Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #243 Recap Podcast
Mark “Murch” Erhardt and Mike Schmidt are joined by Alekos Filini to discuss Newsletter #243.
The Bitcoin Optech Podcast and transcription content is licensed Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0
No significant news this week was found on the Bitcoin-Dev or Lightning-Dev mailing lists.
Changes to services and client software
● TypeScript library for miniscript descriptors released (3:02)
Releases and release candidates
Notable code and documentation changes
Mike Schmidt: Welcome everybody to Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #243 Recap on Twitter Spaces. We have a special guest who will introduce himself shortly. I’m Mike Schmidt, contributor at Optech and also Executive Director at Brink, funding open-source Bitcoin developers. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Hi, I’m Murch, I do Bitcoin stuff at Chaincode Labs. I’ve been working on reviewing a BIP and writing a BIP this week.
Mike Schmidt: And, Alekos?
Alekos Filini: Hi everyone, I’m Alekos. Until recently, I was the let’s say lead maintainer of BDK or the BDK library. Now, I’m kind of in between jobs. But yeah, I’m kind of stepping down from BDK a little bit, so I’m still unclear what I’m doing right now, but yeah, I’m here representing BDK, even though I’m not anymore lead maintainer of the project.
Mike Schmidt: And we don’t have a BDK-related news item this week, but there is a major restructuring that we covered in the PR section, and I think it would be interesting to have some thoughts on that. So, I thought it would be great to have a look about BDK #793 later in our discussion. So, thank you for joining us.
Alekos Filini: Thank you for having me.
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, absolutely. There’s no news items this week that we noted in #243, but we do have a monthly segment in which we highlight interesting updates to Bitcoin wallet services and other client software that use Bitcoin or Lightning, and there were quite a few updates that I found in trolling through my notes and some of the repositories that I take a look at, so we can jump in and go through that first. Murch, any announcements before we jump into that?
Mark Erhardt: I don’t have any.
Xapo Bank supports Lightning
Mike Schmidt: All right. Well, the first interesting client software update that we noted this week is Xapo Bank supporting Lightning. So, I think folks maybe have heard of Xapo before. I think that they’re now called Xapo Bank, because I think they spun off the custodian portion to Coinbase and are left with this Xapo Bank, and they have a series of mobile apps and they announced support for those mobile apps to be able to send Lightning payments using those Lightning mobile apps, and they’ve mentioned the underlying infrastructure provider as Lightspark. Murch, any thoughts on that integration?
Mark Erhardt: I have not tried it out myself yet. I think it’s pretty cool that a bona fide bank is getting on the payment rails of Bitcoin, even if it was a Bitcoin company first!
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, and it’s also interesting, I think Lightspark, there was some mystique and mystery about what they’re working on, so it’s nice to see that some of that behind-the-scenes work that they’re doing is coming to fruition and with a fairly large player and a bank, so that’s interesting to see. Hopefully see more from Lightspark.
Mark Erhardt: I don’t have a lot of inside knowledge there, but it sounded to me like they first decided that they were going to do something with Lightning and then they tried to figure out what their product was going to be, so I think that might have added to the mystique.
TypeScript library for miniscript descriptors released
Mark Erhardt: I did look at it a little bit. So, I didn’t look at the code too much, but I was very impressed by the ReadMe. The ReadMe looks very elaborate and well readable. And the other thing that really impressed me is that the whole project appears to have started only in January, so they’re only two months in and they seem to have brought support for a bunch of things already. So, whoever is going to use that, I think you’ll enjoy the documentation they’re writing. Yeah, let me know what the code’s like when you look at that more.
Mike Schmidt: I found after the fact that there’s actually a website we link to the GitHub for the project, which is what we usually do, because sometimes we actually list a link to the project’s website if there is one and I wasn’t aware that there was one. But in preparing for the Spaces, I did stumble across the bitcoinerlab.com website, which has even more documentation and discussion about what this library does. So, in addition to the ReadMe that Murch was impressed with, there’s even more documentation on their website, so check that out.
I noticed there’s talk of miniscript, there’s talk of descriptors. I don’t see anything policy-related, and maybe, Murch, it’s a good opportunity, although I think we’ve done it a few months ago, to maybe just quickly outline what’s the difference between miniscript descriptors and policy.
