[bitcoin-dev] [BIP Draft] Datastream compression of Blocks and Transactions

Matt Corallo lf-lists at mattcorallo.com
Fri Dec 4 13:30:33 UTC 2015

On December 3, 2015 7:02:20 AM GMT+08:00, Peter Tschipper <peter.tschipper at gmail.com> wrote:
>On 02/12/2015 2:23 PM, Matt Corallo wrote:
>> My issue is more that its additional complexity and attack surface,
>> and for a very minor gain 
>What is a minor gain?  15 to 27% compression sounds good to me and the
>larger the data the better the compression.  And although there is a
>decent peformance gain in proportion to the % of compression, the
>original motivation of the BIP was to reduce bandwidth for users in
>regions where they are subject to caps.

Ok. It wasn't clear to me that you weren't also claiming at latency reduction as a result. In any case, the point I was making is that the p2p protocol isn't for every use-case. Indeed, I agree (as noted previously) that we should support people who have very restrictive data usage limits, but I don't think we need to do this in the p2p protocol. Considering we're in desperate need of more ways to sync, supporting syncing over slow and/or very restrictive connections is something maybe better addressed by a sync-over-http-via-cdn protocol than the p2p protocol.

>> which should disappear with further optimization elsewhere 
>Why would the benefit of compressing data disappear with further
>optimizations elsewhere, I'm not following you?.  The compression of
>data mainly has benefit in the sending of packets over the network.  I
>would think the performance gain would be cumulative.  Why would this
>away by optimizing elsewhere?

My point is that, with limited further optimization, and especially after the first hundred thousand blocks, block download should nearly never be the thing limiting IBD speed.

>> and less that we absolutely shouldn't add compression because we're
>> definitely gonna have issues.
>It's not that difficult to add compression.  Even if there was an
>the compression feature can be completely turned off. 

No matter how easily you can implement something, complexity always has cost. This is especially true in complicated, incredibly security critical applications exposed to the internet.

>> On 12/02/15 20:16, Peter Tschipper via bitcoin-dev wrote:
>>> Building a compressor from scratch may yeild some better compression
>>> ratios, or not, but having trust and faith in whether it will stand
>>> against attack vectors another matter.  LZO has been around for 20
>>> with very few problems and no current issues.  Maybe something
>>> can be built, but when and how much testing will need to be done
>>> it can be trusted?  Right now there is something that provides a
>>> and in the future if something better is found it's not that
>>> to add it.  We could easily support multiple compression libraries.
>>> On 02/12/2015 10:57 AM, Emin Gün Sirer wrote:
>>>> Thanks Peter for the careful, quantitative work.
>>>> I want to bring one additional issue to everyone's consideration,
>>>> related to the choice of the Lempel-Ziv family of compressors.
>>>> While I'm not familiar with every single compression engine tested,
>>>> the Lempel-Ziv family of compressors are generally based on
>>>> "compression tables." Essentially, they assign a short unique
>>>> to every new subsequence they encounter, and when they re-encounter
>>>> sequence like "ab" in "abcdfdcdabcdfabcdf" they replace it with
>>>> short integer (say, in this case, 9-bit constant 256). So this
>>>> sequence may turn into "abcdfd<258 for cd><256 for ab><258 for
>>>> cd>f<261 for abc><259 for df>" which is slightly shorter than the
>>>> original (I'm doing this off the top of my head so the counts may
>>>> off, but it's meant to be illustrative). Note that the sequence
>>>> got added into the table only after it was encountered twice in the
>>>> input.
>>>> This is nice and generic and works well for English text where
>>>> letter sequences (e.g. "it" "th" "the" "this" "are" "there" etc)
>>>> repeated often, but it is nowhere as compact as it could possibly
>>>> for mostly binary data -- there are opportunities for much better
>>>> compression, made possible by the structured reuse of certain byte
>>>> sequences in the Bitcoin wire protocol.
>>>> On a Bitcoin wire connection, we might see several related
>>>> transactions reorganizing cash in a set of addresses, and
>>>> several reuses of a 20-byte address. Or we might see a 200-byte
>>>> transaction get transmitted, followed by the same transaction,
>>>> repeated in a block. Ideally, we'd learn the sequence that may be
>>>> repeated later on, all at once (e.g. a Bitcoin address or a
>>>> transaction), and replace it with a short number, referring back to
>>>> the long sequence. In the example above, if we knew that "abcdf"
>was a
>>>> UNIT that would likely be repeated, we would put it into the
>>>> compression table as a whole, instead of relying on repetition to
>>>> it into the table one extra byte at a time. That may let us
>>>> the original sequence down to "abcdfd<257 for cd><256 for
>>>> for abcdf>" from the get go.
>>>> Yet the LZ variants I know of will need to see a 200-byte sequence
>>>> repeated **199 times** in order to develop a single, reusable,
>>>> 200-byte long subsequence in the compression table.
>>>> So, a Bitcoin-specific compressor can perhaps do significantly
>>>> but is it a good idea? Let's argue both sides.
>>>> Cons:
>>>> On the one hand, Bitcoin-specific compressors will be closely tied
>>>> the contents of messages, which might make it difficult to change
>>>> wire format later on -- changes to the wire format may need
>>>> corresponding changes to the compressor.  If the compressor cannot
>>>> implemented cleanly, then the protocol-agnostic, off-the-shelf
>>>> compressors have a maintainability edge, which comes at the expense
>>>> the compression ratio.
>>>> Another argument is that compression algorithms of any kind should
>>>> tested thoroughly before inclusion, and brand new code may lack the
>>>> maturity required. While this argument has some merit, all outputs
>>>> verified separately later on during processing, so
>>>> compression/decompression errors can potentially be detected. If
>>>> compressor/decompressor can be structured in a way that isolates
>>>> bitcoind from failure (e.g. as a separate process for starters),
>>>> concern can be remedied.
>>>> Pros:
>>>> The nature of LZ compressors leads me to believe that much higher
>>>> compression ratios are possible by building a custom, Bitcoin-aware
>>>> compressor. If I had to guess, I would venture that compression
>>>> of 2X or more are possible in some cases. In some sense, the "O(1)
>>>> block propagation" idea that Gavin proposed a while ago can be seen
>>>> extreme example of a Bitcoin-specific compressor, albeit one that
>>>> constrains the order of transactions in a block.
>>>> Compression can buy us some additional throughput at zero cost,
>>>> code complexity.
>>>> Given the amount of acrimonious debate over the block size we have
>>>> had to endure, it seems
>>>> criminal to leave potentially free improvements on the table. Even
>>>> the resulting code is
>>>> deemed too complex to include in the production client right now,
>>>> would be good to understand
>>>> the potential for improvement.
>>>> How to Do It
>>>> If we want to compress Bitcoin, a programming challenge/contest
>>>> be one of the best ways to find the best possible, Bitcoin-specific
>>>> compressor. This is the kind of self-contained exercise that bright
>>>> young hackers love to tackle. It'd bring in new programmers into
>>>> ecosystem, and many of us would love to discover the limits of
>>>> compressibility for Bitcoin bits on a wire. And the results would
>>>> interesting even if the final compression engine is not enabled by
>>>> default, or not even merged.
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