[bitcoin-dev] Extension block proposal by Jeffrey et al

Christopher Jeffrey chjj at purse.io
Wed Apr 5 16:54:05 UTC 2017

Hi Luke,

Thank you for the review. Many of these points should definitely be
addressed in the spec. Although extension blocks has working code, the
spec is currently still in a draft state now and could really use all
the feedback it can get. A few rules are still up in the air before we
setup a public testnet for it.

There's understandable confusion about this, but this proposal is not
meant to be a BIP. If it were meant to be a BIP, we still might not have
even submitted it yet as it needs a bit more revision still.

I'm just going to go over a lot of these and explain the reasoning.

> This breaks the ability to spend unconfirmed funds in the same block
> (as is required for CPFP).

Yeah, child-pays-for-parent is practically impossible for exiting
outputs. I don't see a good way around this. We tried to figure out a
decent solution while initially drafting this. It's possible with tons
of trickery, but likely not worth it.

> The extension block's transaction count is not cryptographically
> committed-to anywhere. (This is an outstanding bug in Bitcoin today,
> but impractical to exploit in practice; however, exploiting it in an
> extension block may not be as impractical, and it should be fixed
> given the opportunity.)

Yes. The merkle commitments are something we could definitely improve.
Open to suggestions. Personally, I don't consider myself a merkle

> This needs to elaborate how the merkle tree is constructed. Are all
> the txids followed by all the wtxids (tx hashes)? Are they alternated?
> Are txid and wtxid trees built independently and merged at the tip?

As of right now, the reference implementation uses the former, but
again, the merkle commitments are something up in the air. It'd be nice
to keep it as flexible as possible for SPV proofs on either the txids or

> Why? This prevents extblock users from sending to bare multisig or
> other various possible destinations. (While static address forms do
> not exist for other types, they can all be used by the payment
> protocol.)

Requiring only p2pkh and p2sh for exits reduces the possibility of more
UTXO set size bloat (at least slightly). Non-standard scripts are a
problem since they cannot be compressed for storage. I don't see it as
important to allow naked multisig outputs. Currently, if users wanted to
use a naked multisig (why?), they can always use the 1mb chain directly.

> Additionally, this forbids datacarrier (OP_RETURN), and forces spam to
> create unprovably-unspendable UTXOs. Is that intentional?

All outputs within the extension block are meant to be witness programs.
This was done for simplicity. The 1mb chain is still usable for any
OP_RETURNs committed to the chain. More thought on this would be good

> > The maximum extension size should be intentionally high.
> This has the same "attacks can do more damage than ordinary benefit"
> issue as BIP141, but even more extreme since it is planned to be used
> for future size increases.

> What is a "point"? What does it mean multiplied by a factor of 8? Why
> not just say "8 points"?

Just for consistency of wording.

The notion of cost creates a system of points which are multiplied by a
factor chosen by the witness program version. Unknown witness programs
have a factor of 1. If, in the future, we soft-fork in a new witness
program version, its chosen factor could be 7 or 6. The idea being,
future versions could add less "cost" to the block, allowing for
relaxing dos limits over time via soft-fork.

I would much rather have people arguing over whether to soft-fork dos
limits than whether to hard-fork dos limits.

So the idea here is, we have a hard limit (say 6mb) for quick sanity
checking and DoS prevention, and a soft-forkable soft limit (e.g. 2mb).

Having unknown witness program versions be worth only 1 point does
enable the possibility that a worst case block could be up to the "hard"
max extension size limit. This is also a possibility with segwit, but
yes, less severe with segwit assuming the max ext. block size is above

More discussion and running of numbers is probably necessary before we
come up with optimal limits here.

> Please define "accurately counted" here. Is this using BIP16 static
> counting, or accurately counting sigops during execution?

It's meant to refer to BIP16 static counting. I believe the actual
argument passed to the function in Bitcoin Core is called `fAccurate`.
Many other implementations use the same terminology. The counting during
execution proposed by Gavin's hardfork BIP isn't widely implemented as
far as I know.

> Is the size rounded up or down? If down, 72-byte scripts will carry 0
> points...)

Rounded up. The code included this earlier, but I took the whole
weighing against size out temporarily. Will be updated to match the

> BIPs must be in MediaWiki format, not Markdown. They should be
> submitted for discussion to the bitcoin-dev mailing list, not social
> media and news.

Yeah, that's sort of a bias of mine. I prefer markdown, and everyone
else helping out with the spec seemed to be okay with my preference. The
mediawiki format is offensive to me. In any case, this isn't really
meant to be a BIP.

> Extension blocks are more of a hard-fork IMO.

Could you expand on why you consider this a hardfork?

> Block time seems entirely unrelated to this spec. Motivation is
> unclear.