Mark Erhardt: I think that, yeah. So, there are multiple levels of miniscript. Miniscript by itself is a subset of the script language that is not ambiguous, I guess. So, with miniscript policy, you can describe a somewhat human readable policy of what you want the wallet to behave like, and then the miniscript compiler will compile that to miniscript, which in turn is a more readable representation of an underlying script, as in the Bitcoin transaction language. So, I assume that they just cover all of that and don’t confront the reader with the distinctions there immediately, but I have not looked to that level to confirm that.
Alekos Filini: I don’t have any experience with this level specifically. I think maybe they only do the second step where you have a descriptor and you want to create a script row between scripts given the descriptor so that you can use it for generating other addresses or monitoring if you’ve received some funds, or something like that. So anyway, it will probably be easier just implementing this descriptor to script compared to the full miniscript libraries, like the Rust miniscript and the C++ library.
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, that’s good insight into Murch’s point. It seems like a fairly young project, so potentially some of that stuff could be added in the future.
Breez Lightning SDK announced
The next item that we noted was Breez Lightning SDK being announced and we’ve linked to a blog post from Breez announcing this open-source SDK. It seems like they’re targeting mobile developers, and specifically mobile developers that are building apps that aren’t necessarily Bitcoin-focused or wallet-focused, so it’s a way to add in Lightning features to an existing app. So, it would be nice to see some adoption of this SDK because it would mean broader adoption of Lightning and Bitcoin in the mobile app round realm, which is interesting.
The SDK behind the scenes in order to fulfill that Lightning integration and some of the Bitcoin features actually uses Greenlight, which is a Blockstream product, and then they also provide some of their own Breez LSP features, and I think there’s some fiat on and offramps that they’re planning to work on using MoonPay behind the scenes. So, it’s pretty cool, it’s nice to see Greenlight also getting some usage. Murch, did you get a chance to look at the SDK and some of the features?
Mark Erhardt: I have not dived in too deeply, but the idea that you can just provide a wrapper for all of the Lightning interactions seems very sensible to me. Just like with a credit card, you don’t really need to know how the credit card works under the hood to understand the concept that you can use it to perform a payment that somehow in the background is settled between your bank and the merchant, right? So, if they actually manage to wrap up everything that needs to happen in the background and you essentially just come down to, “I need to pay this amount”, and it’s maybe even presented in fiat, and they have wrapped all complexity around for the user, well presumably Lightning payments, but yeah, that sounds like a pretty sweet application of using Greenlight in the background and plugging it in to a front end like Breez.
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, very cool, and for folks who aren’t familiar with Greenlight and how that fits in here is that a node will actually be provisioned that is managed by the Greenlight Blockstream team, but they don’t hold your keys, they’d never have any of the keys or the keys never touch their infrastructure, so they’re merely the ones managing the node. So, these users would have their own node and their own keys as well. And my understanding from the announcement from Breez is also that if there’s multiple apps that integrate Breez, that the “end user” can actually see the same balance across their different apps, so there’d be one balance shared between the apps if folks are using the Breez SDK, which is pretty cool.
I haven’t tried it, didn’t run SDK, but just from their announcement and digging into some of the documentation, that’s what I gleaned.
Mark Erhardt: Yes, I think it’s also interesting to see that now that Lightning infrastructure is maturing and more services are offering packaged products, the possibility to take multiple of them and plug them together to offer yet another composed product is growing. So, yeah, Greenlight on the one hand here doing the heavy lifting on the Lightning Network side; Breez offering basically the repackaging the wrapper, the integration with other processes, is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me how LDK plugs into BlueWallet to do the heavy lifting on the Lightning side, where BlueWallet now can offer self-custodial Lightning to its users. I think it’s really nice to see how things are coming together slowly and products are getting more refined that way.
