Mark “Murch” Erhardt and Mike Schmidt are joined by Gloria Zhao, Rearden Code, Ken Sedgwick, and Jack Ronaldi to discuss Newsletter #260.
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.
Waiting for confirmation #10: Get Involved (2:01)
Changes to services and client software
Notable code and documentation changes
Mike Schmidt: Welcome, everybody. Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #260 Recap on Twitter Spaces. It’s Thursday, July 20, and we have a great newsletter again this week. We’re going to be wrapping up our series on waiting for confirmation, so we have Gloria as a guest to come by and talk about that one last time; we have a pretty strong section of updates to client and service software that we’ll be going through, and we have a few guests that’ll talk through that; and then we also have a few different PRs, Bitcoin Core, Core Lightning, LND, and libsecp that we’ll be getting through. Introductions, I’m Mike Schmidt, I’m a contributor at Bitcoin Optech and also Executive Director at Brink, funding Bitcoin open-source developers. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Hi, I’m Murch.
Mike Schmidt: That’s the shortest one yet! Gloria?
Gloria Zhao: Hi. Just kidding, wanted to beat Murch. I’m Gloria, I work on Bitcoin Core at Brink.
Mike Schmidt: Jack, do you want to introduce yourself and give a bit of background?
Jack Ronaldi: Sure. So, my name is Jack Ronaldi. I’m the product manager for the Validating Lightning Signer Project, which is separating your Lightning keys from your Lightning node. And Ken should be joining us soon to chat about the details.
Mike Schmidt: Jack, do you also want to plug the product community?
Jack Ronaldi: Sure, yeah, so I’m also part of the Bitcoin Product Community, which is a group of Bitcoiners, or I guess anyone interested in working in product in Bitcoin, whether that’s product management, product design, or building any kind of product. So, join us on Discord, and you can find us on Twitter as well. Pretty fun, and learning a lot from like-minded Bitcoiners.
Mike Schmidt: Thanks for joining us, Jack. I’ve shared a few tweets in the Space. If you want to follow along, we’re just going to go through the newsletter sequentially. There wasn’t any significant news from the mailing list this week, so we’ll jump into our limited weekly series, of which we’ve hit our limit now.
Waiting for confirmation #10: Get Involved
We’re at Waiting for confirmation #10, titled Get Involved. And before we jump into the details here, I just wanted to thank both Murch and Gloria for taking the time out of their busy schedules to not only come up with the idea for the series, but both of them together, to author all ten weeks back-to-back. It’s quite grueling going through that every week, I’m sure, on top of a full workload of other work, and then Gloria also joining us on these Twitter Spaces to explain a lot of these ideas. So, not only do I want to thank you for your time, but I think that the output is valuable. So, thank you both.
Gloria Zhao: Well, thank you to Optech for letting us write all over the newsletters for the past ten weeks. It’s been a huge honor to have so much space on, you know, if it was a printed thing.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, and thanks to Gloria who had the idea and did probably most of the work!
Gloria Zhao: Yeah, I don’t know, this last post is kind of just a summary of a lot of the central themes that we wrote about over the past nine weeks before that. This kind of came about when Murch and I were talking in the Chaincode office and I was kind of ranting where I feel like people sleep on mempool and P2P stuff all the time, and there’s all this like buzz about soft forks and they’ll be like, “Oh, you guys do amazing things like covenants and vaults and all these things”. And then you’ll see in the papers that people write, “Oh yeah, by the way, this needs package relay”. I’m like, “Wow, we need people to make that happen as well”. And so this is kind of like a recruiting effort/hope to nerd-snipe some people who are really smart and can dig really deep on the different soft forks out there, but could also maybe turn their attention towards some of the very interesting things going on in mempool. Yeah, hopefully, maybe, someone’s interested.
If you read the series and got interested, please feel free to message me. Always looking for mempool people to work on Bitcoin Core. But yeah, I think that’s all I wanted to say with this is, is mempool is responsible for a lot of important functionality of a Bitcoin node, as well as responsible for many headaches of developers and users, and we can change that if we work together. Murch, do you want to say anything?
Mike Schmidt: Gloria, I saw your post, I think it was yesterday, your spicy take that soft forks are overrated and interesting stuff is in the P2P Network. And I guess that’s part of the motivation there, is to maybe draw some developer and technical expertise towards not only just evaluating interesting and potentially sexy soft forks, but also some of the stuff that’s going on with policy and P2P and mempool.
