[Bitcoin-development] Economics of information propagation

Paul Lyon pmlyon at hotmail.ca
Mon Apr 21 16:22:48 UTC 2014


I haven't done the math on this, so it may be a terrible idea. :)
I've been wondering if block propagation times could also be improved by allowing peers to request the list of transaction hashes that make up a block, and then making a follow-up request to only download any transactions not currently known. I'm not sure what percentage of transactions a node will usually already have when it receives a new block, but if it's high I figure this could be beneficial.

> Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2014 09:00:09 -0700
> From: mark at monetize.io
> To: pete at petertodd.org; jonathan.levin at sant.ox.ac.uk
> CC: bitcoin-development at lists.sourceforge.net
> Subject: Re: [Bitcoin-development] Economics of information propagation
> 
> That wasn't what I was saying. Right now the primacy of a block is
> determined by the time at which the `block` message is received, which
> is delays due to both the time it takes to transmit the block data and
> the time it takes to validate. Headers-first, on the other hand, has the
> option of basing primacy on the time the block header is received, which
> is O(1) time to transmit and to SPV-validate. Mining on that block
> doesn't actually commence until the full block is received and validated.
> 
> To see how this works, take an example: two blocks with a common parent
> are found relatively close to each other, block A and block B. A is
> found first but is a large block with the maximum block size and many
> slow scripts. B is found a few seconds later and is an empty block. In
> the current regime it is entirely possible that block B, the later but
> smaller block, would get received and processed first by more mining
> peers than the larger block A, exactly as described in Jonathan Levin's
> email.
> 
> With headers-first, however, the cost of propagation of the block header
> is the same and we should expect block A to win out over block B nearly
> every time. Miners will continue working on the old, known valid parent
> block until the contents of block A are received and processed. So the
> smaller block B is still found, and since it's data moves across the
> network faster, miners even briefly mine on block B. But as soon as they
> receive and process the contents of block A, they switch to that.
> 
> The earlier, larger block A will only become stale if *two* blocks are
> found in the extra time it takes for block A to propagate the network.
> That is a substantially different risk, and probably a negligible
> concern to most miners.
> 
> On 04/20/2014 09:06 PM, Peter Todd wrote:
> > That is mistaken: you can't mine on top of just a block header,
> > leaving small miners disadvantaged as they are earning no profit
> > while they wait for the information to validate the block and update
> > their UTXO sets. This results in the same problem as before, as the
> > large pools who mine most blocks can validate either instantly - the
> > self-mine case - or more quickly than the smaller miners.
> > 
> > Of course, in reality smaller miners can just mine on top of block
> > headers and include no transactions and do no validation, but that is
> > extremely harmful to the security of Bitcoin.
> 
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