Mark “Murch” Erhardt and Mike Schmidt are joined by Gloria Zhao, Bastien Teinturier, and Martin Zumsande to discuss Newsletter #259.
The Bitcoin Optech Podcast and transcription content is licensed Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0
Waiting for confirmation #9: Policy Proposals (18:59)
Bitcoin Core PR Review Club
Releases and release candidates
Notable code and documentation changes
Mike Schmidt: Welcome everybody to Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #259, Recap on Twitter Spaces. It’s Thursday, July 13th, and we’ll be talking about LN spec changes, new developments and policy in our transaction relay and mempool series, a PR Review Club about P2P, and then we have a release and just one PR to cover this week. By way of introductions, I’m Mike Schmidt, a contributor at Bitcoin Optech and Executive Director at Brink, where we fund Bitcoin open-source developers. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Hi, I’m Murch, I work at Chaincode Labs on Bitcoin stuff.
Mike Schmidt: Gloria?
Gloria Zhao: Hi, I’m Gloria, I work at Brink on Bitcoin stuff.
Mike Schmidt: T-bast?
Bastien Teinturier: Hi, I’m Bastien. I work at ACINQ on Lightning stuff.
Mike Schmidt: Awesome. Well, Martin will be joining us shortly and he can introduce himself before we talk about the PR Review Club segment.
LN specification clean up proposed
First item from the newsletter is LN specification clean up proposed, and this is based on a mailing list post to the Lightning-Dev mailing list, from Rusty Russell, and a PR as well, where he’s proposing to remove some features that are no longer supported, and in addition, assuming four other features are supported. Luckily, we have t-bast here to talk about the specification clean up proposal. T-bast, is this something that came out of the recent Lightning Summit, or is this something separate?
Bastien Teinturier: Yeah, it’s actually both. It prompted us to act; we were prompted to act during the Summit. It’s something we’ve always said that since the BOLT specifications are moving documents that keep getting things added, and hopefully at some point removed, so that we don’t have too much older legacy stuff that keeps hanging around, we’ve been very good at adding things, but we haven’t been very good at removing things. Someone who comes in now and looks at the spec sees that there are a lot of features, a lot of places in the specification where we have a, “How to parse; if-else statement; if you have that feature, you should do that; if you have that feature, you should do that”, and it makes it really hard for newcomers, who just want to see the latest state of Lightning and what is currently deployed on the network and how it works. It makes it harder for them to read the specification, or even implement something and see what’s happening.
So, we decided that everything that all implementations support and have supported for more than a year, we’re just going to assume that those exist, and we’ll stop specifying different cases for when it’s turned off. So, that’s what Rusty did here. He made a lot of features assumed that every node has to implement, so that we don’t have to handle the case where the remote does not implement that feature, and we don’t even have to specify what happens when someone does not support that feature. In the long run, there are other things we want to clean up from the specification to make it smaller, easier to understand, and remove the need to know what happened in the legacy channels for newcomers. This is going to take a while, but it’s an ongoing effort that we need to be better at.
Mike Schmidt: Is it correct to say that for these two unused features, that you’re not necessarily removing functionality, but you’re removing certain ways of implementing certain functionality? So for example, this looks like initial routing sync piece is replaced already by something that’s been in the specs for a while, called gossip queries; and similar for option anchor outputs, just option anchors. I just want to make sure people are clear that not necessarily removing functionality, but removing ways of achieving certain functionality; is that right to say?
Bastien Teinturier: Yeah, it’s a good way to explain it. For example, initial routing sync is a very dumb way of bootstrapping a new node when you connect to someone. Initially, a long time ago, when you connected to someone and you are a completely new node, you would say, “Initial routing sync” to tell the other node to just dump all of the gossip data to you, and they would just send a lot of things directly to you. But that has been replaced with a slightly better mechanism, called gossip queries, that has been shipped three or four years ago by every implementation. So now, we can just remove a very inefficient thing that we used before, since everybody supports the new thing that is more efficient.
For anchor outputs, the story is a bit different. When we first implemented anchor output, the first version of it actually had an issue. It had an issue where someone could siphon off the fees of Hash Time Locked Contract (HTLC) transactions. So, a small tweak on that anchor output mechanism was created that we called anchor output zero-fee HTLC transactions, where the HTLC transactions pay zero fee and are signed with SIGHASH_SINGLE, SIGHASH_ANYONECANPAY, so that you can add fees later. So, since we already had a version of anchor output that was specified, but was actually vulnerable to attacks, we kept it in the spec, but we always said you probably never want to use that version, you always want to use the zero-fee HTLC transaction version. So now, we just removed the old version because it’s insecure, there’s no good reason to use it instead of the other one, and it was creating a lot of confusion for people who were reading that spec.