Gloria Zhao: Yeah. Yeah, I also just recommend it as maybe a different way of looking at how cool the Bitcoin Network is. I think there’s a lot of really interesting ideas introduced by Bitcoin and a lot of really interesting technical pieces of it. But again, I think people kind of take the decentralized structure of it for granted a little bit. Of course, there are plenty of crypto projects where they’re structured as decentralized, as in they have a P2P Network, but that’s also created by – there’s a lot of design decisions that go into, okay, ultimately our goal is to have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of independent, anonymous entities running these nodes, not just the same guys spitting up some in AWS us-central-1 and some in asia-2; that’s not quite decentralization.
It ends up being these very interesting trade-offs that you have where you’re like, “All right, we only get 300 MB. What’s the best we can do with this data structure? We have to make sure it’s really cheap. We have to make sure it’s very efficient and it’s defensive against attacks, and it also can’t censor”. There’s all these very interesting, technical challenges when you’re trying to design this piece of software that is hopefully accessible by lots and lots of people around the world to run. So, I don’t know, I find mempool very interesting, mempool and P2P, and hopefully other people do too.
Mike Schmidt: Murch, Gloria mentioned a couple of things there that could be something that would be looking for a takeaway from the community from this series. One thing that I heard was trying to draw technical talent to some of the interesting research and coding that may go into existing policy or new policy changes. And another thing is just maybe broader community awareness of what goes into P2P and policy. What’s something that you would hope that the community takes away from this series; I assume you echo both of those sentiments?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, those and I think we had multiple interesting debates in the past year, one-and-a-half years, where mempool played a crucial role and it sort of showed that very many people don’t have a deep understanding of how mempool fits together, what it all does under the hood, what the design concerns are, and just how difficult it is to collaborate in a space where you have absolutely no information about the other nodes, whether they might be malicious or collaborating with you, and you have to be ready for all of those things and be able to handle them. So, I think it also is meant to just help people get an appreciation and understanding of how things fit together and what the mempool all does under the hood, what mempool policy does for us, and why those things might be a little more important than just, “Well, we would like to have bigger inscriptions, so could you please drop all standardness rules?”
Mike Schmidt: Gloria, maybe this is an opportunity that’s not directly related to the Waiting for confirmation series, although I think we touched on some of it, but maybe you can let folks know, what will you be working on this next year that isn’t writing a mempool and policy series for Optech?
Gloria Zhao: Like everything? Like, a standup?
Mike Schmidt: Well, maybe some of the big pieces potentially related to some of the policy stuff we’re talking about.
Gloria Zhao: I’m trying to get package relay done as soon as I can. It’s so much harder than one would imagine. Shout out to Greg, who’s on this Spaces. Hi, Greg. Thank you so much for helping me with that. And then the v3 proposal. Both of these are mentioned in post #9, I think. I’m also going to shill a Bitcoin Core PR Review club, it’s bitcoincore.reviews. We’re kind of doing a revamp to try to give it some new life. We are going to do meetings every month to talk about a big-ish PR and all of the surrounding areas, the codebase areas that it’s touching, in an effort to help people learn more about the codebase, learn how to review PRs, what to look out for, what are some pitfalls, reviewing with a kind of security mindset, and hopefully recruit some new talent. So, yeah, bitcoincore.reviews. That’s most of what I’m doing, I’m going to review some PRs.
Mike Schmidt: Go ahead, Murch.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I wanted to mention, because it’s been alluded to but not really said out loudly; so, Gloria has been working on package relay and the related topics for, I don’t know, something like over two-and-a-half years now. And one of the things that is happening there is that it’s a focus of the Bitcoin Core project, this release cycle, and we talk about that every week in the Bitcoin Core meeting and those PRs are looking for reviewers. Now, that might not be a topic where you can just jump in from one moment to the next and give good feedback, but if this is interesting to you because, for example, you work on a second-layer network or because you have a company that depends on chaining transactions and you would like to have better reliability for RBF or similar things, you should perhaps try to keep abreast of what’s happening there, and if you can, contribute some reviewing resources or input, feedback, and review.
