[bitcoin-dev] Idea: Efficient bitcoin block propagation

Olaoluwa Osuntokun laolu32 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 6 17:33:49 UTC 2015

Other than the source code, the best documentation I've come across is a few
lines on IRC explaining the high-level design of the protocol:

On Thu, Aug 6, 2015 at 10:18 AM Sergio Demian Lerner via bitcoin-dev <
bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org> wrote:

> Is there any up to date documentation about TheBlueMatt relay network
> including what kind of block compression it is currently doing? (apart from
> the source code)
> Regards, Sergio.
> On Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 7:14 PM, Gregory Maxwell via bitcoin-dev <
> bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org> wrote:
>> On Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 9:19 PM, Arnoud Kouwenhoven - Pukaki Corp
>> <arnoud at pukaki.bz> wrote:
>> > Thanks for this (direct) feedback. It would make sense that if blocks
>> can be
>> > submitted using ~5kb packets, that no further optimizations would be
>> needed
>> > at this point. I will look into the relay network transmission protocol
>> to
>> > understand how it works!
>> >
>> > I hear that you are saying that this network solves speed of
>> transmission
>> > and thereby (technical) block size issues. Presumably it would solve
>> speed
>> > of block validation too by prevalidating transactions.
>> Correct. Bitcoin Core has cached validation for many years now... if
>> not for that and other optimizations, things would be really broken
>> right now. :)
>> > Assuming this is all
>> > true, and I have no reason to doubt that at this point, I do not
>> understand
>> > why there is any discussion at all about the (technical) impact of large
>> > blocks, why there are large numbers of miners building on invalid blocks
>> > (SPV mining, https://bitcoin.org/en/alert/2015-07-04-spv-mining), or
>> why
>> > there is any discussion about the speed of block validation (cpu
>> processing
>> > time to verify blocks and transactions in blocks being a limitation).
>> I'm also mystified by a lot of the large block discussion, much of it
>> is completely divorced from the technology as deployed; much less what
>> we-- in industry-- know to be possible. I don't blame you or anyone in
>> particular on this; it's a new area and we don't yet know what we need
>> to know to know what we need to know; or to the extent that we do it
>> hasn't had time to get effectively communicated.
>> The technical/security implications of larger blocks are related to
>> other things than propagation time, if you assume people are using the
>> available efficient relay protocol (or better).
>> SPV mining is a bit of a misnomer (If I coined the term, I'm sorry).
>> What these parties are actually doing is blinding mining on top of
>> other pools' stratum work. You can think of it as sub-pooling with
>> hopping onto whatever pool has the highest block (I'll call it VFSSP
>> in this post-- validation free stratum subpooling).  It's very easy to
>> implement, and there are other considerations.
>> It was initially deployed at a time when a single pool in Europe has
>> amassed more than half of the hashrate. This pool had propagation
>> problems and a very high orphan rate, it may have (perhaps
>> unintentionally) been performing a selfish mining attack; mining off
>> their stratum work was an easy fix which massively cut down the orphan
>> rates for anyone who did it.  This was before the relay network
>> protocol existed (the fact that all the hashpower was consolidating on
>> a single pool was a major motivation for creating it).
>> VFSSP also cuts through a number of practical issues miners have had:
>> Miners that run their own bitcoin nodes in far away colocation
>> (>100ms) due to local bandwidth or connectivity issues (censored
>> internet); relay network hubs not being anywhere near by due to
>> strange internet routing (e.g. japan to china going via the US for ...
>> reasons...); the CreateNewBlock() function being very slow and
>> unoptimized, etc.   There are many other things like this-- and VFSSP
>> avoids them causing delays even when you don't understand them or know
>> about them. So even when they're easily fixed the VFSSP is a more
>> general workaround.
>> Mining operations are also usually operated in a largely fire and
>> forget manner. There is a long history in (esp pooled) mining where
>> someone sets up an operation and then hardly maintains it after the
>> fact... so some of the use of VFSSP appears to just be inertia-- we
>> have better solutions now, but they they work to deploy and changing
>> things involves risk (which is heightened by a lack of good
>> monitoring-- participants learn they are too latent by observing
>> orphaned blocks at a cost of 25 BTC each).
>> One of the frustrating things about incentives in this space is that
>> bad outcomes are possible even when they're not necessary. E.g. if a
>> miner can lower their orphan rate by deploying a new protocol (or
>> simply fixing some faulty hardware in their infrastructure, like
>> Bitcoin nodes running on cheap VPSes with remote storage)  OR they can
>> lower their orphan rate by pointing their hashpower at a free
>> centeralized pool, they're likely to do the latter because it takes
>> less effort.
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