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Bitcoin Core is eventually going to replace OpenSSL with libsecp256k1 for all ECDSA operations. As I understand it, this is motivated by wanting consensus-critical rules to not depend on OpenSSL.

Is libsecp256k1 signature verification also faster than OpenSSL? I've heard conflicting information about that.

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Yes it's a lot faster. For example from one of the core developers:

reddit - Pieter Wuille / 2015-02-19 18:13

Just did a benchmark on libsecp256k1's current master, without GMP, without hand-written assembly, and it's around 3.6x faster than OpenSSL on my machine (64-bit code, i7 cpu). When the assembly is compiled in (which does not require any extra dependencies anymore), it's 4.9 times faster.

http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2weymr/experiment_bitcoin_core_0100_initial_sync_time/coqghm2

This talks about signature verification, which is currently the bottleneck when catching up to the blockchain.

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