[bitcoin-dev] Libconsensus phase 2

Jorge Timón jtimon at jtimon.cc
Tue Jan 12 17:53:24 UTC 2016

After talking to some people about libconsensus in the last Hong Kong
conference I realized that my initial plan of exposing one more thing
at a time would actually probably slow things down.

There's still a promised pdf with pictures that will be released, and
actually drafting the UML pictures helped realize that the whole
explanation could be much simpler if #7091 was merged first as the
last step in phase 1 (that phase has so many contributors that I will
probably never get finished documenting it). Matt Corallo's idea of
exposing VerifyScript() through a C API certainly helped a lot in
cementing the more-minimal-than-earlier dependencies (thanks to Cory
Fields among many other people before him) that are not part of the
incomplete but existing libbitcoinconsensus library.

Given this success in protecting encapsulation by exposing things in a
new library, my instinct was to expose more things: VerifyHeader(),
VerifyTx() and VerifyBlock() [in that order].
But all those three new functions depend on storage in one way or
another. That was part of my reasoning to expose VerifyHeader() first,
because I believe there will be less discussion on a common interface
for the stored longest chain than for the utxo view (which may depend
on other transactions spent within the same block).
In any case, I realized we should finish putting all the consensus
critical code in the libconsensus lib and then worry about its "final"

Therefore I changed the goal of the phase 2 in my libconsensus
encapsulation planning from "expose VerifyHeader() in the existing
libconsensus library" to "build all the consensus critical code within
the existing libconsensus library, even if we don't expose anything
else". I believe this is much feasible for a single Bitcoin Core
release cycle and also more of a priority. Other implementations
experimenting with libconsensus like
https://github.com/libbitcoin/libbitcoin-consensus will have the
chance to compare their reimplementations with the future complete
libbitcoinconsensus without having to worry about the C API, which
ideally they will help to define.

I repeat, the goal of phase 2 in my upcoming libconsensus
encapsulation plan is to fully decouple libconsensus from Bitcoin
In phase 3, we can refine the storage interfaces and focus on a
quasi-final C API.
In phase 4, we can refine and take out code that doesn't belong in
libconsensus like CTxOut::GetDustThreshold() in
primitives/transaction.h and move all those consensus files to the
consensus folder before creating a separate sub-repository like for
libsecp256k1. Note that most of the file-moving work can be in
parallel to phases 2 and 3 and, in fact, by any new developer that is
willing to exchange rebase-patience for meaningless github stats (I'll
do it if nobody else wants, but I'm more than happy to delegate there:
I have more than enough github meaningless stats already).

As said, the document with pictures and the update to #6714 are still
promised, but until they're ready, merging/reviewing #7091, #7287,
#7310 and #7311 could do a great deal to make later steps in
libconsensus phase 2 more readable.
Most reviewers probably don't need to see any "big picture" to tell
whether certain functions on Bitcoin Core are consensus-critical or
not, or whether consensus critical code needs to depend on util.o or
But I wouldn't be writing to the mailing list without a plan with
further words nor pictures if I didn't had what I believe is a
complete implementation of what I just defined as "libconsensus phase

Phase 3 should finish long pending discussions like "should
libconsensus be C++14 or plain C" which should NOT delay phase 2.
Phase 4 should be mostly trivial: rename files to the target dir and
move the remaining unused code out of libconsensus.
Phase 5 should make Bitcoin Core eat its own dog food and use
libbitcoinconsensus oonly by its generic C API (I'm sorry if this
looks too far away for me to even think about detailing it).

The work in progress branch (but hopefully being finished, nit and
merged within the 0.12.99 cycle) can be found in:

Before sipa asks, signing code may make it into a new library but
functions will return true or false and an error string. It is based
on last-0.12.99 3cd836c1 but by popular demand I can open it as a
"DEPENDENT-tagged" PR linking to smaller steps and keeping track of
steps done. Analogous to the about to be replaced (for a simpler and
more maintainable example of testchain) #6382. If people like
Wladimir, Cory and Pieter cannot see that I've been able to reduce my
overall cry-for-review noise thanks to github adoption of emacs'
org-mode's [ ] vs [X] I can alwways leave those "big picture" branches
as "private" branches out of the pull request count.

I expect to publish a phase 3 branch very shortly. But as said I
expect a lot of discussion on the API part, so I don't expect big
movements in phase 3 until phase 2 is done (as said phase 4 is
orthogonal to anything, this time git will say "verified MOVEONLY" for

To finish this long mail, if you are new to free software and would
like to get familiarized with Bitcoin Core development in particular,
moving one file is a simple task that you can always besure you can do
The way I plan to hand this to you, you won't need to convince anyone
to publicly confirm that your "MOVEONLY" commit being legit, because
all your remaining work will be to build on one platform (ideally you
should do a gitian build, but embarrassingly enough for someone
touching consensus code I just trust travis ) and trust travis (as
said, that's what I do from my laptop, but I plan to buy my own
building machine [and maybe outsource it for free in some protocol
that hasn't been invented, sorry again for the distraction]) and fix
the includes that have stopped working.

I intend to create an issue to move all the files in this list one by one:


But don't hesitate to contact me if are eager for moving some files,
because I believe we can save a few lines of total diff if we chose
the order of the movements properly.

Sorry, I forgot many people read this list again.
Happy to answer any question.

Specially about https://github.com/jtimon/bitcoin/commits/libconsensus-f2

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