Mike Schmidt: That makes sense. And then on the flip side here, when there’s these four features that are assumed, I guess maybe a couple of questions that I’ll bundle, and you can take it however you’d like. What does it mean to assume a feature? And then the follow-up question would be, based on Rusty’s results of probing around the network, he mentioned that there are still some nodes that don’t support some of those assumed features, and what would happen, obviously we want folks to upgrade their node to the latest software, but some of these folks haven’t, what are the consequences to those nodes that don’t upgrade and don’t support those assumed features? So maybe two questions there.
Bastien Teinturier: Yeah, so assumed features are really part of the minimal set of features you have to support to be a node in the network right now, which means that right now we are not going to actively disconnect you if you connect to us without those features. But in the future, if you are a very old node that connects and does not support those features, we’re just going to disconnect you from the start. So, you won’t even be able to join the network at all if you haven’t implemented those features.
It’s true that there are a few nodes out there that still have not activated those features, but I’m not sure we really want to care about those people, because that means they haven’t upgraded in potentially three years, and if they haven’t upgraded their implementation in three years, they have a lot of things to worry about because a lot of important bug fixes have been fixed. Some of them have even been publicly announced, and those nodes could potentially be under attack and could easily lose all their funds if they don’t do anything. So, I suspect that all of these nodes are nodes that are just forgotten somewhere on the cloud or something like that, or someone doing some tests, but it makes no sense to keep running those nodes without the new features. So, I hope they just update or just start getting dropped off the network.
Mike Schmidt: And we noted in the newsletter those four features and explained them in a bit more detail. And as you mentioned, they’ve been part of the specification since 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2019. So yeah, I guess you’re several years behind if you’re still not supporting those pieces.
Bastien Teinturier: Yeah, and and Lightning implementations before 2019 were quite reckless. A lot of things have been fixed since then, a lot of things have been improved. So, if you’re running Lightning software that is more than three or four years old, you’re going to have issues, so you really should update.
Mike Schmidt: Murch, did you have questions about these changes?
Mark Erhardt: Not necessarily. I think there’s a good overview of what Rusty exactly proposed in the newsletter. All of these have been, well, they’re really old changes, so I think we’ve covered them dozens of times. So, no.
Mike Schmidt: T-Bast, this is a little off topic, and I suspect that we’ll be covering it in our monthly segment on Changes to client and service software, but there was a recent announcement of a new version of Phoenix Wallet, and I suspect that we probably won’t bother you with bringing you on when we cover that in the future, but I wanted to give you a chance to explain that release and any notable important features.
Bastien Teinturier: Sure, thanks. So this is really a very big release. We’ve been working on some of the features for that release for a year or so. When we initially launched Phoenix, it was already quite a dramatic change compared to what other Lightning wallets were doing at the time, because it was the first wallet that introduced dynamic liquidity management so that people did not have to care about their liquidity, and could just get liquidity on the fly when they received payments, which was a huge boost in user experience.
But the issue with that is that when users end up with multiple channels on a mobile wallet, it creates a lot of issues because they don’t really know how much they can receive, because the amount that they can receive is theoretically the sum of the receiving capacity of each of the channels. But that only works if the sender is able to have that information and potentially split the HTLCs perfectly across all the channels, which is impractical because you cannot share all your channels in a BOLT11 invoice, and you definitely cannot share the balance in real time.
So in practice, what happened is that people thought they were able to potentially receive, for example, 100,000 stats. They were asking someone to send them 100,000 stats, but it actually could not be relayed entirely over Lightning, so it ended up creating a new channel to relay that amount. And it made the problem even worse, because then the user has even one more channel. And having more channels also is an issue for the wallet provider, because that means that you have more UTXOs that are used for only one user, and all those channels can potentially force close at a later time at a very high feerate and will incur high costs for the wallet provider. So, it’s really much better to have only one channel per user from a scalability point of view.
That’s something that splicing, which is a big tech protocol change that has been discussed since 2018, is allowing us to finally do. So, we’ve been working on that for a long time. We now have something that is really ready, we’re just testing it out right now during the beta to make sure that people don’t find any unexpected issues, but we think it’s really going to help the UX and also help the pricing model to be much easier to understand for users. So, it’s really a huge release. And the goal is that people won’t actually really see that things have changed a lot under the hood, but actually they have and everything is more efficient and should cost less.
Also, we previously had the swaps that we previously had in Phoenix were trusted. You would just pay us and then we would do the swap, which is definitely not something we wanted to keep on doing for long. Now that we have splicing, the swaps are really entirely controlled by the user. We have nothing, we don’t hold the funds at any time, so they are finally fully trustless, which is really a good thing. There are still a lot of other things we need to add in the next wave of features, but this is really a big improvement. So, I hope people will try it out and people will be happy with the changes.
Mike Schmidt: But t-bast, I thought splicing wasn’t active on Lightning yet.
