BitMEX Research grantee Calvin Kim has announced that the Utreexo project can successfully finish Bitcoin’s Initial Block Download (IBD) 62% faster than Bitcoin Core. Kim also noted that the speedup is expected to increase even further in the future, since many optimizations are yet to be implemented.
“In our testing, we were able to complete the IBD around 62% faster compared to Bitcoin Core version 21.0.0 (in default mode) provided that the user isn’t bandwidth limited,” read the announcement. “Our Out of Order Block Validating Node also allows for the IBD to be done with multiple computers, offering a unique advantage compared to the other Bitcoin node implementations available today.”
The IBD is the process of downloading and validating the entire history of blocks in the Bitcoin network, from the genesis block in 2009 to the most recently mined block. It is vital to validate and verify every single block’s integrity because it allows for individual sovereignty in Bitcoin, removing the need for trust. Moreover, IBD also helps prevent bad actors from breaking the many consensus rules of the Bitcoin protocol, including changing the maximum supply of 21 million bitcoin.
A faster IBD could then reduce the barrier of entry and result in more people running their nodes and joining the Bitcoin network as rule enforcers. The more people who perform the IBD and stop trusting third-party nodes to verify their bitcoin transactions, the more decentralized and robust the Bitcoin network will be.
Utreexo is a dynamic hash-based accumulator optimized for the bitcoin state. While the transaction history in Bitcoin contains every transaction since its inception in 2009, the current bitcoin state only deals with who owns what right now — the set of Unspent Transaction Outputs (UTXOs). Utreexo allows the millions of UTXOs to be represented in under a kilobyte (KB).
While there is still plenty of work to be done before being usable by an end user, Utreexo might be able to provide an alternative way to perform Bitcoin’s IBD more rapidly. Some promising features include being able to perform multi-machine IBD with Utreexo Accumulators and faster signature validation aided by the potential activation of Taproot.