[Bitcoin-development] BIP32 "wallet structure" in use? Remove it?

Jeff Garzik jgarzik at bitpay.com
Sat Apr 26 16:03:31 UTC 2014

It is very young in bitcoin's life.  We don't know what features will
work out best, or need to be radically changed after initial
deployment in the field.

Loose coordination is good.  Good ideas will spread on their own.
Users will demand compatibility with certain features, and fail to
care incompatibilities in other features.

Tight interoperability at this stage is too confining.

On Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 11:46 AM, Gregory Maxwell <gmaxwell at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 7:53 AM, Jim <jim618 at fastmail.co.uk> wrote:
>> Oh dear.
>> For reasons that are perfectly reasonable we are close to losing any chance of intra-client HD compatibility for BIP32 wallets.
>> In the next 12 months there will probably be collectively millions of users of our new wallets. I don't want them to suffer from vendor lockin.
>> Can we not agree on a lowest common denominator that we agree to support ?
>> An "HD Basic" if you like.
>> For entry level users we can keep things simple and any "HD Basic" bitcoin will be fully interoperable.
>> Sure, if you use anything fancy you'll be locked in to a particular wallet but a lot of users just want somewhere safe to put their bitcoin, spend it and receive it.
>> I appreciate standising everything is very difficult (if not impossible) but if we don't have a minimum of interoperability I think we'll do our users a disservice.
> I don't believe that wallet interoperability at this level is possible
> in general except as an explicit compatibility feature. I also don't
> believe that it is a huge loss that it is so.
> The structure of the derivation defines and constrains functionality.
> You cannot be structure compatible unless you have the same features
> and behavior with respect to key management.  To that extent that
> wallets have the same features, I agree its better if they are
> compatible-- but unless they are dead software they likely won't keep
> the same features for long.
> Even if their key management were compatible there are many other
> things that go into making a wallet portable between systems; the
> handling of private keys is just one part:  a complete wallet will
> have other (again, functionality specific) metadata.
> I agree that it would be it would be possible to support a
> compatibility mode where a wallet has just a subset of features which
> works when loaded into different systems, but I'm somewhat doubtful
> that it would be widely used. The decision to use that mode comes at
> the wrong time-- when you start, not when you need the features you
> chose to disable or when you want to switch programs. But the obvious
> thing to do there is to just specify that a linear chain with no
> further branching is that mode: then that will be the same mode you
> use when someone gives you a master public key and asks you to use it
> for reoccurring changes-- so at least the software will get used.
> Compatibility for something like a recovery tool is another matter,
> and BIP32 probably defines enough there that with a bit of extra data
> about how the real wallet worked that recovery can be successful.
> Calling it "vendor lock in" sounds overblown to me.  If someone wants
> to change wallets they can transfer the funds-- manual handling of
> private keys is seldom advisable, and as is they're going to lose
> their metadata in any case.  No one expects to switch banks and to
> keep their account records at the new bank. And while less than
> perfect, the price of heavily constraining functionality in order to
> get another result is just too high.
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Jeff Garzik
Bitcoin core developer and open source evangelist
BitPay, Inc.      https://bitpay.com/

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