Bastien Teinturier: That’s why it’s interesting because in Phoenix, Phoenix gives us a nice test bed for things that we want to try out on a small part of a network. Since Phoenix only connects to our node and splicing is only a feature that is important for pairs of nodes, we activated it on our node, at least a prototype version of splicing that maybe is not the final spec version, but it’s something that works and that we want to be able to try in the wild. Phoenix has the same code, so Phoenix and our node are able to negotiate splice transactions. And our goal is ideally to start testing cross-compat with Core Lightning (CLN) as soon as possible.
But for that, we still need to first finalize, at least merge, the dual-funding specification that has some protocol changes that are then reused for splicing. And the dual-funding specification is still not fully implemented, at least not the latest version in CLN. So, we’re still waiting for that to happen before we can start moving on to cross-compat test for splicing. But I hope that we will get splicing merged and deployed on the network with two implementations, at least by the end of this year, hopefully.
Mike Schmidt: Murch, do you have any questions or comments about Phoenix Wallet, other than loving the fact that it minimizes the amount of UTXOs used?
Mark Erhardt: I thought that it’s super-interesting that you’re using the swap-in-potentium idea, or a variant of that. We covered that a while back and had ZmnSCPxj and I think Jesse on for that. I was just wondering, so that would mean that you sort of staged the funds in an output that is controlled by the user, but locked to the Lightning Service Provider (LSP) and the user for some time; and then, eventually it would go back to the user, but it can be spliced into the UTXO. Is that sort of the same concept you’re using, or is it always locked to both of you because you expect that it will – or is it locked to ACINQ directly?
Bastien Teinturier: No, it’s exactly what the swap-in-potentium proposal describes. So, the funds are first sent to an address that has two script paths. One is a 2-of-2 multisig between the user and our node, and the other is a single sig from the user after a relative delay. And the goal is that the issue we have, the reason we use that, is that we want to make all channel operations be able to use zero-conf, because otherwise the user’s balance really becomes a mess, especially when you start using splicing, because you have a chain of funding transactions, and the user doesn’t know what they can actually use if you’re not using zero-conf here. So, we needed a safe way to use zero-conf.
The issue is that whenever the user splices in, they are using one of their inputs and adding that input directly into the channel, and we cannot trust them to not double spend. So, that made one of the operations, the splicing one, one that could not use zero-conf, whereas all the other operations could use zero-conf that could potentially be stacked after a splicing, which made the UX really horrible. So, using swap-in-potentium here is a way to correlate the confirmation count from the channel operation. You first send to a swap-in-potentium address. It has nothing to do with your channel yet, and you wait for confirmations there. And once this is confirmed, then we can splice those into the channel, and this can use zero-conf, because the user cannot double spend it by himself; he would also need a signature from the wallet provider from our node.
So, this makes sure that we can make all operations on the channel use zero-conf, which makes it much easier to track, much easier to understand from a balanced point of view for the user, and much safer. There’s still the risk that we could double spend, but at least we could double spend our inputs. But in the zero-conf scenario, the user is trusting us to not double spend anyway. That doesn’t change the business model, the security model here.
Mark Erhardt: Right, cool. May I ask a pointy question, too? I was wondering if your channel balance is now all, or sorry, not just your channel balance, but basically your balance with ACINQ is now always stored in a single UTXO, doesn’t that have some sort of privacy implications?
Bastien Teinturier: Right now, it does, mostly also because we don’t use taproot yet. Once we start using taproot, this will be better because all those splices, first of all people will not see that this is a channel and every time you splice, people shouldn’t be able to tell which of the output is the remaining channel and which of the output was an outgoing payment. But right now, it’s true that the onchain privacy is not great. But onchain privacy on Lightning is generally not great, and it’s only going to get better once we move to taproot.
Mark Erhardt: Thanks.
Mike Schmidt: If you’re curious about this technique that we’re talking about here in Phoenix, there was a Newsletter #233, where we talked with ZmnSCPxj and Jesse Posner about the swap-in-potentium proposal, and I’ve linked to that in the Twitter Spaces here, so you can go right to that segment of the newsletter, or our discussion with them on the podcast. T-bast, any final words before we wrap up this section?
Bastien Teinturier: No, nothing in particular. We had a great Lightning Summit in New York a few weeks ago. We ironed out a lot of potential issues with all the big features that everyone is working on. So, I think we’re all set to deliver a lot of things this year around splicing, dual funding, taproot, BOLT12. So, it’s finally time where a lot of those big features we’ve been working on for years are going to start being shipped, so it’s going to be really exciting.
Mike Schmidt: Thank you for joining us. Of course, of all the newsletters that we have you on, we have you on today in which there are no Lightning PRs. Sometimes we have ten Lightning PRs and it would be great to have you on, help explain some of them, but we have one Bitcoin Core PR here today. So, if you need to drop to work on other things, we understand. Thank you for your time, t-bast.
Bastien Teinturier: No, I’ll stay, this is going to be interesting. Thanks.
