[bitcoin-dev] "Compressed" headers stream

Gregory Maxwell greg at xiph.org
Mon Dec 11 21:04:01 UTC 2017

On Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 8:40 PM, Jim Posen via bitcoin-dev
<bitcoin-dev at lists.linuxfoundation.org> wrote:
> Firstly, I don't like the idea of making the net header encoding dependent
> on the specific header validation rules that Bitcoin uses (eg. the fact that
> difficulty is only recalculated every 2016 blocks). This would be coupling

In the last proposal I recall writing up, there was a one byte flag on
each header to indicate what was included.

Nbits _never_ needs to be sent even with other consensus rules because
its more or less necessarily a strict function of the prior headers.
This still holds in every clone of Bitcoin I'm aware of; sending it
with the first header in a group probably makes sense so it can be
checked independently.

> with insufficient benefit.

another >18% reduction in size beyond the removal of prev. is not
insubstantial by any means.  I don't think it should lightly be

Prev omission itself is not, sadly, magically compatible:  I am quite
confident that if there is a bitcoin hardfork it would recover the
nbits/4-guarenteed always-zero bits of prev to use as extra nonce for
miners. This has been proposed many times, implemented at least once,
and the current requirement for mining infrastructure to reach inside
the coinbase txn to increment a nonce has been a reliable source of
failures.  So I think we'd want to have the encoding able to encode
leading prev bits.

Many altcoins also change the header structures. If the better thing
is altcoin incompatible, we should still do it. Doing otherwise would
competitively hobble Bitcoin especially considering the frequent
recklessly incompetent moves made by various altcoins and the near
total lack of useful novel development we've seen come out of the

Probably the most important change in a new header message wouldn't be
the encoding, but it would be changing the fetching mechanism so that
header sets could be pulled in parallel, etc.

I would rather not change the serialization of existing messages,
nodes are going to have to support speaking both messages for a long
time, and I think we already want a different protocol flow for
headers fetching in any case.

More information about the bitcoin-dev mailing list