Miniscript Programming Language – A New, Easier Way to Code Bitcoin

Beginner’s Guide / 28.07.2020

Since its inception, bitcoin has been using Script– a smart contract development language. Script is an extensive non-Turing complete programming language. The language lets developers encode certain conditions that define spending of coins.

While Script has many capabilities, it’s tough to implement, especially when complex smart contract conditions are involved. Writing and verifying a complex contract is prone to human errors that don’t go well with money at stake.

To improve this, blockchain engineers Pieter Wuille, Andrew Poelstra, and Sanket Kanjalkar in 2019 developed Miniscript. This article will go deeper into understanding Miniscript, its significance, and how it makes bitcoin programming easier.

What is Miniscript?

Miniscript is a programming language developed by Blockstreams to make Bitcoin programming easy. 

Miniscript, which is built on Script, contains several unique features that make it a modern programming language.

  • Object-oriented programming -As an extension of maps, Miniscript Classes supports single inheritance, an alternative to multiple inheritances prone to numerous issues.
  • MiniScript also uses duck typing, thus allowing a class to adhere to any interface. Simple words like new, super, and self are all it takes to provide powerful OOP support.
  • Local Variables – Variables in Miniscript are, by default, local to the function you are in. You can have global variables by referencing “globals.varname.”
  • First-class functions – Functions in Miniscript can be passed as arguments, be assigned to variables, be used as keys, elements in a list, values in a map, or any other value.

Significance of Miniscript

Miniscript’s main aim is to make Scripts readable to a human. The language presents several use cases that make it a significant development as far as blockchain is concerned. The following are some significant Miniscript use cases.

Bitcoin Scripts Optimization

One of the main drawbacks of Bitcoin is its limited support for smart contracts. Script, which was developed to address these issues, had some shortcomings too. For instance, Script offers several ways to describe conjunction, require a signature, or implement a threshold, making it very hard even for veterans to find an optimal script.

Miniscript is improving this by making it easier to find optimal Bitcoin scripts that correspond to specific spending conditions.   

Enhanced Interoperability

Script does not allow interoperability between different coins spending conditions, causing a significant barrier to bitcoin smart contract support. Users are afraid that their long-term timelocks and complex multi-signature requirements will not be recognized by their counterparts who use a different policy.

Miniscript directly represents spending conditions so that any user can easily:

  • find the associated address to the Script,
  • determine whose signatures are necessary at any given time,
  • oversee a valid transaction with a basic set of signatures.

This way, Miniscript covers the user’s fear that all participants have compatible software, or that the software will be existing when specific timelocks are needed.

Proof of Reserve

Proof of Reserves is a process where users prove the number BTC they could spend without actual spending, i.e., without generating a live transaction – avoid exposure to moving funds risks.

Blockstream’s Proof of Reserves Tool is one tool that facilitates this process. Unfortunately, the industry still doesn’t have common proof of reserve standards. Lack of a standardized mechanism for Bitcoin proof of reserve exposes the system to security risks.

Miniscript has enabled a standard that encompasses the diversity of custody mechanisms, which was almost impossible with Script.

Dynamic Federations

Dynamic federations are a feature in Blockstream’s liquid sidechains that allows existing Liquid Members to verify new members and manage the Script that controls a federation’s bitcoin spendability. Miniscript makes the process of constructing such Script easy and fast.

Miniscript also allows Liquid members to verify useful features of proposed scripts automatically. These eliminate expensive and time-consuming security audits of the scripts.

How Miniscript is Making Bitcoin Programming Easier

To make the process of writing bitcoin programs easier, Miniscript developers included the following functionalities.

  • A Policy Language 

This is a layer of the Miniscript language to boost simplicity. Conditions under which a bitcoin can be spent are programmed in policy language before being compiled into Miniscript.

What’s more, the policy automatically compiles into the best version of Miniscript possible regarding what the Script encodes.

  • Alphabet-based Abbreviation 

Miniscript language widely uses alphabetic abbreviations and minimal symbols, making it easy to memorize the functions. The rules of abbreviations are also simple to follow.

  • Clean Syntax 

Miniscript eliminates the need for unnecessary punctuations in its syntax. These punctuations include semicolons at line end, curly braces, parenthesis around an argument, and others familiar in other programming languages.  

Consider this MiniScript code:

for i in range(20, 10)

   print i + “…”

   wait

end for

print “Liftoff!”

Clean and straightforward, right?

  • Central Data Types 

Miniscript’s design revolves around the four main data types; Numbers, Strings, Ordered lists, Maps making it easy for developers in other languages to understand.

Final Thought

Bitcoin is the king of cryptocurrency. It rules the global crypto market with above 62% dominance over more than 5700 cryptocurrencies available. Bitcoin, however, falls short of one crucial feature – a developers’ platform.

Bitcoin enthusiasts’ quest to provide coders with a friendly and interactive ecosystem led to the development of Miniscript programming language.

Miniscript leverages on the heavyweight Script to provide a more natural way of programming Bitcoin. Early versions of Miniscript have shown great significance in making the vision real. The language combines features of a modern language to make it ideal for new and experienced coders. Miniscript is simply transforming the bitcoin programming landscape!

Adam is an outgoing young lad who likes adventures and discovering new things. Despite his boring life, he loves writing about cryptocurrencies and exploring what blockchain technology can do for the coming digital world where all adventures will be virtual.