[bitcoin-dev] Two Drivechain BIPs

Paul Sztorc truthcoin at gmail.com
Mon Dec 4 19:05:09 UTC 2017

Hi Matt,

Thanks for very much for your thoughtful review

Comments below.

On 12/3/2017 4:32 PM, Matt Corallo wrote:
> ...
> ...
> Comments on BIP 1:
> At a high level, I'm rather dissapointed by the amount of data that is
> going into the main chain here. Things such as a human readable name
> have no place in the chain, IMO.

Well, that is quite a minor quibble, because it is just a one-time cost
of 120 bytes per sidechain.

To address it, there could instead be a hash commitment to this
information. That commitment could be "optional", in that old nodes
wouldn't need to possess the 120 bytes. Although, all of the sidechains
are themselves optional. And old nodes will be ignoring all of this data
anyways. So I do not think

The inclusion of this field is deliberate. Probably, you do not buy my
lengthy argument about "categorical control".


Perhaps you have seen my May 2016 presentation on the topic. It was
itself a lengthy reply to comments that Greg Maxwell made about the
original Nov 2015 Drivechain post.


Either you aren't aware [of why I want each sidechain to have a
comprehensible category]. Or, you are aware and you disagree. But if it
is the latter we might just have to agree to disagree.

> ....                                 Further, the use of a well-known
> private key seems misplaced, why not just track the sidechain balance
> with something that looks like `OP_NOPX genesis_block_hash`?

I agree. I myself am unhappy with the private key approach, as it
results in a totally pointless signature being generated, and a
pointless CheckSig operation. (Somewhere, buried in
documentation/GitHub-issue purgatory, there is a discussion of replacing
it with OP TRUE.)

Basically, our way was just a hack to make sure uses knew where they had
to send the money, and also to get the balances to show up in all user's
wallets. I do not pretend to have any expertise in this area (or even
experience) so it is surely an area for improvement.

> I'm not convinced by the full semantics of proposal/ack of new
> sidechains.  ...           I'd say its pretty important that
> new sidechains be an incredibly rare event.

Well, I partially agree.

However, if drivechain is a soft fork, and if 51% hashrate can add new
softforks at any time, then our ability to alter the rate of
sidechain-creation is very low. While we might use the rules of
"Drivechain I" to impose restrictions on the "add a sidechain" process,
nothing prevents 51% hashrate from re-adding Drivechain to Core a second
time, creating a "Drivechain II" system with its own "add a sidechain"
rules. Thus, the activation speed can increase, even if miners are
incapable of writing any code. Or, miners might add "Drivechain I" to
one of the sidechains. (And of course the new-sidechain-rate can
decrease, through mere miner-censorship.)

So, I think there really is no threat model, other than to say: we
either open Pandora's box or we do not. My vision (for any Redditors who
may be reading this, years in the future!!) is of a stable, conservative
Bitcoin Core with 3-8 sidechains, of which at least one is rather
experimental, and at least one of which has its own sidechains. But who

More importantly, the problem you've outlined is much much worse for
extension blocks.

(It can scarcely be denied that hashrate wants more block space, and
that they can easily add one or many extension blocks, in public or in
secret, at any time. Will a UASF really be able to disable an in-use
extension block? I think the UASF-case is much less persuasive,
especially since it involves loss/freezing of user funds.)

So I would argue that one of *the* greatest benefits of Drivechain is
that it neutralizes the threat of extension blocks by giving everyone a
better alternative. In fact, I do not know of any other way to
neutralize this threat.

>  ... Thus, a much simpler system
> (eg a version-bits-based upgrade cycle with high threshold) could be
> used to add new sidechains based on well-known public parameters.