PSBT-based exchange OpenOrdex launches
Mike Schmidt: The next piece of software that we spoke about in this segment of the newsletter is PSBT-based exchange OpenOrdex launches, and this is an open-source exchange essentially for trading ordinals using PSBTs. And since you’re actually trading bitcoin for bitcoin, it can all be done in this pre-signed PSBT, or I guess the seller signs their portion of the PSBT and that acts as part of an order book that somebody can then complete by signing and then broadcasting the rest of that PSBT to the network. Murch, any thoughts on this? I thought it was interesting that PSBT functioned as like an order, and sort of like an order book. I think there’s nostr involved here as well for some of the order book stuff, but PSBT is the format that this order book is being passed around in.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I think that’s a really nice way of – I mean, as I may have mentioned before, I’m not really that much following the whole ordinal inscription movement or hype, but it is a kind of nifty way of presenting and producing this marketplace. So, when an inscription’s written to the block chain, the inscription is sort of attached to one specific satoshi, and the ordinal scheme of course gives a framework of how they’re supposedly tracked and uniquely identified, so you can sort of say, “Well, exactly this satoshi owns the inscription”.
I saw another PSBT-based ordinal marketplace being announced on Twitter the other day, and they basically use a transaction structure where the first input is just a dummy input, and then the second input basically provides the satoshi that holds the inscription and also leaves a slot open for the buyer to put their own address. And, since you can have signature hash flags, where each signature in Bitcoin has a modifier that says what parts of the transaction it commits to, and if you use the SIGHASH_SINGLE flag, you can set that you’re just committing to certain inputs and outputs.
So in this case, for example, you would build a transaction that has certain parts still open that the other side that wants to take the offer can plug into, but then you provide the input and thus determine what you’re offering to sell. And you also provide an output which basically says how much money will appear in a specific address of yours. So, yeah, it’s kind of nifty, even though I’m not really that excited about the whole thing! But yeah, kind of cool how they’re doing that.
Mike Schmidt: I see Rijndael in the Spaces giving thumbs up. I think it was his tweet that I saw originally that was what brought this project to my attention.
BTCPay Server coinjoin plugin released
The next item that we saw that was notable for the Bitcoin Optech community was BTCPay Server coinjoin plugin being released, and I think the BTCPay folks had some announcements on Twitter. But I think the most comprehensive announcement was from the Wasabi Wallet team, so we noted their blog post in the newsletter. And it’s an opt-in feature for BTCPay Server merchants that can turn this on and the plugin supports the WabiSabi protocol for coinjoins. I think if you dig into the post a bit, there’s a few different ways in which you can be doing coinjoins, and one that we didn’t explicitly outline was that merchants, when they do their scheduled payouts, can actually use coinjoins to do those payouts as a secondary option within this plugin.
So, take a look at the writeup from Wasabi, and if you’re into coinjoins and you’re into Wasabi and you’re a BTCPay merchant, check it out. Murch, did you dig into this item at all?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I did read the blog post. I wanted to point out maybe what sort of threat model people are thinking about when they are considering using this plugin. So, you may have seen, for example, when big exchanges do consolidations on the network, like Binance recently, that people immediately see, “This is Binance doing consolidations”. And, why is it so easy to tell? Well, in Binance’s case, Binance heavily reuses singular addresses, so they have one address that’s responsible for their hard wallet, or maybe a few but very few. So, whenever somebody deposits into Binance, they will see their funds flow to their hot or cold wallet of Binance afterwards, so it’s extremely obvious to anybody watching which funds go through Binance and end up there.
The same can be mitigated a little more if instead of using the same address for your hot wallet over and over again, you use new addresses, as you should, and especially if you use a separate address for every single deposit of the same user. So, even though you could have a single address for a depositor that they can always deposit into the same address and you know how to tie their deposit to their IOU, or their list in the database, well anyway, the problem with that is if you are a merchant and somebody comes and pays for a product in your store, they know of course what UTXO they created in order to pay you; and if they keep track of that, they might be able to fingerprint your wallet. If you spend that UTXO with a bunch of other coins, they might learn about other addresses of your wallet.
So inherently, if you have a large volume of payments, it might be difficult for you to have financial privacy and, for example, you don’t want to leak to your competitors how much volume your shop is doing, or whether you’re cash-strapped currently and your money is moving extremely quickly because you have to pay for deliveries with the money you just took in, or other things that people might learn by watching your financials.
The idea here is, instead of just directly scooping up all your funds and consolidating them into one address, you can move them through a coinjoin, where it gets potentially mixed with a bunch of other merchants, or other users that are participating in Wasabi’s coinjoin scheme, and that way you break the mystery-shopper attack, and you also break the common input heuristic that says, “Probably all inputs on that transaction belong to the same wallet”.