So, hopefully this is going to make some more strides with the next release and can get out in this or the next release after. But yeah, more review could be used on our big projects and Bitcoin Core, including package relay, package RBF, v3 transactions, that sort of stuff. Gloria, Murch, any final words to wrap up this post in the series?
Mark Erhardt: Let’s never do it again!
Mike Schmidt: That’s the spirit!
Mark Erhardt: No, it was great, but it was a lot of work.
Gloria Zhao: Yeah, sorry for roping you into it, but I’m very, very proud of the work that we’ve done. It’s 8,000-something words. It’s fun, it’s been good.
Mark Erhardt: Well, actually I do hope that now that we’ve written it all up, it becomes sort of a standard page to link people to that want to learn about the topic. And there’s a bunch of different topics wrapped all up in that. We do have a topic – or not a topic page, a page that collects the whole series. So, I think I’ve seen it linked on Twitter recently. Yeah, so if you want to learn about mempool, we do have a long page now that describes a lot of aspects of it that we can link to. So, that’s great.
Mike Schmidt: Thanks again for both of your time on the series. We’ll move along in the newsletter to Changes to services and client software. We have a bunch of these that we’ve captured for this month’s coverage. We talk about DLCs, payjoin, MuSig2 support, RBF support, splicing, and a large exchange integrating Lightning support and CPFP, so we’ll jump into that. As a reminder, this is a monthly segment of the newsletter where we try to collect interesting Bitcoin tech being implemented in higher-level pieces of software and we’ll jump right into it.
Wallet 10101 beta testing pooling funds between LN and DLCs
The first one here is wallet 10101 beta testing pooling funds between LN and DLCs. And so, this wallet from 10101 that is being beta tested is a Bitcoin and Lightning wallet and it’s built using the BDK and LDK libraries. And they’ve also introduced the discreet log contract, DLC functionality. And to give an example that I think that they use from one of their other blog posts, is this notion of a stablecoin using DLCs. And in that example, you would use bitcoin that you have as collateral to enter a short position against your bitcoin, effectively creating like a dollar stable coin in this DLC, since if you’re holding bitcoin, you’re long, and if you’re short in this DLC, that would effectively give you a synthetic dollar using this DLC.
In order to achieve something like that, where you need pricing information, they need an oracle to essentially tell the contracts what the bitcoin price is at a certain time. And 10101 uses adaptor signatures from different oracles to provide that pricing signature data to the DLC contract. And the way that they’ve introduced these DLCs is actually using a Lightning commitment transaction. So they’ve added what they call a custom output with arbitrary spending conditions as part of Lightning’s current revocable output in the commitment transaction. This is in a modified Lightning node that can still route LN payments, although I don’t believe that these DLC contracts are being routed over LN. Murch, did you get a chance to look into this 10101 announcement and the different blog posts?
Mark Erhardt: Not that much more than you, or nearly as much as you. You’ve already covered it much deeper than I would.
Mike Schmidt: Sorry, go ahead.
Mark Erhardt: I mean, much deeper than I could have!
LDK Node announced
Mike Schmidt: The next piece of software that we highlighted in this segment is LDK Node being announced. And so, folks may be familiar with the LDK library, but this is actually the potential to create a Lightning node using LDK. And so the LDK library is known for its customizability, and the LDK API, they note in the blog post, has over 900 different methods that you can use to configure Lightning-related functionality. And they note in their post, “While this customization is great for builders, it often comes with the added cost of increased complexity”.
I think what they’re getting to is that for folks to get up and running using LDK, it would be advantageous to have a package that can put together LDK as the core of a Lightning node that offers some customizability, with some opinionated implementations already baked in. And so because LDK doesn’t come with an on-chain wallet, they’ve sort of bundled LDK and BDK together and created this LDK node, which is a more fully baked solution. And they note that one of the primary goals of LDK node is, “To simplify the integration of self-custodial Lightning nodes, specifically targeting mobile applications”. Hey, Rearden Code, did you have a question or comment?
Rearden Code: Oh, we can talk about the BitGo MuSig2 support, because I wrote a bunch of it.
Mike Schmidt: Oh, awesome. Yeah, thanks for jumping in. We’ll get there shortly, and remind me to call you in if I forget. So, Murch, any comments on LDK Node?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, so I was curious when I saw that announcement where the blockchain source comes from. And my understanding is that it uses basically, what was it, Electrs or…?
