What is the Bech32 Format? A Comprehensive Guide

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An isometric illustration of a woman walking through a city in bech32 format.
Table of Contents
An isometric illustration of a woman walking through a city in bech32 format.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bech32 is a new Bitcoin address format introduced as part of the SegWit upgrade
  • The primary advantage of Bech32 is that it offers better security and reduces errors in address input
  • To use and create a Bech32 address, you need a wallet that supports this format

What is the Bech32 Format?

Bech32 is a new Bitcoin address format that was introduced as part of the SegWit (Segregated Witness) upgrade, providing several advantages over traditional address formats such as lower transaction fees and improved error detection.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the nuts and bolts of Bech32, exploring its advantages over traditional formats and how it enhances the cryptocurrency experience.

Whether you’re a crypto beginner or seasoned enthusiast looking to stay ahead in the ever-evolving world of blockchain technology, this is your go-to resource for understanding Bech32’s impact on digital currency management and transactions.

Definition and Purpose of Bech32

Bech32 is an innovative Bitcoin address format designed to enhance the efficiency and usability of transaction processing within the network. Developed as part of the Segregated Witness (SegWit) upgrade, Bech32 addresses aim to improve security, reduce errors in address input, and optimize transaction fees.

The primary purpose of Bech32 is to provide users with a more streamlined experience when sending and receiving cryptocurrency while ensuring greater data integrity through checks built into its encoding mechanism.

Advantages of Bech32 Over Other Address Formats

The Bech32 format offers several advantages over other Bitcoin address formats. For starters, it uses only alphanumeric characters and omits characters which could be displayed identically, making addresses easier to read and reducing the incidence of errors during transactions.

Moreover, Bech32 also supports native SegWit outputs which help to lower transaction fees on various networks. This makes it more efficient for users who make frequent payments or large transactions as they can save significant amounts in transaction fees compared to using legacy address formats.

A Brief History of the Development of Bech32

The Bech32 format was first introduced in 2017 as part of the BIP-0173 proposal by Pieter Wuille, a prominent Bitcoin Core developer. The primary goal of this new address format was to improve transaction processing and lower fees while also increasing address security.

Before Bech32, there were two main types of Bitcoin addresses: legacy addresses that began with a “1” and SegWit addresses that began with a “3”. However, these formats had limitations such as susceptibility to errors during manual entry and difficulty in encoding integrity checks.

Understanding How Bech32 Works

To understand how Bech32 works, it is important to know the anatomy of a Bech32 address, how to create and use one, and the encoding process involved in its creation.

Anatomy of a Bech32 Address

Bech32 address is a new form of Bitcoin address that utilizes alphanumeric characters omitting similar ones and includes a data integrity check. It starts with “bc1” and has been introduced to overcome some challenges associated with the previous formats.

The anatomy of a Bech32 address consists of three parts: the human-readable part, separator (which is always “1”), and data payload. The first part indicates what network or application uses the format.

The second element (“1”) serves as a fixed separator to make sure everything after it goes into data payload rather than forming another human-readable prefix.

Bech32 addresses use base encoding similar to other Bitcoin address formats but differ in several ways such as having lowercase letters instead of uppercase ones.

Creating and Using a Bech32 Address

To create a Bech32 address, you need to use a wallet that supports this format. This type of address is typically longer than traditional addresses and starts with “bc1”.

One advantage of using Bech32 is that it has built-in error checking to ensure the accuracy of the address. To use your Bech32 address for sending and receiving Bitcoin, simply provide it to the party who needs it.

It’s worth noting that not all wallets and exchanges support Bech32 yet, so you’ll want to check whether yours does before using this format. Additionally, keep in mind that if you’re converting an existing Bitcoin address into a Bech32 one, you will have to pay higher fees for the transaction.

Bech32 Encoding

Bech32 encoding involves converting binary data into a series of characters from the allowed character set. The encoding process uses a modified version of the Base32 encoding scheme. It maps groups of 5 bits from the binary data to the corresponding character from the character set.

Bech32 addresses incorporate an error-detection mechanism called a checksum. The checksum helps identify and prevent some types of errors during the address input. The checksum is calculated based on the human-readable part and data payload and is appended to the end of the Bech32 address.

Using Bech32 in the Cryptocurrency World

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Cosmos have adopted Bech32 address formats due to their improved performance and lower transaction fees.

Adoption of Bech32 by Different Cryptocurrencies

The adoption of the Bech32 format has been steadily increasing across various cryptocurrencies, making it an essential feature for users to consider. The table below highlights some of the popular cryptocurrencies that have adopted the Bech32 format.

CryptocurrencyBech32 Adoption
Bitcoin (BTC)Implemented as Native SegWit (bc1) addresses
Litecoin (LTC)Implemented as Native SegWit (ltc1) addresses
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)Not Implemented
Ethereum (ETH)Not Implemented
Ripple (XRP)Not Implemented
EOSNot Implemented
Binance Coin (BNB)Not Implemented
Tezos (XTZ)Not Implemented

As depicted in the table, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin have adopted the Bech32 format for their Native SegWit addresses, while others have yet to implement this advanced address format. The adoption of Bech32 by more cryptocurrencies in the future can lead to improved performance and lower transaction fees for users.

Support for Bech32 by Exchanges and Wallets

Many cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets now support Bech32 addresses. This means that you can use Bech32 addresses to send and receive Bitcoin more easily. Some of the major exchanges that support Bech32 include Coinbase, Binance, Bitfinex, Kraken, and Gemini. These exchanges have recognized the benefits of Bech32, especially in terms of lowering transaction fees.

In addition to exchanges, many wallet providers also support Bech32. For example, Trezor and Ledger both offer hardware wallets that are compatible with bech32 addresses. Similarly, popular mobile wallets like Mycelium and Samourai Wallet also allow users to create and manage SegWit/Bech32 addresses.

