[Bitcoin-development] Extension for BIP-0070 to support recurring payments

Drak drak at zikula.org
Tue Feb 25 18:40:03 UTC 2014

Forgive me if I missed it, but the spec doesnt look like it can handle only
handle periods of per week, per month, per quarter rather than 'n period'.
I take Paypal as a reference example for subscription payments where you
can set recurring to every: n days, n weeks, n months, n years. That way a
quarterly payment is every 3 months. This fine granularity is necessary
because sometime a payment scheme can be per 4 weekly rather than per

So in summary the spec needs daily as an option, and to specify the
recurring cycle as every n*period (one of daily, weekly, monthly, yearly):
and you can drop quarterly since it's just expressed as per 3*monthly.


On 25 February 2014 16:29, Mike Hearn <mike at plan99.net> wrote:

> Hey there,
> So the essence of this protocol is as follows:
> enum PaymentFrequencyType {
>         WEEKLY = 1;
>         MONTHLY = 2;
>         QUARTERLY = 3;
>         ANNUAL = 4;
> }
> message RecurringPaymentDetails {
>         // Namespace for the merchant such as org.foo.bar
>         required string merchant_id = 1;
>         // Id for the recurring subscription
>         required bytes subscription_id = 2;
>         // Contracts associated with a given subscription
>         repeated RecurringPaymentContract contracts = 3;
> }
> message RecurringPaymentContract {
>         // Unique id for a given contract
>         required bytes contract_id = 1;
>         // URL to poll to get the next PaymentRequest
>         required string polling_url = 2;
>         // Timestamp; when this contract starts
>         required uint64 starts = 3;
>         // Timestamp; when this contract should be considered invalid
>         optional uint64 ends = 4;
>         // Expected payment frequency
>         optional PaymentFrequencyType payment_frequency_type = 5;
>         // Max payment amount within that frequency (e.g. no more than 5 BTC per month)
>         optional uint64 max_payment_per_period  = 6;
>         // Max payment amount (e.g. no more than 3 BTC per payment)
>         optional uint64 max_payment_amount = 7;
> }
> I have the following comments:
>    1. There's no need to serialize RecurringPaymentDetails as bytes here.
>    It's done that way outside of PaymentDetails in order to support digital
>    signatures over protobufs that may have extensions the wallet app isn't
>    aware of, but it's a pain and inside PaymentDetails (and therefore for most
>    extensions) it shouldn't be necessary. So you can just use "optional
>    RecurringPamentDetails recurring_payments = 8;"
>    2. There's only 4 possibilities here for recurrences. That seems
>    rather restrictive. Is the cost of being more expressive really so high?
>    Why not allow more flexible specification of periods?
>    3. If there's no payment_frequency_type field then what happens? A
>    quirk of protobufs to be aware of is that making an enum field "required"
>    can hurt backwards compatibility. Because it will be expressed using a
>    languages underlying enum type, if there's a new enum member added later
>    old software that attempts to deserialize this will throw exceptions
>    because the new "unknown" member would be unrepresentable in the old model.
>    Making the field optional avoids this problem (it will be treated as
>    missing instead) but means software needs to be written to know what to do
>    when it can't read the enum value / sees enum values from the future.
>    4. I assume the amounts are specified in terms of satoshi, and
>    timestamps are UNIX time, but better to make that explicit.
>    5. Seems there's an implicit value constraint that max_payment_amount
>    <= max_payment_per_period. What happens if that constraint is violated?
>    Best to document that.
>    6. What's the "merchant ID" namespace thing about? What's it for? What
>    happens if I set my competitors merchant ID there?
>    7. What's the "subscription ID"? Is this stuff not
>    duplicative/redundant with the existing merchant_data field?
>    8. In what situations would you have >1 contract per payment request?
>    I'm not sure I understand why it's repeated. Presumably if there are zero
>    contracts included the data should be ignored, or an error thrown and the
>    entire payment request rejected? Which should it be?
>    9. It's unclear to me given such a contract when the payment should
>    actually occur. For instance if it's "monthly" then what day in the month
>    would the payment occur?
>    10. You'll notice I moved the comments to be above the field
>    definitions. I know the current proto isn't done that way, but let's change
>    it - long comments are good and putting them above the field definitions
>    encourages people to write enough detail without being put off by line
>    length constraints
> I think the next step would be to talk to BitPay/get Jeff+Stephen involved
> because I know they have customers that really want recurring payments, and
> those guys will have a clearer idea of customer requirements than we do. I
> feel uncomfortable with designing or reviewing in a vacuum without some
> actual people who would use it chiming in, as I don't really know much
> about the underlying business processes.
> I have some other comments about the bitcoinj implementation specifically
> - for instance, we don't have a "wallet directory" concept: everything goes
> into the wallet file. So we'll need to think about how to structure the
> code to allow that. Also, just using a background polling thread is likely
> not flexible enough, as on some platforms you can't stay running all the
> time (e.g. Android) without upsetting people, but the underlying OS can
> wake you up at the right times, so wallet apps should have an ability to
> control wakeup tasks. But we can discuss that over on the bitcoinj list
> specifically. Let's keep this thread for the general protocol design.
> BIP 70 is indeed implemented in Bitcoin Core on the C++ side, so that
> isn't a concern. It could be done there too.
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