Mike Schmidt: Esplora, I think.
Mark Erhardt: Esplora, yes, an Esplora backend as the blockchain source. So I thought that was interesting. So, you sort of distribute the source of blockchain data to running an Esplora node and then you have a whole stack of BDK, LDK and out of all of those projects that you sort of build up your own node. I think it’s kind of neat how it’s stitched together.
Mike Schmidt: And a point that was made for a future version of LDK Node is that they do plan support for both Electrum and bitcoind RPC backends for chain data in the future.
Payjoin SDK announced
Next piece of software that we highlighted from the newsletter was Payjoin SDK being announced, which is called PDK. And PDK, the goal is to make a to make payjoin functionality a drop-in upgrade for all software touching Bitcoin. So, the idea is that you drop in this library and you have a series of functions that can help you coordinate payjoins and maybe I can loop in Murch. I think many folks are probably familiar with payjoin but we haven’t covered it recently. Murch, what is payjoin and why would we want to encourage wallet and services to implement something like payjoin?
Mark Erhardt: A payjoin is when a spender includes an input from the receiver in their transaction. So let’s say I am trying to pay Acme Company for, I don’t know, some service, I would usually build a transaction using my input, make a change output, and a recipient output to Acme Company. And of course, that would just look like a single input to output transaction onchain. To make that a payjoin, I would, in the process of negotiating my payment to, or receiving the invoice from Acme Company, learn which input they would like me to include. We would build a transaction with two inputs, one from me, one from Acme Company, and then we would still have two outputs, where the recipient output to Acme Company would now be increased by the amount that they contributed in the input.
What this does is it breaks the common input ownership heuristic. So, usually a surveillant can assume that all inputs on a transaction are owned by the same entity. And in this case, that’s no longer true, of course, because one input has been contributed by the sender and one input has been contributed by the receiver. So, if the surveillant doesn’t catch that, they might think that all the inputs belong to the same wallet and would cluster all of the inputs together as trying to track a wallet onchain. This may help befuddle such a surveillant; it may also make it harder to distinguish the change output from the recipient output, because both inputs and outputs would now be owned by both the receiver and the spender, so patterns that track input flags or fingerprints would appear on one input and one output each.
So, yeah, it’s sort of a mechanism to achieve privacy. There’s also a tiny consolidatory effect because now, of course, instead of the recipient having two outputs afterwards, they combine those two outputs into one, by sort of consolidating one of their inputs into their recipient output. Yeah, and I think I covered it all, right?
Mike Schmidt: Yeah, that was great, Murch. One of the things that I’m excited about as an Optecher who is interested in adoption of Bitcoin tech, is this idea that wallets and services using a well-established library, like let’s say BDK, instead of every wallet and service writing their own Bitcoin libraries, is that it’s likely that adoption of Bitcoin tech would accelerate by using a common, well-tested library and that tech would roll out more quickly to wallets and services using that underlying library, since they don’t have to architect something like in this example, payjoin, all by themselves. It’s done in a common library that’s already used.
So, to that point, there is a segment in this write-up that Dan Gould did on PDK, which is, “Why not add Payjoin to BDK?” And there’s a few different explanations that he has in here, including alluding to the fact that BDK and PDK complement each other well, and there probably could be a day in the future where PDK’s payjoin crate in rust compiles as part of BDK, but that may be coming soon. But he also notes that, “In order to provide well-engineered and reviewed components, PDK lives in his own repository for specialized scrutiny, so that each effort can focus on their individual strengths”, and also points out that PDK is not doing IO, whereas BDK does do IO, and so they’re keeping these two projects separate for now to let them mature at their own rates. Murch, I don’t know if you had a take on that? No take, okay.
Validating Lightning Signer (VLS) beta announced
Good news. We have some folks from the VLS team here to talk about the Validating Lightning Signer beta announcement. Jack and Ken are here to talk about VLS. This is a project that I’ve heard a lot of rumblings about, so it’s nice to see this beta. In lieu of myself butchering some sort of summary of the project, I can turn it over to Jack and Ken, who can maybe explain the elevator pitch for VLS at a high level.
Ken Sedgwick: Hello, can folks hear me?