I don't have a problem with this. In fact that is mostly how we have it

My concern is a scenario where:

Person A: is running the latest version of Bitcoin (which has
drivechain), and full nodes for 3 out of 3 sidechains
Person B: is running the 2nd-latest version of Bitcoin (which has
drivechain), and was disconnected when the 3rd sidechain activated
Person C: is running the 3rd-latest version of Bitcoin (which has
drivechain), but was disconnected for the activation of all sidechains.
Person D: is running 0.5.3 and has no idea what drivechain is.

Then, we consider a case where someone attempts a side-to-main
withdrawal from sidechain #2, but which tries to cheat the drivechain
rules (which are mainchain-enforced).

In one setup, C's security is downgraded. But in other settings it is
not. And in other settings it might do something complicated.

(Although, I also plan to introduce minimum parameter values, both to
prevent C from being harassed in this case, and to force all
drivechain-killing actions to be comparable to each other.)

My thought was to have all drivechain parts to either stand or fall by
themselves. But I am open-minded on this.

> The semantics of the deposit process seem very suboptimal. You note that
> only one user can deposit at a time, but this seems entirely
> unnecessary. As implemented in the first Elements Alpha release (though
> I believe subsequently removed in later versions due to the nature of
> Elements of targeting asymmetric "federated" sidechains), if you have
> outputs that look like `OP_NOPX genesis_block_hash` as the sidechain
> deposit/storage address, deposit can be fully parallel. To reduce
> blockchain bloat, spending them for the purpose of combining such
> outputs is also allowed. ....

Well, your proposal doesn't reduce the bloat, it merely makes
bloat-reduction possible. And your way relies (slightly) on
miner-charity, because it imposes an opportunity cost on miners. (Miners
could sell their blockspace for fees, but instead they must use it to
make these combinations you describe.)

In contrast, the one-user-deposits-at-a-time not only allows bloat to be
addressed, but also forces it to be addressed. It is like forcing
someone who uses a shared kitchen to leave it exactly as clean as they
found it.

While I am concerned by the one-at-a-time concept, I would point out:

* It is NOT one deposit per block. Just one at a time. In general, there
can be as many deposits as needed.
* It will not be a problem if [a] transactions propagate very quickly,
and [b] transactions are signed very quickly.
* If the deposit fails, it will likely be easy for the user to re-do it
(or, this will be made easy, in the UX eventually).
* It may ultimately be the case, that the task of shepherding the coins
around is one that is only ever performed by specialists. They would
have their own ways of batching txns to deal with this issue. In
contrast, regular users might always use atomic swaps / ShapeShift-like

Nonetheless, I think this is another opportunity for improvement.
Probably, if someone goes deeper into the scripting language and block
validation rules, they will be able to achieve all of the objectives
simultaneously. As you say:

> ...                       You could even go further and allow some new
> sighash type to define something like SIGHASH_ALL|SIGHASH_ANYONECANPAY
> which further specifies some semantics for combining inputs which all
> pay into the same output.

> Finally, you may also want to explore some process for the removal of
> sidechain balances from the main chain. As proposed it seems like a
> sidechain might, over time, fade into an insecure state as mining power
> shifts and new miners no longer consider it worth the value to mine an
> old sidechain (as has happened over time with namecoin, arguably).

Yes, I think there should be some kind of switch for saying "please
withdraw all of your funds because this chain is being closed down".
However, if miners stopped mining a chain, I think sidechain-users would
notice because their blocktimes would start to increase (under blind
merged mining, anyway).

> Comments on BIP 2:
> I may be missing something, but I find the security model here kind of
> depressing...Not only do hashpower-secured sidechains already have a
> significantly reduced security level, but now you're proposing to
> further (drastically) reduce it by requiring users to potentially pay in
> excess of the value an attacker is willing to pay to keep their chain
> secure, on a recurring basis?

I think you are missing a few things.