So, yeah, privacy is not a crime, just in case that wasn’t clear! The crime supposedly is money laundering, but just keeping your financials private is not a crime and actually good business sense. Well, that went on a little longer that I thought!
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, that was great context. Thanks for walking through that, Murch.
mempool.space explorer enhances CPFP support
The next item that we noted in the client and services updates section of the newsletter is mempool.space adding enhanced CPFP support. So, mempool.space is a block explorer and they’ve had support for Child-Pays-For-Parent previously, and what CPFP is, is a technique for fee-bumping a transaction. So, if I have a transaction that’s say paying 1 satoshi/vbyte in the mempool and it’s not getting confirmed at the speed that I had hoped, I can actually create a child transaction at a higher feerate, let’s say 10 sats/vB. And because that child transaction depends on the parent transaction, when a miner’s looking at including that 1 sat/vB in a block, it will actually consider that, “Hey, I actually get this 10 sat/vB transaction with it”, which has the effect of raising the effective feerate of the parent transaction.
That’s been represented in mempool.space’s block explorer for transactions that are in the mempool. There was this additional field for effective feerate, so instead of seeing the 1 sat/vB fee, you’d actually see the effective feerate, including that child transaction, for transactions that were in the mempool. But this new change that they have has similar user interface and similar data for transactions that are already confirmed. So, if you look at an old block and you see that the average feerate is 20 sats/vB and you see this transaction in there that was paying 1 sat/vB, now you get the context of that and it will actually include ancestor and descendant information about transactions that are in a block, which would maybe enlighten somebody as to why a low-feerate transaction got confirmed, because it had some descendants that paid for its feerate essentially.
Murch, did you get a chance to look at this, and maybe you want to augment or correct any of the CPFP information that I outlined about mempool.space?
Mark Erhardt: No, you did a marvellous job of explaining all that. But yeah, I’m pretty excited that they’re now surfacing that information, because previously the minimum feerate on blocks could really be confusing if really the effective feerate of all transactions in a block was say 20 sats/vB or more. Sometimes if a package of transactions came in with a low-feerate parent and a high-feerate child, it would look like the minimum feerate was lower in the block, but really it actually all fit because the child paid for it and it was sensible to include the transaction.
Sparrow v1.7.3 released
Mike Schmidt: Next item from the newsletter that we noted was Sparrow v1.7.3 being released, and this release includes BIP129 support for multisig wallet setups and custom block explorer support, among other features. So, Murch, I think we’ve talked about another wallet standardization which is similar, and I do get confused by this sometimes, which is BIP329 is the labelling BIP, the ability to label transactions and inputs and outputs and addresses I think is BIP329 which was assigned in the last few months.
This is similar in that it’s a multisig wallet setup BIP, but it’s BIP129. We haven’t talked about this much in the newsletter or in our Spaces. Are you familiar enough with BIP129 to maybe give a quick overview, Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, so BIP129 is an informational BIP, or maybe not informational but rather it’s a procedure on how multiple different wallets could coordinate if they want to build a transaction together. So, we’ve talked a bunch about PSBT and descriptors in the last month, but the part that was missing still was how do wallets even start talking to each other in order to exchange that information with each other. So, BIP129 addresses the steps, let me quote from the BIP.
So, “Whether the multisig configuration is correct and not tampered with, whether the keys are leaked during the setup, and whether the signer must persist information and in what format”. So, it basically gives a framework for wallet implementors on how to talk to other wallets to coordinate a multisig transaction. Then of course, once you have coordinated and you’re talking to each other, you can use the protocols that are specified, like MuSig, on how to actually produce the signatures and securely coordinate that; but how do you even coordinate that you want to make a transaction together.
I think this was written by a few wallet developers that basically were interested in having a standard on how to do this together. I see names of people that work on Nunchuck, Coinkite, Shift Crypto, being a hardware wallet producer, I don’t know who Aaron Chen is, but Rodolfo Novak also from COLDCARD.