Waiting for confirmation #9: Policy Proposals
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Moving on in the newsletter, we have our Waiting for confirmation series #9 on policy proposals. Last week, we talked about second-layer protocols interfacing with transaction relay policy and including examples of existing anchor output and CPFP carve out techniques. And this week, we build on some of the drawbacks to those techniques and explore some in-progress efforts to address some of the limitations of those techniques and other limitations. We have Gloria and Murch, who are co-authors of this series, and so I guess I’ll throw it out to either one of you. What are the issues that we’re referencing with these previous techniques, and what sort of solutions are being worked on for the future?
Gloria Zhao: Yeah, so the last post introduced the concept of pinning attacks, as well as other issues, and wanted to kind of give some hope in this post. And so, we talk about five different policy proposals. I was trying to kind of introduce them in a linear manner so that you can see it from the point of view of like, “Oh, this problem exists. Okay, we have this proposal to address it, but we still have these problems left, so this next proposal addresses some of them”, and then so on and so forth. And so it goes from package relay to v3 and cluster and until the thermal anchors at the end, which I think addresses most issues and enables cool things like LN symmetry.
So yeah, I think we can start with the anchor outputs model that we introduced in the post last week, where it still has a number of limitations. Let’s say some are very annoying, and then maybe some of them are just kind of cosmetic. So, I think probably the worst one is that you end up overpaying on fees on commitment transactions for unilateral closes because you have to overestimate, because if it were to fall below the minimum feerate, then suddenly it’s not going to get into any mempool and you won’t be able to get it relayed, regardless of the child that you put on there to fee bump. Then you have funds tied up into your anchor outputs, you have to put some value on them to meet the dust threshold, and then carve out is quite ugly from a layer 1 perspective, and it only works with one extra descendant.
So, for example, if you wanted to guarantee that n parties of a more than two-party channel in some hypothetical contracting protocol, or let’s just say a coinjoin, the carve out which allows one extra descendant only guarantees that there will be at least two people who can attach a child to one of the outputs of their shared transaction. So, it doesn’t quite solve the general problem of, “Oh, we always want to make sure that any of the participants can fee bump their shared transaction”.
Then, on the more cosmetic side maybe, but Greg says that this is a composability issue, is that you have to put the one block relative timelock on all of the non-anchor outputs to prevent them from being spent. It goes back to the descendant pinning problem. And then, that brings us to package relay and package RBF, which solves, from what I hear, some of the more painful ones, like not being able to bump something below a minimum feerate, a mempool feerate, when congestion is higher. And so, hopefully that will save people money, since you won’t have to overpay on the commitment transactions in the future, and you can also get rid of the multiple anchor outputs. Oh, I forgot to mention this, you need one anchor output per participant so that they can each spend it, right? But if you have packaged RBF, for example, you just need one on each person’s commitment transaction and they can just replace each other. So you don’t need to ever bump the commitment transaction that somebody else broadcast. .
But of course, we still have RBF pinning, because we have these very generous descendant limits in mempool policy, where that leaves room for someone to broadcast a commitment transaction and add a very large, high fee but low feerate child, which is not CPFPing being anything, but it does add to the cost to replace that transaction. And that variance is very, very high, so it could be, I don’t know, let’s say 90,000 virtual bytes (vbytes). And even at 10 satoshis per vbyte (sats/vB), that’s quite a bit of money to potentially have to pay to replace that. And so that’s quite annoying, and so this is combined with some just general RBF terribleness.
I have a little paragraph, we wrote a little paragraph in there about the fact that replacements don’t need to necessarily confirm faster. They have to pay more fees, but they don’t necessarily need to have a higher “mining score”. So, if you were to build a new block template, this replacement transaction could potentially come later than the original. And this is a pinning problem for ANYONECANPAY transactions, where you can imagine they’re able to malleate this transaction to essentially confirm slower by making it the descendant of a, say, huge low-feerate ancestor in the mempool.
So, this brings us to cluster mempool. This is where I might tag Murch in, because you did write this portion, and because the problem with solving this is the fact that our ancestor doesn’t have limits. We’ve talked about this in multiple newsletters in the past couple months, just are way too permissive, and it just makes it infeasible to assess the mining score of transactions in mempools. And so, yeah, Murch, you have your hand up. Do you want to jump in and talk about cluster mempool?
Mark Erhardt: Sure. So, cluster mempool is an idea on how we would differently structure the data in the mempool data structure for keeping track of what’s up for the next block. The current proposal will keep information on the entire ancestor set of each transaction. And so, that has a problem that we will never discover if there is multiple children that are all trying to bump the same ancestors, because we would only pick the one that has the highest ancestor set feerate out of those into the block first and then look at the other ones, which then surprisingly have great feerates.
