[bitcoin-dev] [BIP Draft] Allow zero value OP_RETURN in Payment Protocol

Toby Padilla tobypadilla at gmail.com
Tue Jan 26 01:02:44 UTC 2016

Hi all,

I'm submitting a new BIP draft for consideration and discussion. I've put a
pull request up on Github that implements this BIP (with discussion from
the Core team):


My original discussion of this issue:


BIP draft as follows...


Title: Allow zero value OP_RETURN in Payment Protocol
Author: Toby Padilla <tobypadilla at gmail.com>

## Abstract

This BIP alters the Payment Protocol to allow for zero value OP_RETURN
outputs in serialized PaymentRequests.

## Motivation

The Payment Protocol (defined in BIP70) gives merchants a way to build
sophisticated transactions by serializing one or more outputs in the form
of a PaymentRequest. The PaymentRequest is then served over http/https to a
customer's wallet where the serialized transaction can be executed.

While the Payment Protocol allows for any valid script in its outputs, it
also ignores outputs with zero value. This means BIP70 implementations can
encode an OP_RETURN script but must provide a greater than dust value for
that output. The end result is a successful PaymentRequest transaction with
an OP_RETURN but the value assigned to that output is lost forever.

This BIP allows for zero value OP_RETURN outputs in serialized
PaymentRequests. The change means that OP_RETURN scripts will work as they
were originally intended from within PaymentRequests without permanently
destroying Bitcoin value. Zero value non-OP_RETURN scripts should continue
to be ignored and positive value OP_RETURN outputs should now be rejected.

In addition to fixing the issue of destroyed value, this change opens up
new use cases that were previously impossible.

While storing data on the blockchain is controversial, when used
responsibly OP_RETURN provides a powerful mechanism for attaching metadata
to a transaction. This BIP effectively decouples the creation of
transactions containing OP_RETURN data from the execution of those
transactions. The result are positive benefits for both merchants and

By supporting this BIP, wallets can participate in current and future,
unforeseen use cases that benefit from metadata stored in OP_RETURN. Until
now OP_RETURN transactions have typically been created and submitted by
custom software. If a wallet can process a PaymentRequest with OP_RETURN
data as proposed by this BIP, it will support potentially sophisticated
Bitcoin applications without the wallet developer having to have prior
knowledge of that application.

An example might be a merchant that adds the hash of a plain text invoice
to the checkout transaction. The merchant could construct the
PaymentRequest with the invoice hash in an OP_RETURN and pass it to the
customer's wallet. The wallet could then submit the transaction, including
the invoice hash from the PaymentRequest. The wallet will have encoded a
proof of purchase to the blockchain without the wallet developer having to
coordinate with the merchant software or add features beyond this BIP.

Merchants and Bitcoin application developers benefit from this BIP because
they can now construct transactions that include OP_RETURN data in a
keyless environment. Again, prior to this BIP, transactions that used
OP_RETURN (with zero value) needed to be constructed and executed in the
same software. By separating the two concerns, this BIP allows merchant
software to create transactions with OP_RETURN metadata on a server without
storing public or private Bitcoin keys. This greatly enhances security
where OP_RETURN applications currently need access to a private key to sign

## Specification

The specification for this BIP is straightforward. BIP70 should be fully
implemented with two changes:

1. Outputs where the script is an OP_RETURN and the value is zero should be
accepted by the wallet.
2. Outputs where the script is an OP_RETURN and the value is greater than
zero should be rejected.

This is a change from the BIP70 requirement that all zero value outputs be

## Rationale

As with the discussion around vanilla OP_RETURN, the practice of storing
data on the blockchain is controversial. While blockchain and network bloat
is an undeniable issue, the benefits that come from attaching metadata to
transactions has proven to be too powerful to dismiss entirely. In the
absence of OP_RETURN support the Bitcoin ecosystem has seen alternative,
less elegant and more wasteful methods employed for Blockchain data storage.

As it exists today, BIP70 allows for OP_RETURN data storage at the expense
of permanently destroyed Bitcoin. Even fully removing support for OP_RETURN
values in the Payment Protocol would still leave the door open to
suboptimal data encoding via burning a larger than dust value to an output
with a false address designed to encode data.

This BIP offers all of the same benefits that come from the OP_RETURN
compromise. Mainly that OP_RETURN scripts are provably unspendable and thus
can be pruned from the UTXO pool. Without supporting this BIP, wallets that
support BIP70 will allow for wasteful data storage.

## Compatibility

While not in widespread use, existing BIP70 PaymentRequest outputs that
have a greater than zero value with an OP_RETURN script (burning Bitcoin)
will need to have their values changed to zero or they will be rejected by
wallets implementing this BIP.
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