[Bitcoin-development] Ultimate Blockchain Compression w/ trust-free lite node

Alan Reiner etotheipi at gmail.com
Tue Jun 19 17:33:31 UTC 2012

I hope that someone else here would chime in on the issue raised in the 
thread, about using a tree-structure that has multiple valid 
configurations for the same set of unspent-TxOuts.  If you use any 
binary tree, you must replay the entire history of insertions and 
deletions in the correct order to get the tree structure and correct 
root.  Along those lines, using something like a red-black tree, while 
theoretically well-known, could be subject to implementation errors.  
One implementation of a red-black tree may do the rebalancing 
differently, and still work for it's intended purpose in the majority of 
applications where it doesn't matter.  One app developer updates their 
RB tree code which updated the RB-tree optimizations/rebalancing, and 
now a significant portion of the network can't agree on the correct 
root.  Not only would that be disruptive, it would be a disaster to 
track down.

If we were to use a raw trie structure, then we'd have all the above 
issues solved:  a trie has the same configuration no matter how elements 
are inserted or deleted, and accesses to elements in the tree are 
constant time -- O(1).  There is no such thing as an unbalanced trie.  
But overall space-efficiency is an issue.

A PATRICIA tree/trie would be ideal, in my mind, as it also has a 
completely deterministic structure, and is an order-of-magnitude more 
space-efficient.  Insert, delete and query times are still O(1).    
However, it is not a trivial implementation.  I have occasionally looked 
for implementations, but not found any that were satisfactory.

So, I don't have a good all-around solution, within my own stated 
constraints. But perhaps I'm being too demanding of this solution.


On 06/19/2012 12:46 PM, Andrew Miller wrote:
>> Peter Todd wrote:
>> My solution was to simply state that vertexes that happened to cause the
>> tree to be unbalanced would be discarded, and set the depth of inbalance
>> such that this would be extremely unlikely to happen by accident. I'd
>> rather see someone come up with something better though.
> Here is a simpler solution. (most of this message repeats the content
> of my reply to the forum)
> Suppose we were talking about a binary search tree, rather than a
> Merkle tree. It's important to balance a binary search tree, so that
> the worst-case maximum length from the root to a leaf is bounded by
> O(log N). AVL trees were the original algorithm to do this, Red-Black
> trees are also popular, and there are many similar methods. All
> involve storing some form of 'balancing metadata' at each node. In a
> RedBlack tree, this is a single bit (red or black). Every operation on
> these trees, including search, inserting, deleting, and rebalancing,
> requires a worst-case effort of O(log N).
> Any (acyclic) recursive data structure can be Merkle-ized, simply by
> adding a hash of the child node alongside each link/pointer. This way,
> you can verify the data for each node very naturally, as you traverse
> the structure.
> In fact, as long as a lite-client knows the O(1) root hash, the rest
> of the storage burden can be delegated to an untrusted helper server.
> Suppose a lite-client wants to insert and rebalance its tree. This
> requires accessing at most O(log N) nodes. The client can request only
> the data relevant to these nodes, and it knows the hash for each chunk
> of data in advance of accessing it. After computing the updated root
> hash, the client can even discard the data it processed.
> This technique has been well discussed in the academic literature,
> e.g. [1,2], although since I am not aware of any existing
> implementation, I made my own, intended as an explanatory aid:
> https://github.com/amiller/redblackmerkle/blob/master/redblack.py
> [1] Certificate Revocation and Update
>      Naor and Nissim. 1998
>      http://static.usenix.org/publications/library/proceedings/sec98/full_papers/nissim/nissim.pdf
> [2] A General Model for Authenticated Data Structures
>      Martel, Nuckolls, Devanbu, Michael Gertz, Kwong, Stubblebine. 2004
>      http://truthsayer.cs.ucdavis.edu/algorithmica.pdf
> --
> Andrew Miller
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