocurrencies.
To better understand the operations of the SegWit protocol, imagine that John intends to receive some Bitcoin from Mary, by default, John can intercept and alter the transaction ID of Mary, receive the bitcoins, and deny receiving them to collect more bitcoin from Mary (from whose end it looks like the transaction did not go through). With SegWit in place, the transaction IDs (witness) are removed from the transaction, making it impossible for anyone to alter the transaction signatures for any reason.
SegWit does not only deal with transaction malleability but also increases the block size to accommodate more Bitcoin transactions. It may also interest you to know that the SegWit was also added to the Litecoin protocol, considering that Litecoin’s code is similar to Bitcoin’s and they both had the same problem of being susceptible to transaction signature alterations.