Stack Wallet adds coin control, BIP47
Mike Schmidt: The next piece of software we noted this week was Stack Wallet adding coin control and BIP47/paynym features. Murch, I don’t know if you want to scold me for linking to the coin selection entry on Optech with coin control; I know I sort of use those a bit interchangeably and I know you have a preference for coin selection versus coin control, the meaning of each. Both of these are privacy-related features, or potential privacy features, added to the Stack Wallet, which is not a wallet we’ve covered previously.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I hadn’t seen Stack Wallet before either. It looks like it is a wallet for Monero, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and a few other things. So, the features that we described in our newsletter seem to include coin control, which yes, I distinguish from coin selection. In my opinion, coin selection is the term to use when you’re talking about the automated process of how your wallet picks the coins it is using to fund a transaction, aka input selection; whereas, coin control usually refers to when the user has the ability to manually select which UTXOs they want to spend. I’ve also seen people use coin control for coin selection and vice versa, so there seems to be some confusion here.
Other than that, it seems to be GPL-licensed and I don’t know what Dart is as a programming language.
Mike Schmidt: I think that’s Google’s.
Mark Erhardt: I have actually no idea about this wallet beyond that!
Wasabi Wallet v2.0.3 released
The last one is Wasabi, so we noted Wasabi’s WabiSabi plugin for BTCPay, and the last one here is Wasabi Wallet v2.0.3 being released, and actually was released a day before the newsletter. Some of the Wasabi developers actually appended a commit which did this writeup. This adds taproot coinjoin signing and taproot change outputs, along with also coin selection – or sorry, coin control; sorry, Murch, for sending, and then some speed improvements and additional changes which were less relevant to the Optech audience. Any thought on Wasabi, Murch?
Mark Erhardt: This time you did it on purpose, right?! Yeah, so in this release, they have opt-in manual coin control for payments. So, I think on the one hand, that is always cool for actual power users that want to keep track really for every single UTXO that they receive and spend, where it’s coming from, who knows about the ownership of that UTXO, what other context might be available, and that want to be extremely deliberate about what they mix and don’t mix. But in the long term, I don’t think that is a viable scalability strategy for privacy. If you expect everybody to jump through these sort of hoops, you just end up most people not doing any of it.
That’s why I tend to think more about coin selection should work, so we can hopefully automate most of that and have good standards for how wallets pick transactions that have good privacy automatically, maybe even recognize context, or allow you to label addresses when you receive, and then deduce context from that. But yeah, it’s a long road, we’ll get there eventually and meanwhile, power users can do it manually.
Mike Schmidt: We noted one release this week in the newsletter, which is LND v0.16.0-beta.rc3, and I know last week we mentioned that we were going to pull in someone who could walk us through the features of this release, similar to what we did with Core Lightning a few weeks back, and that is under way. The Lightning Labs folks prefer to jump on and talk with us about the features after this is actually released, so we’ll get them either next week or the week after, and I think they’ll provide a better overview of this release than we could. So, I’m okay punting it again, Murch, if you are. All right, great.
Speaking of LND, the first notable code change, LND #7448, adds a new rebroadcaster interface to resubmit unconfirmed transactions. Murch, why would LND need to be resubmitting unconfirmed transactions to be broadcast?
Mark Erhardt: So, in the past few months, at this point, there’s been a new sort of demand on block space, and we’ve actually had a growing subset of transactions that have not confirmed in a very long time. We are now at over 916 MB of memory usage for mempool.spaces mempool monitor, which is clearly slightly more than the 300 MB that mempools hold by default. So, everything below 4.99 sats/vB is currently being purged from the mempool, or from default mempools.
So, what LND is addressing here is, when a transaction gets dropped from other mempools, there is no mechanism for someone with a big mempool, such as mempool.space, for example, that will get the transaction resubmitted to other people’s mempools. So, having a bigger mempool is actually not helpful unless you are a miner and are worried that eventually the mempool will be empty and you will want to include transactions that you had previously purged, or that default mempools had previously purged.
There has been work in the past on Bitcoin Core to make every node rebroadcast transactions when they had transactions that they would have included in the previous block, but didn’t see in the block. I guess that’s just starting up again; there was a break there in the author of those PRs not working on it for a while. But for LND concretely to solve their own problem, where the wallet is responsible for keeping transactions in mempools and making sure that they get rebroadcast if they didn’t confirm yet, they are now adding this rebroadcaster interface.