Transaction throughput is related to this spec. Block time and size are
both related to transaction throughput. It's meant to say something to
the effect of "changing retargetting is likely infeasible with a
soft-fork, but changing block size may not be as much of a problem."
Could be reworded.

> As stated in the next paragraph, the rules in BIP 141 are
> fundamentally incompatible with this one, so saying BIP 141 is
> activated is confusingly incorrect.

True. Should be reworded.

> Extension blocks should be compatible with BIP 141, there doesn’t
> appear to be any justification for not making them compatible.

The implementation initially seemed a lot simpler when moving all segwit
behavior to the extension block. The initial conception was to have all
witness programs be entrances into and scripts within the extension
block, but I guess there's no reason we couldn't do something like
Johnson proposed and have different witness program versions be the
ext-block-only programs. It just involves me rewriting a bit of code in
the reference implementation, and backporting a lot of code to the
original branch.

> > Note that canonical blocks containing entering outputs MUST contain
> > an extension block commitment (all zeroes if nothing is present in
> > the extension block).
> Please explain why in Rationale.

This can be removed, and something I initially added to my own code
during initial implementation as a simple check ahead of time to check
for entering outputs.

> > Coinbase outputs MUST NOT contain witness programs, as they cannot
> > be sweeped by the resolution transaction due to previously existing
> > consensus rules.
> Seems like an annoying technical debt. I wonder if it can be avoided.

I think there is a way around it, just not a real viable way: requiring
miners to resolve the witness program outputs in the coinbase 100 blocks
ago. But this will cause miners to attack each other, since they're now
potentially adding size to another miners block. It also causes a load
of other issues with wallets.

I don't see the coinbase output rule as that much of an issue though.
The 1mb chain will remain the realm of miners and long-term hodlers for
sure. If they want to switch to the ext. block, they can always just
sweep their outputs.

> Why? Unlike the coinbase, this seems to create additional technical
> debt with no apparent purpose. Better to just have a consensus rule
> every input must be null.

It's a pretty simple consensus check, and might be a fun extra to have.
The genesis block has a pretty unique mystique to it. Might be fun to
replicate that in the genesis resolution.

> Transaction versions are signed, so I assume this is actually simply
> -1.  (While signed transaction versions seemed silly to me, using it
> for special cases like this actually makes sense.)

Yeah, transaction versions are just bits as far as I'm concerned. It
depends on how you want to interpret them. But yeah, it would be `-1` if
you were to consider it an int32. My own code just treats them as

> Should specify that spending such an exit must use the resolution
> txid, not the extblock's txid.


> BIPs should not specify policy at all. Perhaps prefix "For the
> avoidance of doubt:" to be clear that miners may perform any fee logic
> they like.

Mentioning policy as an aside seemed useful here for now for a clearer
understanding. A good deal of this spec may be separated out as some
kind of commentary on implementation details eventually.

> Since extblock transactions are all required to be segwit, why
> wouldn't this be mandatory?

That was originally only referring to serialization (segwit allows empty
witness vectors in serialization). I will reword this to refer to
verification only.

> Note this makes adoption slower: wallets cannot use the extblock until
> the economy has updated to support segwit-native addresses.

Nested P2SH would be hard to do for the ext. block, short of some added
trickery (miners only redeeming that output for entrance once the redeem
script is revealed).

> Please explain why 73 bytes in Rationale.

DER-formatted signature size. "Inputs cost" was originally designed to
reflect sigops. To prevent tons of garbage data in the witness vector,
the vector's size is also considered a "sigop/cost" for every 73 bytes.
It should probably start weighing sigops points and size points
differently though, or treat them as separate metrics.

> > A consensus dust threshold is now enforced within the extension
> > block.
> Why?

Another measure to potentially reduce UTXO spam. Will clarify.

> Why wouldn't users set this on all transactions?

It looks like Laolu beat me to commenting on this. Both Joseph and Laolu
will have better commentary on this than me, so I'll let them handle

> > The "deactivation" deployment's start time...
> What about timeout? None? To continue the extension block, must it be
> deactivated and reactivated in parallel?

Timeout of 1 year. That may have gotten lost in the frequent revisions
we did.

Once voting has successfully activated the deactivation bit, the
locked-in time is 26 retarget intervals (approx. 1 year).

So, the simplest proposal for deactivation we came up with returns the
OP_TRUE to being anyone-can-spend. By that time, a future softfork
(activated in the same versionbit) can introduce code to handle the
migration of funds elsewhere. The anyone-can-spend part does sound
pretty odd at first glance, but it's the only way to get new behavior in
here without a hardfork.

The merkle proof proposal is tougher, because we would have to write
code _now_ to handle the migration. And since we don't know what future
extension blocks might look like or how they might behave, this is
pretty difficult.


I will open a few issues on the repo for some of the points made here.

Christopher Jeffrey (JJ) <chjj at purse.io>
CTO & Bitcoin Menace, purse.io
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