But with cluster mempool, what we would do is we would rather keep track of all related transactions. Anything that has transitively a connection through child or parent relations would be part of the same data that is relevant for transactions. And in these clusters, we would linearize the order. We would look at a cluster as a set of transactions and say, “Okay, if I just had this cluster and built a block from it, in which order would I pick all of these transactions?” and we make that the order of the cluster. And then we can group those transactions inside of the cluster into chunks, that are essentially packages, with the best possible feerate that is available by grouping more.
So for example, if you had a cluster that is just a child and a parent, and the child has a higher feerate, you would discover that you first have to pick the parent, of course, so it’s in the linear order in front of the child, but the child has a higher feerate, so you would chunk them together and treat them as one package. And the same thing would also work if you have two children that have higher feerates. So, we would sort of get the ability for descendants to pay for ancestors rather than just children paying for a single parent to reprioritize.
The cool thing about this approach is it would make it way simpler to build blocks and faster. It would also make displacement out of the mempool symmetric to – sorry, when the mempool is full and we try to evict stuff, we would know exactly what the last transactions are that we would need to drop from the mempool, because they would be the last thing that we’d mine ever, and that becomes symmetrical. Previously, it was easy for us to tell what the best thing is, what the transactions are that we would mine into a block first. But eviction was complicated and eviction becomes a lot easier.
So, this is a little bit more on the research side still. There’s a lot of exploration on what the algorithms would be for this and how it exactly would work. There’s an issue in Bitcoin Core so far, but no implementation. So, this is on a long timeline, but it would make a lot of things way easier surrounding faster block-building and more correct blocks in the sense of maximizing the fees collected by miners- and generally faster and cleaner eviction. Yeah, did I cover that completely, Gloria; am I missing something?
Gloria Zhao: I think so, yeah. And we talked about this before. I mean, I think you went into more detail this time, so maybe there’s no need to link a past one. But Newsletter, let me see, I think it was #251 we also talked about this. Yeah. So should I continue off of the –
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I think v3 transactions, right?
Gloria Zhao: Sure, yeah. So, as Murch mentioned, it’s a bit long term. I think if we were to wait for that to be done, we might be waiting a little bit of time. And it also doesn’t quite solve the rule #3, for absolute fees pinning problem that I just mentioned right before this. And two very general insights, or takeaways, that I would say for the past year of discussions about RBF, one is our limits are too permissive and they’re not very effective at controlling what we want to control; and the other one is perhaps different use cases require different kinds of package limits.
So for example, you can imagine a batched withdrawal from an exchange sending to a lot of different customers. It would be kind of unfair if only one of them got to spend their output from that unconfirmed transaction. So, it does make sense. You can definitely say there are times where it makes sense to have multiple descendants allowed from an unconfirmed transaction. But in this case, we’re hurt by that because there’s so much room for one of the participants of the channel to attach a bunch of stuff to this commitment transaction, where really the only use case that we care about is being able to fee bump that transaction.
So, v3 is kind of this dead simple policy where you could opt in to a more restrictive set of package limits. And those limits are, you get one unconfirmed parent and one unconfirmed child, and that’s it. You have a cluster size too, essentially, and that child is only allowed to be 1,000 vbytes. And so that limits the cost of replacement essentially, right, because if you want a commitment transaction to confirm and your fee estimator says that it needs to be, let’s say, 50 sats/vB to make it into the next block or next two blocks or something, then you can just calculate, okay, the maximum cost of replacement is going to be that fee plus up to 1,000 vbytes times this feerate to bring that to that. That’s going to be much better than if, for example, the child could be potentially 100,000 vbytes.
The idea here is to kind of limit the, Greg calls this “economical damage” that your counterparty could do to you by kind of abusing the descendant limit looseness. Murch has his hand up.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I just wanted to reiterate and sort of describe from a different angle. Essentially by limiting – you know what use case you have with commitment transaction. You just want to enable someone to bump it, and by limiting yourself to always having only this cluster of two transactions, you get rid of the options of having additional parent transactions that have a high weight that might bog down the transaction, you limit yourself from having additional children that might increase the package size and make an RBF really expensive. And really it’s in the interest of both parties to delimit themselves, because it just makes it dead simple and obvious how much cost there might be eventually to bump the commitment. That’s all.
Gloria Zhao: Yeah. And then I mentioned that this is cluster size two because you can essentially get some of the benefits of the cluster mempool stuff. Like you can calculate what a mining score is of a cluster, size two cluster, without having the entire restructuring of the mempool simply because there’s only two transactions. So that’s nice, we get kind of a shortcut to some of the things that we want from cluster mempool. It’s still far better to do this larger effort of restructuring it, but it’s nice that we have both a short-term solution and a long-term solution, and we need v3 either way. So, cool.
Then the final proposal that’s discussed in this post builds on top of v3 and the properties you have with it, to eliminate the requirement of putting value into your anchor output. So, I think this comes up in the context of LN symmetry, where you’re hoping that these update transactions, which represent the state of the channel balance, to be able to be chained off of each other. But the problem with anchor outputs and needing value in them is you have to shave off some amount of the funding input into these anchor outputs, so I think it’s 320 satoshis or so. But if you think about, okay, let’s say we want to chain like 100 update, hopefully not, but update transactions off of each other, at every step you have to shave off 300-something satoshis, and so you’re like leaking channel balance at each update, which is just a little bit less useful then. So it’d be nice to not have that problem, but still be able to fee bump.
