Libbitcoinkernel - The Bitcoin Dev You Probably Didn't Know About
9 Nov 2023 by rory Kejzerko 4 min read
Libbitcoinkernel - The Bitcoin Dev You Probably Didn't Know About

There’s a slight chance that you’ve never heard of Bitcoin Libbitcoinkernel… an ongoing, long-running project that’s helping Bitcoin developers build on the network whilst simultaneously mitigating the chances of altering critical code. 

As the above statement suggests, the project is therefore a pivotal resource in Bitcoin’s continuous improvement and journey towards mainstream adoption (which is why we’re surprised that not that many people know about it). 

With this in mind, this article will therefore outline the premise and impacts in which Libbitcoinkernel has had (and ‘is having’) on the Bitcoin blockchain as of 2023. 

Libbitcoinkernel- Enhancing Bitcoin’s Code

In essence, Bitcoin Libbitcoinkernel is here to help devs experiment with potential changes/upgrades to the network without having to come into contact with integral parts of its code. For devs working within crypto’s biggest ecosystem, it’s viewed as one of the most influential endeavours currently in development. 

When it comes to its founder, this is thought to be Bitcoin developer Carl Dong - however Dong has since handed-over the reins to Spiral-backed dev Sebastian Kung, OG Bitcoin Core contributor Cory Fields, and others. 

In digestible terms, Libbitcoinkernel fundamentally untangles the code of ‘Bitcoin Core’ - i.e. the main software that underpins the entire network. What this entails is the unique ability to distinguish ‘security critical’ code from the rest, which then clears the path for new developments to take place within a safe virtual environment where network-shaking mistakes and unintended interventions are unable to take place. 

More specifically, such ‘security critical’ code of Bitcoin Core is known as ‘consensus code,’ which is the underlying code that ensures that all Bitcoin nodes are working in agreement with one another. Further, consensus code is innately intertwined with the rest of Bitcoin Core’s code, meaning it’s Libbitcoinkernel’s job to distinguish ‘critical’ code from that ‘that can be tampered with’ (or by virtue, code that’s ‘in need of being tampered with’). 

As its multi-year lifespan suggests - which dates back to 2011 - Libbitcoinkernel is a slow process. That being said, every incremental extraction of ‘consensus code’ elicits a sense of progress, as each enriches the separate library of Bitcoin Core code that’s open to being experimented with. 

In turn, what this results in is developers having a clearly-defined library of code that they can innovate on, as well as the halting of them having to tip-toe around potential landmines that could lead to a Bitcoin hard fork

Consequently, what the Bitcoin ecosystem benefits from here is a wealth of network improvements that can be put to market a lot quicker. With some being more monumental than others, such enhancements could fall within the realms of network security, privacy, speed, and ease-of-use. 

Given that its suggestions of what code can be meddled with or not is open for public viewing, the project also helps overcome social and collaborative hurdles that come with Bitcoin Core development. 

Bitcoin Libbitcoinkernel - Other Bullish Impacts  

Despite wanting to enhance Bitcoin Core for the betterment of both Bitcoin developers and users, Libbitcoinkernel also has ambitions to create alternative ‘core’ options.

In referring back to the idea of having a library of ‘non-security critical’ code at their disposal, this is first achieved through developers being able to develop more varied/bespoke experiments and implementations (which come as a result of everything being more clearly defined). 

Additionally, having more avenues of implementation on Bitcoin bolsters the network’s resilience against bugs and glitches - where for example, if one particular implementation’s ‘non-consensus’ code is riddled with a bug, the network still stays in-tact due to there being coexisting implementations that were left unaffected. As is also the case, such circumstance ushers an extra sense of decentralisation too. 

Through being an ongoing, multi-step project, Libbitcoinkernel’s library of developments are available to view on GitHub. As of today, the project has inspired multiple-dozens worth of pull requests (i.e. proposed changes) to Bitcoin Core, however per the ethos of its core developers, the project will always ‘respect the sheer size of work’ at hand when adhering to its unilateral purpose of extracting consensus code from the Bitcoin Core. 

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This article is intended for educational purposes and is not financial advice.