[bitcoin-dev] A Small Modification to Segwit

Jimmy Song jaejoon at gmail.com
Fri Apr 7 20:06:39 UTC 2017

Hey everyone, This is an idea that I had about Segwit and Gregory's
proposal from yesterday that I wanted to run by everyone on this list. I'm
not at all sure what this would mean for non-upgraded nodes on the network
and would like feedback on that. This is not a formal BIP as it's a
modification to a previously submitted one, but I'm happy to formalize it
if it would help.
MotivationOne of the interesting aspects of Gregory Maxwell’s proposal is
that it only precludes the covert version of ASICBoost. He specifically
left the overt version alone.

Overt ASICBoost requires grinding on the version bits of the Block header
instead of the Merkle Root. This is likely more efficient than the Merkle
Root grinding (aka covert ASICBoost) and requires way less resources (much
less RAM, SHA256 calculations, no tx shuffling, etc).

If we combine Gregory Maxwell’s proposal with BIP-141 (Segwit) and add a
slight modification, this should, in theory, make ASICBoost a lot more
useful to miners and appeal to their financial interests.
The Modification

Currently, the version bits (currently 4 bytes, or 32 bits) in the header
are used for BIP9 signaling. We change the version bits to a nonce-space so
the miners can use it for overt ASICBoost. The 32-bits are now moved over
to the Coinbase transaction as part of the witness commitment. The witness
commitment goes from 38 bytes to 42 bytes, with the last 4 bytes being used
as the version bits in the block header previously. The witness commitment
becomes required as per Gregory Maxwell’s proposal.

First, this brings ASICBoost out into the open. Covert ASICBoost becomes
much more costly and overt ASICBoost is now encouraged.

Second, we can make this change relatively quickly. Most of the Segwit
testing stays valid and this change can be deployed relatively quickly.

Note on SPV clients

Currently Segwit stores the witness commitment in the Coinbase tx, so
lightweight clients will need to get the Coinbase tx + Merkle proof to
validate segwit transactions anyway. Putting block version information in
the Coinbase tx will not impose an extra burden on upgraded light clients.
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