So, ephemeral anchors essentially says, okay, let’s add almost like a carve out rule, where if you have a v3 transaction, it has exactly zero fees on it, and it has this anchor-shaped output, that output gets to be below the dust threshold; it can be, it doesn’t need to be, but it can be. And the idea there is that this anchor output will be spent immediately by a fee bumping child, and it will never actually make it to a UTXO set. So, it’s zero fees, so you’ve got to bump it, and this transaction’s only allowed to have one child because it’s v3, and that child is not allowed to have any other parents, so it can’t be bumping anything else, and so this output “has to be spent”.
Now, of course, it’s not consensus enforced, but it is just incentive incompatible for this just to not happen, right? And so in that sense, the anchor output is ephemeral, hence the name ephemeral anchors, which I think is a very cool name as well, I think it’s very, very nice sounding. Murch, you have your hand up?
Mark Erhardt: If you want me to, I would jump in a little bit if that’s fine?
Gloria Zhao: Yeah, fine.
Mark Erhardt: So, as we heard earlier, the current anchor output proposal that is already live on the network requires one anchor for each side, and ephemeral anchors especially, since they are forced to be spent because the parent has zero fees, so it wouldn’t even make it into the mempool unless there is a child that bumps it. We can use an OP_TRUE output here. So the output is tiny, there’s an amount and like 1 byte, just OP_TRUE. And the input of that is also tiny because it can be empty, the input script is completely empty. So, you sort of get the benefits of the anchor output, but you have the minimum possible extra data to link those two transactions, but you can decouple the fee paying from the commitment transaction. And because it’s an OP_TRUE output, either party can use the anchor output, so you don’t need two anymore, and the mechanism for how the second one gets cleaned up after the transaction is there.
Since we would use the v3 transactions and we can only have a single cloud, you don’t have to worry about any of the other outputs getting spent and pinning attacks, or larger RBF packages that you need to replace because something gets attached. The only way to spend it, for it to be policy valid, would be to attach to this ephemeral anchor with altogether an overhead of 50 vbytes or so; 50 bytes. And yeah, so that’s really, really cool. Anyway, sorry.
Gloria Zhao: Yeah, I mean I was at the end, really. It’s pretty exciting. I think it’ll take a few years to build all of it. Sorry, I shouldn’t say that; it’ll take a short amount of time, we’re working really hard to get everything done, hopefully we’ll have it soon, TM. So, yeah, it’s cool. I sent this to my mom because I was really excited and wanted her to know about what we’re working on!
Mike Schmidt: We have one of the protocols that consumes some of these potential transaction relay network improvements here. I see t-bast is giving thumbs up and clapping and “100”. T-bast, what’s your take? Do you have anything to add to what Gloria and Murch have outlined in terms of improvements on the policy front?
Bastien Teinturier: Yeah, I just want to highlight that this is amazing work, this is really useful. This is going to simplify Lightning and any layer 2 protocol by an incredible margin. So this is very, very important work for any protocol that builds on top of Bitcoin, and I’m really happy that we’ve been able to find the solutions that only require policy changes and require a lot of work for sure. But Gloria has been amazing working on that one for so long and getting things merged and accepted, and making sure that the discussion was continuously moving forward in the right direction. So, yeah, I’m really happy to see all of this making progress and I just can’t wait to be able to use it in Lightning.
Mike Schmidt: Gloria, do you want to tease our next and final post in the series for next week?
Gloria Zhao: It’s going to be a wrap-up. It’s been a long, long journey. I’m very proud of all the work that we’ve done. Murch and I have been spending lots of time on these posts. Next week will be a concluding wrap-up post.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Moving on in the newsletter, we have Bitcoin Core PR Review Club segment, which is a monthly segment highlighting a particularly interesting Bitcoin Core PR that was reviewed at the weekly PR Review Club meeting.
Stop relaying non-mempool txs
This month’s coverage is a P2P PR called Stop relaying non-mempool txs. And we are fortunate enough to have Martin here who hosted this PR Review Club, which covered Bitcoin Core 27.6.25 from Marco. Martin, do you want to introduce yourself and then we can jump into this PR?
Martin Zumsande: Sure. Can you understand me?
Mike Schmidt: Yeah.
Martin: Okay. Yeah, I’m Martin, I work at Chaincode Labs, mostly on P2P, but also other aspects on Bitcoin Core. Yeah, and I was hosting this PR at the club about this PR.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Well, thanks for joining us. Maybe it would make sense for you to take the lead on maybe summarizing some of the background behind this PR, and then we can get into some of the details.