Mike Schmidt: Hey Ken, do you want to introduce yourself real quick?
Ken Sedgwick: My name is Ken Sedgwick and I work on the VLS project with dev random and Jack Ronaldi. We’ve just announced a beta which supports Core Lightning (CLN) and LDK-based nodes. It does layer 1 and layer 2 validation. We’re working feverishly on making it smaller so it can fit in embedded environments because we think that that’s an important use case. So, you would be able to run it on a small, inexpensive device, maybe with an ESP32 or an STM32, something like that. What do folks want to know about it?
Mike Schmidt: Well, maybe it would make sense to outline what’s happening in Lightning now and what would be happening in Lightning with VLS, and maybe highlight some potential pitfalls in the way that Lightning nodes currently could be operating and why it would be better with VLS.
Ken Sedgwick: Okay, yeah. The need for VLS is because Lightning nodes have to have hot wallets. So, a good example would be a large retailer might have 1 million channels and they each might have $100 in them. And so now you have to have $100 million hot being connected to the internet, and that’s quite a target. Normally with layer 1 Bitcoin, if you were doing something like that, you would try to keep most of the funds cold by taking them out of the hot wallet. And so exchanges frequently have 95% of their funds cold. But Lightning wallets don’t allow you to do this; the funds need to be hot and they need to be onchain.
So, when we looked at that, we decided that we really need to do more with Lightning nodes than people were doing with Bitcoin nodes. And a good place to start was to make sure that the keys and private materials, so secrets of various kinds and keys, were protected as much as possible. In the traditional enterprise, this would be an HSM, and maybe, in fact, we would indeed run in an HSM. Now, we’re software guys, so we’re not doing the hardware directly, but we’re trying to write the software in a way that it can be put into both small setups, embedded setups, so like a hardware wallet, and also can be run in something like an HSM, where your ability to connect to the internet and the like should be severely restricted on purpose to keep it more secure.
When you’re using VLS, what happens is the node does not have the actual signing keys. Instead, every time it wants to do a protocol operation, so let’s just say, for example, you’re routing a Hash Time Locked Contract (HTLC), you would need to get commitments signed so that you can exchange them with your peer. You would communicate with VLS, you send a request, and we provide the signatures that you need, after checking, to make sure that the commitment does not leak your funds. This is the critical thing. It’s not just good enough to sign things, you need to make sure that the things which are being signed represent safe transitions for the person who owns the node. Our security model is, in fact, that we expect that the node can be completely compromised, and VLS will protect your funds.
So, a typical attack to describe there is if your node was compromised, the bad guy would simply suggest a closing transaction which sent all the funds to some place that was good for him. But VLS will see that and realize that, no, you were entitled to X% of this channel and you need to see that those funds are returned to an address that VLS controls the key for, so a wallet address or an allow-listed location. So, by first separating the keys out, and then secondly by maintaining enough state so that we can tell that every transaction is safe, we can ensure that even if your node is taken over by a hostile entity, that VLS will protect your funds. I don’t know how much time to use. So are there…?
Mike Schmidt: No, that’s great. And maybe to define a couple of these things that you’ve mentioned in your explanation, which I thought was a great explanation, thank you. So, HSM is Hardware Security Module. I was going to say, a question that I have for you is, are these STM32s and, what was it, EPS32s, are those just like lesser versions of HSMs, or is there something conceptually different there?
Ken Sedgwick: Those are commodity devices. So the ESP32, for example, is currently being used by Stackwork and Sphinx, and they’re running VLS on it. So, that’s a $10 device, and the idea is though that an end user can have a signing device in, I want to call it a wall wart, but a little thing that they plug into the power adapter, into a power socket, and then it would connect to a node which is running in the cloud. So the node would be operated by a Lightning Service Provider (LSP), but it wouldn’t have the keys, so the user is maintaining custody in this case. So, all requests which require sending money or even receiving money come to the signer, and the signer makes sure that the user’s funds are safe.
So, HSM is one end of the scale; these are very, very expensive, exotic pieces of hardware. And then the other end of the scale is commodity devices. So we’re writing everything in rust, and we’re writing the core pieces using no_std rust, if people are familiar with that. But basically, it means that the core is very embeddable, it doesn’t use lots and lots of Unix system calls, for example. So, you have to provide it with proofs that things are what they are, and then it can validate the proofs and say, “Yes, okay, so we’ve seen a new block in the blockchain”, for example, “and that had an output in it which is important to me”. I’m rambling a little bit. So, we’re trying to address the entire spectrum by writing it consistently and using techniques which allow it to be embedded.