What is does specifically is, it offers the transaction to the connected full node, and of course if the node already has the transaction, it will not resubmit it to its peers, so there’s no big privacy loss here. But if the attached full node has purged the transaction previously, but now the minimum feerate of their mempool is low enough that it would fit again, the node will accept it again from the LND and will of course also then offer it to its peers again, since it’s new inventory.
LND was doing this already when it was running in Neutrino mode, because in Neutrino mode, it doesn’t have a dedicated full node that it’s talking to, but can just communicate with any nodes that offer BIP157/158, which is the client side compact block filters; and now also, if you have a dedicated full node, every block it will try to resubmit unconfirmed transactions to that full node and that full node, if it hadn’t had that transaction but can accept it now, will relay it. So, this is a mechanism on how to get transactions back in the mempool after they were dropped.
Mike Schmidt: Murch, do you have a personal preference or opinion on whether this should be a wallet responsibility, or responsibility at the node level?
Mark Erhardt: I think I can argue both sides. So, if it’s a wallet responsibility, you get the advantage that if you change your mind and the transaction was purged widely from mempools, you can just not rebroadcast it, but rebroadcast a different variant. That plays well, even if you had signalled finality on your transaction originally and you’re mostly connected to a network that respects the finality of transactions, aka doesn’t do mempool full RBF yet. It doesn’t matter nearly as much if the whole network moves to mempool full RBF, because then every transaction that just pays more fees will propagate.
So, if you change your mind, you can just write a new variant that conflicts with the original, and whether it’s been dropped from mempools of not, it will propagate if it just pays more fees. So, that’s actually one reason why I think mempool full RBF would be more useful now than it had been when it was originally proposed, because with the extremely full mempools lately, I would expect that more people have stuck transactions and need to rebroadcast them. That’s why it might have been better for wallets to have the ownership, or the onus of making sure when a transaction gets rebroadcast. The receiver also has an interest of transactions going through because if they get paid, they want to of course make sure that the payment goes through. So, a receiver might also want to rebroadcast transactions that pay them.
Finally, I think it would be a huge boon for privacy because of course, when a wallet continues to rebroadcast a transaction, the nodes that are connected to the node that serves the wallet will see that a transaction gets offered more often than it should be from specific nodes, and they can deduce that the node is connected to the original sender, or maybe receiver, of this payment transaction. So, if we instead move to a paradigm where every node, when it sees that it has a transaction that should have been included in the previous block but didn’t get included, when it says, “Hey, that should have been in the last block, let me rebroadcast them”, that would lead to every single node doing these rebroadcasts and thus getting much better privacy for sender and receiver in that case.
So, in the long run, I would hope (a) that we just get away from opt-in RBF and move to full RBF, where every transaction is just evaluated on the merit of the fees that it is paying currently; and then (b) every node rebroadcasts every transaction whenever they see that it should have been included.
Mike Schmidt: Thanks for elaborating on that, Murch. Anything else on this LND rebroadcast PR?
Mark Erhardt: No, I think that is all.
Mike Schmidt: Well, the last pull request that we highlighted in the newsletter this week is BDK #793, and our special guest has been waiting 45 minutes to walk us through this PR. So, without further ado, Alekos, what is this major restructuring of BDK; what is the bdk-core project; and maybe just give us a quick overview of BDK, how Core fits in, and maybe the evolution of those two different pieces of software?
Alekos Filini: Yeah, so maybe I’ll start from the last question, so what is BDK? BDK is a Rust library that can be used to build generic Bitcoin wallets. And when I say generic, I mean generic in terms of policy. So, when we were talking about miniscript before, BDK uses miniscripts, so you can build a wallet, I don’t know, that is a simple singlesig; you can build a multisig; you can build complex wallets where you have time locks and complex conditions. This is what we mean by generic. In theory, with BDK, you can build let’s say any kind of wallet that you want. Obviously there are limitations, but that is kind of the goal. So, we want to maybe build a library that is very flexible that can adapt to different use cases, like you’re building desktop wallets, mobile wallets, or web wallet; we want to be able to do a bit of everything.