Martin Zumsande: Sure. Yeah, I mean, this is all about removal of this so-called mapRelay. And what I find really interesting about this is that this is a very old thing. It was already present in the first GitHub commit, so it’s really a Satoshi thing. And back in the old times, it was basically the only way that we would relay transactions to others. So, I mean if someone asks us for a transaction, then we need to get it from somewhere, and what we do now is we get it mostly from the mempool. But back in the time, we didn’t do this, we just saved all transactions that we relayed to someone for like 15 minutes, and during this time, if someone else asked us for this transaction, we would get it from there and send it to them. But yeah, that was the ancient behavior, I would say.
Then at some point, this wasn’t needed that much anymore because at some point, we’d start fetching the transaction from the mempool directly. So, in that case, yeah, the question is, why do we still have it? Why do we still need this mapRelay, which continued to exist, beside the mempool? And the reason for that was several strange corner cases in which a transaction that used to be in the mempool but isn’t in the mempool anymore, for some reason we would still want to relay it to our peers. And yeah, that’s why the mapRelay basically still existed until 2023.
But I would say one by one, all these corner cases why we would still need this map were fixed in other PRs. And as a result of that, now I think we are in a place where we can finally get rid of this map, because it’s not necessary to have this additional data structure and just getting rid of it would make it easier to reason about transaction relay and also save some memory.
Mike Schmidt: So this data structure, in the way that it was originally created, has been removed, but as part of this PR there was a smaller, more bounded memory data structure that was added to handle a remaining use case for relaying non-mempool transactions; is that right?
Martin Zumsande: That’s exactly true. So the PR, it tries to list all of the cases where we might still use it, and the one case that we thought we might still want to have this transaction is if transactions leave the mempool because they were included in a block. In that case, yeah, they are no longer in the mempool and we wouldn’t relay them anymore just from the mapRelay. But if we remove that too, we wouldn’t be able to relay them anymore at all. That would have some negative consequences on compact block relay because in that case, some of our peers who are just about to ask us for this transaction and they don’t know, they haven’t received the new block yet. So, in order to be able to serve those peers, we still keep all of those transactions that were included in the most recent block and keep them in a map in place of the mapRelay.
But it’s important to note that this is a much smaller scope for the new map, because these transactions, we save them anyway because the newest block, we store it anyway in memory so that we can send it to our peers faster. So basically, all the overhead this introduces is a couple of pointers to the transaction in this block that we have in memory anyway. So, yeah, basically we have a new map or new true data structure that is a replacement for mapRelay, but it’s much smaller and much more bounded in scope.
Mike Schmidt: If I’m understanding the use of this new structure correctly, if I’m running a node and I tell a peer that I’m aware of a transaction and they say, “Hey, give me that transaction”, and before they ask for it from me, I’ve actually received a block with that transaction in it and thus that transaction has been removed from my mempool, there are advantages to still providing that transaction to that peer, even though the transaction for me has been cleared from the mempool because it’s in a block. And the advantages of that is, if I provide them with that transaction, when the block that I just got eventually gets to that peer, compact block relay would benefit that peer because they would already then have that transaction; is that right?
Martin Zumsande: Yeah, I think it’s basically a timing issue because I mean, if that peer was just about to ask that from us and we got the block and then we can’t send it to them anymore, that would add a little bit of overhead. But if we still have it, we can just send it to them. I mean otherwise, transactions are also included in the compact block. So let’s imagine we don’t have this transaction anymore in the mapRelay, they could still get it from us with a compact block, but this would possibly require another round trip and make compact block relay a little bit slower.
I think just to be on the safe side, in the event of some strange timing issues, we still have this. The good thing is that it’s very cheap to have because the transactions are saved anyway, so we just need to have a pointer to this transaction, basically. So we have these shared pointers for transactions that means that the actual transaction data is saved only in one place, but there are multiple pointers that share, basically, the ownership over this transaction, and the transaction will only get deleted after the last pointer is removed, basically. So, yeah, I think it’s basically like a mechanism just in case, in some timing issues, to still have it. But, I mean I was arguing in the PR Review Club that maybe it wouldn’t even be necessary to have this replacement structure. But yeah, we have it and I think it’s good.
Mike Schmidt: Gloria, did you have any comments on this PR or the PR Review Club discussion?
Gloria Zhao: It’s one of those things to get rid of. It’s great to get rid of mapRelay.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Martin, any final thoughts before we move on?
Martin Zumsande: Not really, no.
Mike Schmidt: All right. Well, thanks for walking us through that PR. And folks, if you’re interested, you can see some of the questions and answers from the PR Review Club in the newsletter, and you can also link to the full transcript of that PR Review Club meeting that was hosted by Martin. Thanks for joining us, Martin. You’re welcome to stay on.
Martin Zumsande: Thanks for having me.
