People who have been paying close attention to the bitcoin ecosystem may have noticed developers often talk about a “BIP”. However, most people have no idea what this abbreviation even means or what it entails exactly. A BIP is an improvement to the bitcoin ecosystem, which can be proposed by developers or anyone else who has some coding knowledge.

BIPs Are An Integral Part of Bitcoin

The term BIP stands for Bitcoin Improvement Proposal. It is quite an interesting abbreviation, as BIP sounds like something else might be going on. However, the Bitcoin Improvement Proposal is a standard to submit potential changes or improvements that will have a positive effect on the bitcoin protocol as a whole.

As one would expect, the very first BIP was labeled as BIP 0001. Amir Taaki is the person responsible for submitting the first bitcoin Improvement Proposal, which took place on August 19th in 2011. This BIP 0001 was merely an explanation of what the BIP standard would entail exactly. Ever since that time, there have been several dozen suggestions to make bitcoin better. There are three main types of BIPs to distinguish between.

1. Standards Track

First of all, there are the Standards Track Proposals, which present changes to the bitcoin network protocol, blocks, or transaction validation. Such a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal can also refer to something that affects interoperability.

2. Information

The second main type is the information BIP, which touches upon design issues and general guidelines. These BIPs do not propose new features to help scale bitcoin by any means.

3. Process

Last but not least, there are the process BIPs, which effectively propose a change in process. This is quite similar to how Standards Track BIPs work, yet a process BIP only applies outside the bitcoin protocol itself. It is good to know there are different categories, although most people will just remember there is a good reason why we have Bitcoin Improvement Protocols in place.

 

It is important to keep in mind every BIP is proposed as a draft, which can be deferred is something is unclear. Once the draft is properly put together, the developers will accept or reject it, unless the original submitter withdraws it. Accepted BIPs will be finalized of replaced with some modifications, before they are activated on the network. Every time the bitcoin client receives an update, the developer notes will mention if a new Bitcoin Improvement Proposal has been included or not.

Some of the more important BIPs in bitcoin history have introduced some interesting changes. BIP 0010 implemented multisig transaction distribution. BIP 0041 added the stratum mining protocol for mining pools. BIP 148 proposes the mandatory activation of SegWit deployment. A full list of all BIPs can be found here.

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JP Buntinx is a FinTech and Bitcoin enthusiast living in Belgium. His passion for finance and technology made him one of the world's leading freelance Bitcoin writers.