It’s funny, we started in 2020, I think, so it’s been being developed for two or three years now, and at some point we realized that basically BDK would work well for most use cases, for most users, especially users that don’t need any kind of advanced features, users that maybe don’t even have a deep knowledge of Bitcoin, they just want to build something simple. For those users, BDK would work well. But as soon as somebody wanted to do something a bit more complicated, some kind of more complex protocols, basically something that would need a more low-level access, BDK would not work really well for them, because BDK is this kind of simple API to use and if the API is good for you, that’s fine. But if you need something more low level, you will not really be able to do that.
The other thing we realized was that BDK was this kind of monolithic thing that would do a little bit of everything. So, when you think of a wallet, you have many different components that work together. So, for example, you have code to monitor the chain so you can see when you receive funds; you have code to do coin selection, for example; you have logic to create a transaction. When you construct a transaction, obviously you do coin selection, but on top of that there’s also some logic for setting the correct fields, the correct nlocktime, nsequence, stuff like that, and BDK was just one library basically doing all of this. We also realized that maybe some people would be interested in using some of these components, maybe not necessarily the whole BDK library; maybe somebody is just interested in taking the code to monitor the chain for some project they’re building.
So for this reason, since we wanted to offer a more low-level access and since we wanted users to be able to use individual pieces of BDK, we started this BDK Core subproject. It was kind of a parallel project that went on for a little while. So BDK, the library, was still being developed but in the meantime, some other people, mainly Lloyd, LLFourn, they were working on this bdk-core concept. The idea was to basically have different components that work together, but that can also be used independently.
So at this point, I think bdk-core has been going on for many months, maybe a year, I don’t know exactly when it started. At this point, we are confident BDK Core, or let’s say using the bdk-core components together would make a much better BDK, because it would give users a lot more flexibility that would be able to get more low-level access if they want to, while they could also keep using the same old API if all these components were together. So, they don’t necessarily have to use the low-level thing, they can also use all of them together and just get an easy API.
So, this PR, this #793, was basically merging these bdk-core components within BDK, so now the BDK repo is composed of a few different crates. Crates is just Rust language for packages. So now, in the BDK repo, there are these bdk-core components that you can use independently if you want, and then there’s a BDK crate which has been refactored to essentially use those components inside. So, if you are a BDK user and you were using the full library, the API doesn’t really change all that much.
There are improvements there as well that are kind of a consequence of the BDK Core restructuring. So, the normal BDK API is improving a little bit, is getting more flexible, but it’s mostly staying onchain, so for BDK users that won’t really make any difference. But for maybe users that looked into BDK in the past and, I don’t know, figured BDK would not be for them because it was not flexible enough or would not offer something, with this refactoring it would maybe become useful for them, they could re-evaluate, because now they would get this lower-level access kind of thing.
I think this is pretty much all. I don’t know if I’ve covered what you had in mind.
Mike Schmidt: No, that was great. Maybe a quick note from you about whether it’s new users or existing users of BDK, maybe the timing, and what you’re looking for in terms of testing or feedback on this. What should folks do if they’re interested or they’re using BDK currently?
Alekos Filini: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, I’m not super up to date about the time when this is going to be ready and released, because the original plan was to be ready at the beginning of this year, so this thing has been delayed a little bit and as I said before, now I’m lowering my effort there, so I don’t know when this would be 100% ready. But the fact that it’s been merged into Master, it means that it’s getting there. So now, mainly what we need is testing and feedback from users. What I would say is, if you’re a user of BDK, you could try switching to BDK to using Master instead of using the released version and see what happens. You are probably going to have to make changes to the way you interact with BDK, which should be mostly minor changes, but I don’t know, if something goes wrong for some reason and you need big changes, let us know.
So for current users, I would say just start to update and see what happens and provide feedback. For people who are considering using BDK, maybe just don’t look at the current released version, because currently the latest release is still based on the old architecture. So, maybe if you look at the latest release, you think, “BDK is not for me”. If you want to spend some time, look at this PR and look at the documentation around bdk-core because once this will be released, I think it will be a pretty major change in terms of how powerful the library will be, what kind of things it will offer.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Murch, do you have any questions or comments on this BDK PR and the bigger project?
Mark Erhardt: No, that sounds great, yeah. So, the way I understood it is, you basically have refactored the inner parts or the inner workings of BDK into a library that you use yourself to still provide the old API of BDK; but now, the library components themselves are standalone, usable by other people that have needs that are more low level; is that a good summary?