First of all, I think the security model for sidechains is the same as
that of every blockchain

People will say things, like "but with sidechains 51% hashrate can steal
your coins!", but as I have repeated many times, this is also true of
mainchain btc-tx. As I say on drivechain.info:

 """ In theory, the incentives of miners and investors are very strongly
aligned: both are compensated most when the exchange rate is highest.
And, in practice, we do not see large reorganizations (where miners can
“steal”, by first depositing BTC to major exchanges, then selling that
BTC for fiat (which they withdraw), and finally rewriting the last 3 or
4 days of chain history, to un-confirm the original deposits). These
reorgs would devastate the exchange rate, as they would cast doubt on
the entire Bitcoin experiment. The thesis of Drivechain is that
sidechain-theft would also devastate the exchange rate, as it would cast
doubt on the entire sidechain experiment (which would itself cast doubt
on the Bitcoin experiment, given the anti-competitive power of
sidechains). """

In fact, it is true of everything, including the lightning network. LN
has the advantage of allowing victims to spend the attacker's funds on
tx fees (as these victims desperately try to get their txn included).
But the LN loses the blockchain's "strength in numbers" advantage --
miners can single-out unpopular individuals, figure out their channels,
and steal from them (and only them) at an inopportune time.

This is not to knock the lightning network -- I believe it is
well-designed and likely to be secure. I am merely saying that this
concept of stringing these security models on a line from "most secure"
to "least secure" is a concept which is reductionist and incorrect.

Drivechain will be more secure if sidechains are popular. But if they
are not popular, the question of how secure they are is not really
interesting, is it?

Secondly, I think you have overlooked something very important indeed.
Sidechains are optional, and so their use should be up to each
individual user, and no one else. Users should be free to make their own
mistakes -- specifically, they should be the ones to decide for
themselves if they want to use an "insecure" system or not.

It would be another matter, if you had a competing sidechain idea which
accomplished the same goal. But you do not.

Thirdly, I do not agree with your claim that the security model is
reduced by BMM. In fact, the way I see it, it is the same as the model
we already have, if not better.

To make this point, let me ask: Who determines the contents (valid or
otherwise) of "the next block that meets the difficulty requirement"?

In Mainchain Bitcoin Core: "Highest Cumulative Difficulty"
BMM Sidechain: "Highest BTC Payment"

But these are actually the very same thing! We merely need to clarify
our thinking with a few simplifications. First, substitute "Most Hashes"
for "Cumulative Difficulty" (as these are expected converge to each
other). Second, ignore *unexpected* fluctuations in the two denominator
prices in the following:

"Most Hashes" = "Most USD Spent on Mining" / (hashes-per-usd price)
"Highest BTC Payment" = "Most USD Spent on Mining" / (btc-per-usd price)

"Most Hashes" = "Highest BTC Payment" = "Most USD Spent on Mining"

It should be clearer now that they are the same model. While the
mainchain follows the heaviest chain, measured in hashes, the sidechain
follows the heaviest chain, measured in BTC. Both are expressions of the
same concept ("value sacrificed")...just expressed in different units.

With that explained, let me bring in this:

>      ...                  It seems like if a chain has 10 BTC stored
> in it, and I wish to reorg it for a potential gain of, lets say, 6 BTC,
> I can pay 6 * 1 BTC (1 per block) to reorg it, and users on the chain
> would be forced to pay >6 BTC to avoid this?

Your example (which is a great example) sounds bleak, but it is in fact
the security model of Bitcoin itself, in the long future without the
block subsidy. Likely, Bitcoin will have new advantages by then
(assuming it survives that long). But this is a problem that just
*can't* be solved without a new block subsidy (which can't be added to

So, you may be successfully arguing that sidechains can never work. (But
that is different from saying that users should be prohibited from
trying them out, as I said above). Or, you may be successfully arguing
that Bitcoin itself will stop working when fees overwhelm the block
subsidy. (Since that hour is rapidly approaching, we might as well start
running experiments now).

