Bitcoin Core Contributor Recommends Signet As An Alternative To Bitcoin’s Test Network


This Wednesday marked the introduction of a new alternative to bitcoin’s test network called Signet. Signet is a new test network for the Bitcoin blockchain which adds an additional signature requirement to block validation. Signet is similar in nature to testnet, but more reliable and centrally controlled. There is a default signet network, but anyone can run their own signet network at their notion.

One can run a Signet if they are an instructor and want to run a controlled Bitcoin network environment for teaching purposes. Software developers who want to test their software can also use the product too.

Karl-Johan Alm, a prominent Bitcoin Core developer introduced this in a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP). He criticized the old protocol in the Email that he sent to the other developers.

“Testnet is a great place to try out new things without risking real money, but it is notoriously unreliable. Huge block reorgs, long gaps in between blocks being mined or sudden bursts of blocks in rapid succession mean that realistic testing of software, especially involving multiple independent parties running software over an extended period of time, becomes infeasible in practice.”

Talking to Coindesk, Alm remarks about the Signet being the better alternative:

“Signet helps prevent these problems because the signer is fixed. Making blocks can be pretty cheap because you don’t compete with anyone, and there is no security issue with a low hash rate since nobody else has the private keys. Since the network is highly coordinated, reorgs will basically never occur, except if the network operators want them to.”

Signet would be more suitable for integration testing by organizations such as exchanges, or testing of next-generation Layer-2 protocols like Eltoo or sidechain pegs. Alm’s goal is not to be perfectly reliable but rather to have a predictable amount of unreliability. The aim is to make the test network behave like the mainnet, while also making it easier to trigger expected but rare events like a 6-block reorg.

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