Alekos Filini: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. So, most of the refactoring was actually around the code that monitors the chain and the code that persists your transactions, your UTXOs on disc so this is where we focus the most. So there are components that you can use; if you have a project that just needs to monitor the chain, you can just use the components individually without having the whole BDK wallet thing.
Then I think one other component was the coin selection, because before it was kind of embedded within BDK, now it’s a separate module I think, I’m not sure about that, but that was one of the ideas with bdk-core. So, if it’s not there yet, it should come soon. And then, yeah, that is pretty much it, and then BDK has been refactored to use those components internally.
Mark Erhardt: Great then, cool. That’s also impressive that you guys managed to do that so quickly. We’ve been working on this for Bitcoin Core four or five years or so!
Alekos Filini: Yeah, I mean I think being a smaller project, obviously it’s much easier to iterate and move faster. On Bitcoin Core, everything takes longer.
Mike Schmidt: If anybody in the Spaces has a question, feel free to raise your hand or request speaker access. We did have one comment that I want to get your thoughts on, Murch, which is someone saying, “CPFP is a crime against Bitcoin”. Murch, what do you think about CPFP being a crime against Bitcoin or not?
Mark Erhardt: I feel like that could use more context. I think that generally, there are different approaches on how you can change your mind about transactions or reprioritize transactions. So of course, RBF, where you just make a conflicting transaction that has a higher feerate, is cleaner in that it uses less block space, but then obviously can only be done by the sender; CPFP is also available to recipients. Either of them have a privacy impact in that if somebody watches for what transactions conflict with each other, they can probably guess if different inputs were used, that the inputs are also controlled by the same sender or senders. With CPFP, they will guess that either the recipient or the sender attached their transaction, so they might be able to glean more information on who the output went to in that regard. I don’t know what else would be criminal about CPFP, so more context would help.
Mike Schmidt: Hey, Rijndael.
Rijndael: Hey, good morning. I actually came up, I had a question about the new BDK 1.0 architecture. Really excited to see the refactoring happening. I’ve written a lot of small processes that just use parts of BDK, but you kind of had to create the whole wallet even if you didn’t use all of it, so I’m excited to be able to pick and choose components out of BDK to use. Do you think that the big refactoring is also going to have an impact on the APIs that are exposed through the FFI layer to languages like Swift or Kotlin, or do you think it’s primarily going to be like a Rust component refactor?
I’m thinking about different projects that I work on that use BDK and trying to get some sense of how much code we’re going to have to go rewrite. If it’s mostly just on the Rust side, that’s kind of different than if those changes flow through all the layers of FFI to get to something like Swift or Kotlin?
Alekos Filini: I think some changes will get to FFI as well, but it should be mostly smaller changes, because I mean the FFI tries to mirror as much as possible the Rust API and the goal here is not to change the Rust API too much. But if we do change and one thing where it needs to change for sure is on the syncing because again, most of bdk-core was focused around monitoring the chain. So, syncing is a term we use in BDK for synchronising your internal state with the chain, so if there are any transactions for you, you store them in your cache.
So, the code around syncing will change a little bit, but really you can check out the examples in the PR. I think it’s like four lines of code that needs to change in Rust, and it’s probably going to be more or less the same in FFI because again, we mirror the API as much as possible.
Rijndael: Great, thanks.
Mike Schmidt: It doesn’t look like there’s any other questions. Murch, anything else that you would like the listeners to be aware of before we sign off?
Mark Erhardt: I’ve found another way how CPFP could be a crime. So, I know of some Bitcoin developers that would much prefer if we weren’t able to spend unconfirmed outputs at all, so in that regard it might also be a crime! All right, no, I have nothing else.
Rijndael: Well, Murch, I’m sure you could do CPFP for PSBT offers in ordinals and just piss off more people!
Mark Erhardt: If we’re just looking to be angry about things, there’s plenty to go around!
Mike Schmidt: Well, thank you, Alekos, for joining us and talking about BDK, thanks to my co-host, Murch, and thank you all for joining and participating in Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #243, and we’ll talk to you guys next week. Cheers.
Mark Erhardt: Cheers.
Alekos Filini: Bye, thank you.