The equivalence between hashes and purchases is not perfect. Certainly,
regular miners might be better-behaved than BM-miners, because r-miners
stand to lose their entire hardware investment if the system fails,
whereas BM-miners do not. On the other hand, BMM is *better* in a few
ways, namely that it makes "mining" much more competitive, because it
lowers the barriers to entry for sidechain-mining all the way to zero.
Any node can do it. Furthermore, BM-miners are more cypherpunk-like:
they will not be confined to any physical location, they do not give
away their location (via power usage or thermal exhaust), when they
greedily move into high-efficiency spaces (data centers, EC2 instances)
they can instantly destroy themselves and reappear somewhere else.

I'm not sure if that made you more, or less depressed. But here is a
smiley face :-] .

> While I appreciate the desire to implement the proposed mitigation in
> section 4.3 of the sidechains paper (delegating the mining effort of a
> merge-mined sidechain to an external entity), I believe it was primarily
> referencing pooling the sidechain work, not blindly taking the highest
> bidder.

Well, BMM is more efficient when there are pools. Without them, the
sidechain nodes would be trying to connect to all mainchain miners.

And there's no need for that. In my view, pools are cannot really do
anything wrong (ie, pools cannot do anything except what their members
want them to do). If a pool operator goes rogue and attempts to censor a
transaction, what has actually happened is just that the transaction is
delayed (until the hashers learn about the inefficient policy, and
switch pools). Same for everything else.

In other words, yes pool operators would almost certainly be running a
node of each sidechain.

>  ...  I suppose, indeed, that, ultimately, as long as the sidechain is
> of relatively small value in comparison to BTC, miners do not risk the
> value of their BTC/mining investment in simply taking the highest bidder
> of a merge-mined block, even if its a clear attack, ...

It is not about the amount of BTC on the sidechain. It is about miner's
estimations of user's valuation of their option to use the sidechain at
any point in the future. The idea of "911 emergency response" is
valuable, and people would complain about a motion to get rid of it,
even though most of those people wouldn't currently be using it.

> Ultimately, I dont believe your proposal here really solves the drawback
> in section 4.3 of the paper, and possibly makes it worse.

That is interesting because that section reads:

 """ As miners provide work for more blockchains, more resources are
needed to track and validate them all. Miners that provide work for a
subset of blockchains are compensated less than those which provide work
for every possible blockchain. Smaller-scale miners may be unable to
afford the full costs to mine every blockchain, and could thus be put at
a disadvantage compared to larger, established miners who are able to
claim greater compensation from a larger set of blockchains. """

 Which is exactly what BMM does address. It allows miners to ignore the
resource-cost of the sidechain, and therefore smaller miners will not be
at a revenue-disadvantage.

Do you think that the drawback is something else?

And, are you ever going to define "miner centralization"? Is it "the
economic barrier-to-entry for mining", to you?


> On 12/01/17 13:38, Paul Sztorc via bitcoin-dev wrote:
>> Hello,
>> First, Drivechain has vaguely escaped vaporware status. If you've ever
>> thought "I'd like to take a look into Drivechain when there is code",
>> then now is a pretty good time. (Unfinished items include M1, and M8_V2.)
>> https://github.com/drivechain-project/bitcoin/tree/mainchainBMM
>> Also,
>> Site:  http://www.drivechain.info/
>> Blank sidechain:
>> https://github.com/drivechain-project/bitcoin/tree/sidechainBMM
>> Second, I think drivechain's documentation / BIP-Drafts are tolerably
>> readable.
>> Here they are:
>> 1.
>> 2.
>> cc: Luke, I think they are ready to be assigned formal BIP Numbers.
>> This is also a request for code review. The most helpful review will
>> probably take place on GitHub.
>> Regular review is also welcome. Although, please read our
>> recently-updated FAQ, at: http://www.drivechain.info/faq .
>> And also see major earlier discussions:
>> Have a nice weekend everyone,
>> Paul
>> _______________________________________________
>> bitcoin-dev mailing list
>> bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org
>> https://lists.linuxfoundation.org/mailman/listinfo/bitcoin-dev

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