Package wire implements the bitcoin wire protocol.

For the complete details of the bitcoin protocol, see the official wiki entry at The following only serves as a quick overview to provide information on how to use the package.

At a high level, this package provides support for marshalling and unmarshalling supported bitcoin messages to and from the wire. This package does not deal with the specifics of message handling such as what to do when a message is received. This provides the caller with a high level of flexibility.

Bitcoin Message Overview

The bitcoin protocol consists of exchanging messages between peers. Each message is preceded by a header which identifies information about it such as which bitcoin network it is a part of, its type, how big it is, and a checksum to verify validity. All encoding and decoding of message headers is handled by this package.

To accomplish this, there is a generic interface for bitcoin messages named Message which allows messages of any type to be read, written, or passed around through channels, functions, etc. In addition, concrete implementations of most of the currently supported bitcoin messages are provided. For these supported messages, all of the details of marshalling and unmarshalling to and from the wire using bitcoin encoding are handled so the caller doesn't have to concern themselves with the specifics.

Message Interaction

The following provides a quick summary of how the bitcoin messages are intended to interact with one another. As stated above, these interactions are not directly handled by this package. For more in-depth details about the appropriate interactions, see the official bitcoin protocol wiki entry at

The initial handshake consists of two peers sending each other a version message (MsgVersion) followed by responding with a verack message (MsgVerAck). Both peers use the information in the version message (MsgVersion) to negotiate things such as protocol version and supported services with each other. Once the initial handshake is complete, the following chart indicates message interactions in no particular order.

Peer A Sends                          Peer B Responds
getaddr message (MsgGetAddr)          addr message (MsgAddr)
getblocks message (MsgGetBlocks)      inv message (MsgInv)
inv message (MsgInv)                  getdata message (MsgGetData)
getdata message (MsgGetData)          block message (MsgBlock) -or-
                                      tx message (MsgTx) -or-
                                      notfound message (MsgNotFound)
getheaders message (MsgGetHeaders)    headers message (MsgHeaders)
ping message (MsgPing)                pong message (MsgHeaders)* -or-
                                      (none -- Ability to send message is enough)

* The pong message was not added until later protocol versions as defined
  in BIP0031.  The BIP0031Version constant can be used to detect a recent
  enough protocol version for this purpose (version > BIP0031Version).

Common Parameters

There are several common parameters that arise when using this package to read and write bitcoin messages. The following sections provide a quick overview of these parameters so the next sections can build on them.

Protocol Version

The protocol version should be negotiated with the remote peer at a higher level than this package via the version (MsgVersion) message exchange, however, this package provides the wire.ProtocolVersion constant which indicates the latest protocol version this package supports and is typically the value to use for all outbound connections before a potentially lower protocol version is negotiated.

Bitcoin Network

The bitcoin network is a magic number which is used to identify the start of a message and which bitcoin network the message applies to. This package provides the following constants:

wire.TestNet  (Regression test network)
wire.TestNet3 (Test network version 3)
wire.SimNet   (Simulation test network)

Determining Message Type

As discussed in the bitcoin message overview section, this package reads and writes bitcoin messages using a generic interface named Message. In order to determine the actual concrete type of the message, use a type switch or type assertion. An example of a type switch follows:

// Assumes msg is already a valid concrete message such as one created
// via NewMsgVersion or read via ReadMessage.
switch msg := msg.(type) {
case *wire.MsgVersion:
	// The message is a pointer to a MsgVersion struct.
	fmt.Printf("Protocol version: %v", msg.ProtocolVersion)
case *wire.MsgBlock:
	// The message is a pointer to a MsgBlock struct.
	fmt.Printf("Number of tx in block: %v", msg.Header.TxnCount)

Reading Messages

In order to unmarshall bitcoin messages from the wire, use the ReadMessage function. It accepts any io.Reader, but typically this will be a net.Conn to a remote node running a bitcoin peer. Example syntax is:

// Reads and validates the next bitcoin message from conn using the
// protocol version pver and the bitcoin network btcnet.  The returns
// are a wire.Message, a []byte which contains the unmarshalled
// raw payload, and a possible error.
msg, rawPayload, err := wire.ReadMessage(conn, pver, btcnet)
if err != nil {
	// Log and handle the error

Writing Messages

In order to marshall bitcoin messages to the wire, use the WriteMessage function. It accepts any io.Writer, but typically this will be a net.Conn to a remote node running a bitcoin peer. Example syntax to request addresses from a remote peer is:

// Create a new getaddr bitcoin message.
msg := wire.NewMsgGetAddr()

// Writes a bitcoin message msg to conn using the protocol version
// pver, and the bitcoin network btcnet.  The return is a possible
// error.
err := wire.WriteMessage(conn, msg, pver, btcnet)
if err != nil {
	// Log and handle the error


Errors returned by this package are either the raw errors provided by underlying calls to read/write from streams such as io.EOF, io.ErrUnexpectedEOF, and io.ErrShortWrite, or of type wire.MessageError. This allows the caller to differentiate between general IO errors and malformed messages through type assertions.

Bitcoin Improvement Proposals

This package includes spec changes outlined by the following BIPs:

BIP0014 (
BIP0031 (
BIP0035 (
BIP0037 (
BIP0111	(
BIP0130 (

wire is referenced in 18 repositories