By using a wallet or exchange that supports Bech32 addresses, you’ll be able to take advantage of lower transaction fees while still maintaining security for your Bitcoin holdings. It’s always important to choose a reputable provider when it comes to crypto-related services – so make sure you do your research before choosing an exchange or wallet!

Overcoming Challenges and Obstacles

Despite the numerous benefits of Bech32, there have been some challenges and obstacles in its adoption. One major challenge is that not all wallets and exchanges support it yet.

This means that people who want to use Bech32 addresses may face difficulties sending or receiving cryptocurrency from non-supporting platforms.

Another issue was with encoding integrity checks when using Bech32 for binary data processing, which led to a few inconsistencies in the past. But this has been resolved through updates to the Bitcoin wiki BIP format.

Implementing Bech32: A Step-by-Step Guide

To move from existing addresses to Bech32, users need to utilize specific tools or upgrade their wallet software to support the new format.

How to Convert Existing Addresses to Bech32

If you already have a Bitcoin address but want to switch over to the Bech32 format, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Many wallets support the conversion process, so all you need to do is follow a few steps.

First, check if your wallet supports Bech32 addresses. If it does, look for an option that allows you to convert your existing BTC address to Bech32.

For example, if you’re using the Electrum wallet, click on “Addresses” and select “New/Restore.” From there, choose “Standard Wallet,” then tick the box next to “use native segwit (bech32) addresses.” Your new address will start with “bc1” instead of 1 or 3.

Keep in mind that once you switch over to Bech32, any transactions made using your old BTC address won’t be associated with your new one. Also, this converting process is rather a “change your address” as you cannot convert addresses to other formats.

Best Practices for Working With Bech32

To ensure the best experience when working with Bech32 addresses, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, always verify that the address you are using is in fact a Bech32 address and not another format such as P2PKH or P2SH.

Second, double-check the encoding of the address to avoid any errors during transaction processing.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that while Bech32 offers many benefits such as lower transaction fees and improved security, it may not yet be widely adopted by all cryptocurrencies or wallet software.

Therefore, it’s crucial to stay updated on any developments related to Bech32 implementation within your preferred blockchain network and wallet software provider.

Future Developments in Bech32 Technology

As the world of cryptocurrency continues to evolve, so too does the Bech32 format. One of the most exciting developments was the Taproot upgrade, which enables more complex smart contracts on the Bitcoin network and improve privacy for users.

Additionally, other cryptocurrencies are also adopting Bech32 as their address format. For example, Cosmos SDK documentation recommends using Bech32 for all new accounts created on its network.

As more platforms adopt this advanced address format, we can expect to see even greater adoption and integration into wallets and exchanges.


What is the Bech32 Format?

The Bech32 format is a new Bitcoin address format used to pay SegWit addresses also known as bech32 addresses. It was introduced in 2017 as part of the BIP173 proposal. This format is different from the previous format used to pay SegWit addresses, P2SH addresses.

How Does the Bech32 Format Work?

The Bech32 format is an address format used to pay SegWit outputs. It encodes a SegWit version, a 20-byte hash, and 6-bit error detection code. The format is also referred to as a segregated witness address because it separates the witness (signature) data from the rest of the transaction data. This makes the transaction smaller and more efficient.

What Are the Benefits of the Bech32 Format?

The Bech32 format has several benefits over previous address formats. It uses a lowercase only alphabet, which eliminates mistakes that can be caused by mixed case address strings. The format is also more efficient, resulting in smaller transactions and lower fees.

How Can I Recognize a Bech32 Address?

Bech32 addresses start with “bc1”. They are longer than previous address formats and do not include the number “0” (zero), the letter “O” (capital o), or the letter “I” (capital i) to avoid confusion between similar looking characters.

What Happens if I Send Bitcoin to the Wrong Address?

If you send Bitcoin to the wrong address, there is no way to recover the funds. It is essential to ensure that the receiving address is correct before sending any Bitcoin.

What is the Difference Between the Bech32 Format and the Previous Formats?

The Bech32 format is a more efficient and modern address format that does not use mixed case letters like previous formats. It includes error detection to catch almost all address typos and is known as bech32. 

How Do I Use the Bech32 Format to Send and Receive Bitcoins?

You can use any Bitcoin wallet that supports the Bech32 format to send and receive Bitcoins using this address format. Most popular wallets now support Bech32 addresses, including the Ledger Nano S and Trezor hardware wallets.

What is the Difference Between native Segwit and Segwit Addresses?

Native SegWit addresses, also known as bech32 addresses, are a newer and more efficient format used to pay Native SegWit outputs. They are recognized by their “bc1” prefix. In contrast, SegWit addresses use a P2SH format with a “3” prefix and are used to pay SegWit outputs.

Conclusion: Segwit Bech32 Addresses as an Upgrade for Bitcoin

In conclusion, the Bech32 format is a new and advanced Bitcoin address format that provides numerous benefits for the cryptocurrency world. It offers faster transaction processing and higher security, making it an ideal choice for those who value privacy and efficiency.

By understanding how Bech32 works and implementing it correctly, you can optimize your transactions while enhancing network security. With more cryptocurrencies adopting this format, it’s clear that Bech32 is on its way to becoming the standard in cryptocurrency addresses.



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About the Author:
Morgan Davis, an expert in digital currency and economic analysis, offers a unique perspective on cryptocurrency within the global financial landscape. With a background in International Economics, Morgan's insights delve into how macroeconomic factors influence the crypto market. Their writing simplifies complex economic and cryptocurrency concepts, making them accessible to a broad audience. Morgan is actively engaged in discussions about the impact of blockchain on finance, and their work empowers readers to understand and navigate the world of digital currencies.