David Burkett, the lead developer behind Litecoin’s Mimblewimble Extension Block (MWEB) upgrade, has confirmed that MWEB has now been officially released as a ‘RC’, following an intense multi-year process of development, testing, reviewing and auditing, along with the help of dozens of key contributors. MWEB will be included as part of the Litecoin Core 0.21.2 release candidate, which also includes the security and privacy enhancing Taproot upgrade.
This release comes after Quarkslab, a respected security and code auditing company, completed a review/audit of the MWEB code, commenting, “The protocol provides valuable new security enhancements about the privacy of transactions on the blockchain”, in addition to months of further review and testing by Litecoin developers.
With MWEB now being available, it is time for the Litecoin community to begin the signalling process. Once miners receive the completed code, they may begin signaling for MWEB activation right away. Once the threshold is met, the activation date will be locked in and as a result, MWEB will go live.
This process will occur via BIP8. As explained by Burkett, each block has a ‘version’ field, which miners can use to “vote” for soft forks. Miners will be using a small part of the ‘version’ field to signal for MWEB activation.
Every 8,064 blocks, a new “window” is started. At the end of each window, nodes tally up all of the blocks that signal for a feature, and if the total meets the defined threshold, MWEB will “lock in” for activation in the following window. For Litecoin, the threshold is defined as 6,048 blocks or 75% of the blocks in the window.
David Burkett, MWEB’s lead developer (sponsored by the Litecoin Foundation), believes the upgrade will position Litecoin as one of the most sound currencies in the world. “MWEB is a crucial next step in Litecoin’s evolution. The optional confidentiality MWEB provides gives the user notable and needed protections for small everyday items, to salaries, or even buying a home”, says Burkett.
Charlie Lee, the Creator of Litecoin, added: “The planning, development and now activation of MWEB has been a true community effort, beginning with multiple years of donations from Litecoin supporters all over the world, and culminating with the dedication and attention to detail of David Burkett; who led the project. It also involved key contributors like Andrew Yang who helped with the original Litecoin Improvement Proposal, Hector Chu’s essential code reviews, and the countless others who audited, advised, and ran testnet nodes. This project is a true testimony to the resiliency and continued growth of the Litecoin community”
What MWEB Means to Litecoin and the Digital Currency Space
Presently – on the vast majority of blockchains – amounts sent between wallets (users) are publicly displayed, allowing anyone to see how much is being sent, received and held; making the users’ ‘privacy’ impossible to protect. This poses a significant problem for a currency, particularly when confidentiality is required. For example, if a company were to pay five employees in cryptocurrency, and one of the recipients decides to check the outflow of coins from the origin address (the company’s), their colleagues’ earnings – and holdings, savings – would be clearly visible. Posing ethical and privacy issues for the employee and company. Once someone has their paycheck and wants to spend it, the recipient can choose to see the sender’s balance. So fungibility gives that level of security and dispels the fear of leaking financial information about yourself. An important property of good money that is currently missing from Litecoin and Bitcoin.
Until now, cryptocurrency has been lacking these basic privacy measures offered by traditional banking systems – which, for the most part, afford individuals privacy concerning their finances – but that’s all changes with Litecoin’s MWEB upgrade. Users may not require this level of ‘privacy’ for all Litecoin transactions, which is why using MWEB is optional, allowing users to ‘opt-in’ at their discretion, based on their needs.
Although banks have their own internal privacy drawbacks and have the ability to eavesdrop on your account, at the bare minimum, they’ve preserved the opportunity for you to “have your wallet closed” to the public, restricting non-bank personnel/strangers from viewing your holdings. In this case, with Litecoin being a decentralized protocol, the presence of a “higher up” with special access or permissions does not exist.
Mimblewimble (MW) is a protocol created by the anonymous “Tom Elvis Judesor” and was given its name due to it being the “tongue-tying” spell in Harry Potter. MW is a combination of different technologies including, but not limited to, “Confidential Transactions” (makes transaction amounts unknown) and “CoinJoin” (a “coin mixer”). Some of these concepts were developed and conceptualized by Bitcoin contributors such as Gregory Maxwell, Adam Back, and Andrew Poelstra.
On the other hand, the “EB” in “MWEB” stands for Extension Blocks, which was a proposal set forth by Bitcoin developer Johnson Lau in 2013. Extension blocks can be seen as an interconnected “adjacent chain” (or, imagine a parallel highway) running next to Litecoin’s main chain. Traffic on both highways flows at exactly the same pace and there are bridges that connect the two, allowing for transport between one another. If one wishes, they can continue to transact on the Litecoin main chain (or, “highway”) without ever having to jump over to the MWEB side. Vice versa, if one wanted to, they could stay on the MWEB side. MWEB is opt-in and therefore, using it is optional. Due to its built-in features, by deciding to use the MW chain, you receive the benefits of improved fungibility and privacy as opposed to the main chain’s more see-through nature.
This is where MWEB comes into play and helps fill the void that’s been lacking in the cryptocurrency space, one in which personal privacy has been significantly ignored. Interestingly enough, this is occurring on one of the most highly liquid and transacted-with cryptocurrencies. MWEB will be included as part of the Litecoin Core 0.21.2 release candidate, which also includes the security and privacy enhancing Taproot upgrade. With MWEB, Litecoin will become the most fungible, cash-like, cryptocurrency in the space – warranting its position as one of the most used digital payments instruments.
To illustrate, after being added onto BitPay just a few months ago, Litecoin has already outpaced Ethereum, Dogecoin, and Bitcoin Cash payments, all of which were added long prior to Litecoin.
With the addition of MWEB, and taking into account Litecoin’s other attributes (e.g. low fees, network reliability, and high integration on 3rd party platforms), people have found value in Litecoin’s use as a means of exchange. In the past 10 years, Litecoin has accrued over 1 trillion dollars in money sent over the network and with the addition of MWEB, its payments use case will likely become much more attractive. After several years of vigorous work, the time has finally come.
Congratulations to everyone who contributed towards making MWEB a reality, and stay tuned for news on the Litecoin community’s MWEB and Taproot signaling process!
*For more information on Litecoin’s MWEB.*
Original LIP: https://github.com/litecoin-project/lips/blob/master/lip-0003.mediawiki
Basic Introduction: https://litecoin-foundation.org/the-battle-for-sound-money/