[Bitcoin-development] [bitcoin] Enable tx replacement on testnet. (#2516)

Peter Todd pete at petertodd.org
Tue Apr 16 11:28:14 UTC 2013

On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 04:59:33PM -0700, Pieter Wuille wrote:
> How about: keep a counter in the mempool, remembering the sum of the sizes of all replacements a transaction has had. When deciding whether to accept a transaction as a replacement, increase this number and then check whether its fee is enough for that size. That's certainly overkill, as it will correctly count network and processing overhead, but not blockchain or UTXO burdening (as those only happen after finalizing). In any case, it's easy to implement, seems safe to me, and would at least allow experimenting with this on testnet.


1) IsNewerThan() returns false if vin.size() != old.vin.size(), or if any of
   the prevouts (txhash/vout #) don't match. In other words the inputs to a
   transaction can't be changed by the current transaction replacement

2) If not for transaction replacement, nSequence could have been a boolean flag
   called fIgnoreLockTime.

3) The nSequence part of IsNewerThan() is essentially just another type of
   zero-conf transaction where you trust miners and relaying nodes to do what
   you tell them too. We shouldn't encourage zero-conf transactions.

4) Testnet may be for testing, but we know tx-replacement is trivially DoS-able
   right now. Those who want to experiment with attacks and counter measures
   should do so in a way that doesn't disrupt testnet for everyone - setting up
   their own tx-replacement enabled nodes is easy to do.

5) Zero-conf transactions, replacement or otherwise, have issues with consensus
   failure when network bandwidth is limited. In particular even if we require
   each re-broadcast of a transation to be accompanied by an increase in the
   fees it pays, fees += new tx size * MIN_RELAY_FEE has been proposed by a few
   people for instance, the cost to different nodes for that bandwidth is different.

   While less of an issue with 1MB blocks, with large blocks, especially blocksizes
   only limited by what miners think is reasonable considering available
   network bandwidth, lots of nodes and miners will be bandwidth starved
   and transaction fees will fall to the marginal cost of the network
   bandwidth and processing power to handle them. That cost is different
   for different parties - you definitely won't get consensus and thus
   zero-conf security in that scenario.

6) Finally zero-conf transactions have issues with consensus failures
   caused by limited mempool sizes.

In any case, the more pressing issue re: replacement is changing fees
attached to transactions after they have been broadcast. Lots of users
are getting their transactions stuck with few options to fix them.

The more I think about the issue the more I think we should nip this
zero-conf madness in the bud: change the relay rules so that
transactions are replaced based on fees regardless of how that changes
transaction outputs. Of course, this does make double-spending an
unconfirmed transaction trivial. On the other hand, this makes changing
fees after the fact trivial, and it lets us implement a limited 'undo'
button for when people screw up. It also allows for many of the
applications transaction replacement was meant for in the first place
anyway, and all the applications where it's actually secure.

We keep saying over and over again to stop accepting zero-conf
transactions, but people do it anyway because it seems secure. It's a
very dangerous situation because the security of zero-conf transactions
can change overnight simply by some fraction of the hashing power
implementing that exact change.

Some thought is required as to exactly what "replace by fees" looks
like, economically optimal is a bit complex due to it's dependency on
overall mempool backlog, but a rough first version should be easy to
hammer out.

Funny enough though: I'm working on a trusted-third-party ledger design,
intentially made to be close to 100% compatible with standard Bitcoin,
and in that system tx-replacement by nSequence will be a perfectly
reasonable thing to do.

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