Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP)

Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP)
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Key Takeaways

  • Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) are formal suggestions for upgrades to the Bitcoin network.
  • The BIP process involves several steps before it is accepted.
  • BIPs ensure Bitcoin's adaptability and longevity.

Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) are formal documents that propose changes, enhancements, or additions to the Bitcoin protocol or related processes.

BIPs serve as a standardized method for presenting and discussing potential improvements within the Bitcoin community.

This article will explain what Bitcoin BIPs are, how they work, and their significance in the Bitcoin ecosystem.

What is a Bitcoin BIP?

A BIP, which stands for Bitcoin Improvement Proposal, is essentially a formal suggestion for updates or upgrades to the Bitcoin network.

You can think of it like a suggestion box in the digital world of Bitcoin. Just like how people drop their ideas into a suggestion box in an office or at a local meeting, anyone who has thoughts on how Bitcoin can be improved can write them up as a BIP.

Bitcoin BIPs suggestion box.
Bitcoin BIPs are like suggestions you drop into a suggestion box.

How do Bitcoin BIPs work?

Identifying Areas of Improvement

The process of a Bitcoin BIP starts with someone identifying an aspect of Bitcoin that can be improved upon.

Writing the BIP

This person would then write up their suggestion following a specific, standardized format. This is similar to how your college professor might expect your papers to be written following MLA or Chicago style formats. BIPs too have their own format.

comparing Bitcoin BIPs style to MLA and Chicago style
Bitcoin BIPs have their own standardized format.

What is usually in a BIP?

Usually the writer outlines their idea, how it works, and why it would make Bitcoin better. They might also include pros and cons to adding this BIP to the protocol and explain why the trade-offs are worth it.

Or as the style guide for BIPs says:

A Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) is a design document providing information to the Bitcoin community, or describing a new feature for Bitcoin or its processes or environment. The BIP should provide a concise technical specification of the feature and a rationale for the feature. We intend BIPs to be the primary mechanisms for proposing new features, for collecting community input on an issue, and for documenting the design decisions that have gone into Bitcoin. The BIP author is responsible for building consensus within the community and documenting dissenting opinions.

Discussion and Debate

Once the BIP is written, it doesn’t just automatically become part of Bitcoin. Much like when you make a suggestion at a community meeting, your idea needs to be discussed and agreed upon.

In the case of a BIP, it’s submitted to the Bitcoin community. This includes programmers, developers, and other people who help to maintain and develop the Bitcoin protocol.

They’ll review the BIP, discuss its merits, and then vote on whether to accept it.

But they aren’t the only ones who need to be convinced that the BIP is a good idea. A large portion of Bitcoin users also need to be convinced. That’s because anyone, at any time, can copy all of Bitcoin’s code and make their own version.

If your BIP is not broadly popular, but it is added to the protocol anyway, most of the users could abandon your version of Bitcoin and go to someone else’s.

This is what we call “consensus”, and it is very important to have it any time you change Bitcoin’s code.

For this reason, not all BIPs are accepted.

Some might be seen as too much work for too little benefit.

Others might pose potential risks to the network’s security.

If a BIP is rejected, it doesn’t mean that the idea is bad; it just means that it’s not the right fit for Bitcoin and the needs of its users at that time.


If a BIP is accepted, an activation date is usually set.

The activation date is the date the code goes live and people using the network can upgrade to the new code, just like you might upgrade your windows or macOS operating system on your computer.

Taproot, Bitcoin’s Long-Anticipated Upgrade, Has Activated Coindesk headline
A headline from CoinDesk reporting that the BIP for a recent Bitcoin upgrade was activated. Source: CoinDesk

Significance of Bitcoin BIPs

The concept of BIPs is fundamental to the development and evolution of Bitcoin.

It allows the system to grow, change, and adapt over time.

Given that Bitcoin is a system not controlled by any single authority, this process ensures all changes serve the community’s best interests.

In simple terms, the Bitcoin network is a bit like a living entity, and BIPs are the method by which it grows and changes.

They help ensure Bitcoin’s longevity by keeping it adaptable, relevant, and beneficial to all its users.

The very fact that anyone can propose a BIP makes Bitcoin truly a product of collective input and agreement.


In summary, Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs) are formal documents proposing changes to the Bitcoin protocol.

They provide a standardized framework for presenting, discussing, and implementing improvements, fostering a decentralized, inclusive, and technically innovative development process.

Article Sources

BuyBitcoinWorldWide writers are subject-matter experts and base their articles on firsthand information, like interviews with experts, white papers or original studies and experience. We also use trusted research and studies from other well-known sources. You can learn more about our editorial guidelines.

  1. Bitcoin BIP Style Guide,
  2. Taproot Activated - CoinDesk,

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