Mike Schmidt: We have one release that we covered in the newsletter this week, which is LND v0.16.4-beta, which is a maintenance release, and it fixes a memory leak that may affect some users. We actually had been covering a series of these related issues. I think v0.16.3, which was the release before this, was a fix to optimize the mempool management feature that LND had just added because it was using too much CPU, which was causing issues. And it seems that that optimization that was put in place to minimize the CPU issue is now causing a using-too-much-RAM issue. Murch, have you been following along with these; did I get that right?
Mark Erhardt: I have not been following along. I still think we need to get some Lightning people on this podcast every week!
Bitcoin Core #27869
Mike Schmidt: We have one notable code change this week, which is to Bitcoin Core, Bitcoin Core #27869. Bitcoin Core will now give a deprecation warning when loading a legacy wallet. So, the wallet will still load, the legacy wallet will still load, there’s just a new warning message that when you load such a legacy wallet, that support for creating or opening such wallets will be removed in the future. And also notes that the user should use the migratewallet RPC to transition their wallet to a descriptor wallet. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I was going to say, Mike, what’s a legacy wallet?
Mike Schmidt: The roles are reversed! So, there are actually four types of wallets, right? There’s legacy-bdb, there’s descriptor-bdb, legacy-sqlite and. And I think that the goal of the project that achow is working on is removing support for legacy-bdb, descriptor-bdb and legacy-sqlite, leaving just descriptor-sqlite.
So, descriptors I think we’ve gone over a few times in the podcast, but essentially is the new version of how to keep your wallet data using these output script descriptors, as opposed to having a whole bag of keys and addresses. And so there’s this long-term issue, project issue, that achow has this roadmap for how to go about sunsetting support for not only Legacy wallets but Berkeley DB (BDB) as well. I believe that those are two of the goals of the project, and so this is just one step in that series of multi-year-related issues to phase out that support.
Mark Erhardt: I have nothing to add. That’s exactly right!
Mike Schmidt: If you’re curious, I think it’s a useful context. If you click into Bitcoin Core #20160, this tracking issue, it helps give you perspective on PRs like the one we just covered and its context in a broader effort within the Bitcoin Core project to achieve something. I know Gloria has some similar tracking issues with some of the work that she’s doing. I find it helpful, as a consumer of this information, to put things in perspective using those tracking issues. So, thanks for putting those together so we have an idea of where we’re going.
Mark Erhardt: Actually, let me jump in a little bit here. People often ask why it takes so long for Bitcoin Core to do stuff. Essentially, the idea is that you’re fixing an airplane while it’s in flight and nobody is allowed to lose any funds or lose capability of doing any of the things that they ever were able to do before. So, any of the wallets ever created with Bitcoin Core since the release in 2009 still need to be able to be parsed by Bitcoin Core even today. And even when we remove support for loading the wallets and using them directly, we will always have to maintain the ability to transfer them to a new format that we can read. So, we will always have a translator that is able to import the old wallets and create a current descriptor wallet from them. So, you will always be able to spend any old Bitcoin Core wallet, or use and recover funds from any old Bitcoin Core wallet in a new Bitcoin Core.
So, we’ve had this BDB for, well, ever since Bitcoin Core existed, and it has various issues. I think it’s basically unmaintained and old. And we’re moving just to something that is newer, lighter, better maintained, which is SQLite. And then, of course, I think we’ve talked a lot about descriptors. The descriptor format is a much more explicit way of referring to the entire body of scriptPubKeys that a wallet consists of. And it’s the way forward how I think wallet exchange formats and multisig and all sorts of more complex wallets are going to express their backups in the future, and also probably their wallet format.
If you look at #20160 that Mike just referenced, it is a project that has started in 2020 and it’s had some changes to the Bitcoin Core in every release since 0.21 and it’s scheduled out to 28.0 to actually finally remove all the parts. And being able to juggle all these pieces and keep everything working at every point in time is what makes this fairly complex. If you’re making a commercial product where you can just say, “Well, this version is no longer supported, you have to upgrade”, and don’t really need to cater to any users that have old versions any more, that’s way easier, but we have higher standards. We want to make sure that nobody ever loses funds from just having an old version.
Mike Schmidt: Any announcements, Murch, before we wrap up?
Mark Erhardt: I’m going to be at TABConf. You should also come to TABConf, we’ll have a great conference.
Mike Schmidt: Do you think we could record a live Optech Recap session there?
Mark Erhardt: I think we might, yeah. Are you going to be there too?
Mike Schmidt: Oh, well, now that you’re going, maybe I will go.
Mark Erhardt: Let’s do it.
Mike Schmidt: Thanks everybody for joining us. Thank you to Martin, t-bast, Gloria, and my co-host, Murch, and everybody who listened to the podcast. We’ll see you next week when we recap Newsletter #260.
Bastien Teinturier: Thanks for having me.
Gloria Zhao: Thank you, see you guys.
Mike Schmidt: Cheers
Mark Erhardt: See you.