Bitcoin Core, the open-source software used to keep the Bitcoin network running, has been updated to version 0.19.1, introducing several general improvements and a host of bug fixes.
The most significant change is the addition of bech32 addresses as the default option in the Bitcoin Core wallet. A Bitcoin address is where someone stores their bitcoin and looks like a long strings of alphanumeric characters.
This is good because these addresses offer a number of benefits. Bech32 addresses, which begin with the digits "bc1," are cheaper to spend from, feature smaller QR codes and offer improved protection against typing errors since they are case insensitive. Other address types can now be selected from a drop-down menu, in case they are needed, because bech32 addresses are not supported everywhere.
In addition to this, three new Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) have been added, these are getbalances, setwalletflag and getblockfilter. This gives more functionality to Bitcoin node owners. More than a dozen other pre-existing RPCs were also updated in the latest release.
There are also well over a hundred other less notable changes, with contributions from a similar number of developers. These include removing support for the BIP 70 payment support protocol, which was initially designed to improve the Bitcoin payment experience, but failed to gather sufficient traction. Likewise, several outdated RPCs have been removed.
Further, the new update introduces support for the Partially Signed Bitcoin Transactions (PSBT) protocol. This helps to improve the way people make transactions when using multiple signatures. (With a Bitcoin transaction, you can make it so that several people's signatures are required to send a transaction. This can be used for mixing coins with other people too.)
According to a tool made by Bitcoin Core developer Luke Dashjr, around 35% of nodes are running the latest version of Bitcoin Core, whereas the remainder are running outdated software. A full list of changes and instructions on how to upgrade from an older version are provided on the Bitcoin Core website, whereas the installation binaries and source code can be downloaded from the official Bitcoin Core GitHub repository.