Mike Schmidt: Ken and Jack, we’ve covered Greenlight in the past, and folks may be familiar with the value proposition to that service. How is VLS, if at all, related to what Greenlight is doing?
Ken Sedgwick: Actually, I think I better let Jack do – we’re related. We’re working with Greenlight. Greenlight is using VLS as its signer, but I want to be careful not to pre-announce or carelessly announce too much here. Jack, do you have a handle on what it’s okay to say?
Jack Ronaldi: Yeah, it’s already public. They’re working with us and they helped us with the grant.
Ken Sedgwick: Okay, cool. Yeah, I’m always just a little nervous when it comes to IP and stuff like that. I love working on open source projects where, you know, the VLS team does not have any secrets. It’s impossible to reveal something by mistake for us, but we have to be careful with our partners and folks we’re working with. But yeah, so Greenlight needs a signer because that’s in essence what it’s doing, so it’s separating out the signing and giving custody to the end user in their location and then running the bulk of the node, all the gossip and routing and all that stuff, in the cloud as a service. And they’ve chosen VLS as a signing technology that they can use. So we are currently working with them on that.
We also support CLN in a just basic mode. So, CLN is made up of a bunch of cooperating daemons, these are different processes, and one of those daemons is called the HSMD. And Rusty said, “Well, it was aspirationally named”, but he intended someday for an HSM to be put there. So, VLS actually is doing that. We replace the HSMD with a proxy, which speaks a protocol to an external VLS signer, and you can run that today. That’s all integrated and can run their full integration in test suite, and we are running them in testnet all the time.
Mike Schmidt: Jack, what would you hope to be getting out of this beta release? Who is a great candidate to beta test this; and what sort of feedback are you looking for on the data?
Jack Ronaldi: Yeah, so we’re really looking for – VLS is an open-source library and reference implementation, so we’re not actually building anything that’s going to be necessarily consumed by end users. So we’re hoping, or our ideal hope, is to get a handful of Lightning developers and Lightning companies, that might be able to use this, to start working with it and maybe try to integrate into their project, whatever they have, and then give us feedback on what’s missing, what would they like to see.
So, Stackwork and Sphinx, that Ken mentioned, is one of our first customers, and they’re planning to use VLS in their solution, and we’d love to get maybe at least five more to start, ideally scale this up, like Ken was saying, to large retailers eventually. But I think we need a little feedback, because right now we’re kind of making best guesses on what people might need for priorities. But if we had actual customer feedback, that’d be super-useful.
Mike Schmidt: Murch, any questions or comments on VLS? Okay, he’s giving me the thumbs up.
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, no, that was for Jack. I think that it is pretty interesting or it’s great to see that you all are making so much progress. The inherent issue around Lightning, of course, is that all your funds are hot. They are on an internet connected device that is actually capable and in need of being able to send funds around. So, being able to decouple the signing from the operation of the gossiping node and the negotiation with peers on what exactly gets forwarded where, and being able to sort of formally express your requests to the signer in a way that you can prove that your node is actually not losing money right now, so succinctly that just this embedded hardware device is capable of assessing whether or not it should sign something, is really, well, it’s very difficult and it’s impressive that you’ve managed to do so.
Ken Sedgwick: Well, thank you.
Mike Schmidt: Ken, Jack, thank you for joining us. You’re welcome to hang out for the rest of the Twitter Space, or if you have other things you’re doing, you’re free to drop. Thanks for representing VLS and it’s a very cool project, thank you.
Jack Ronaldi: Thanks for having us.
BitGo adds MuSig2 support
Mike Schmidt: Next piece of software that we highlighted, implementing some Bitcoin tech in this segment of the newsletter, is BitGo adding MuSig2 support, and we have a guest representing some of the research and work done here, Rearden Code. Do you want to introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your involvement here?
Rearden Code: Yeah, sure. My name is Brandon, I’ve been the manager of the BitGo Bitcoin team for a few months now. And yeah, so we added MuSig2 support, which has been kind of a goal of mine for as long as I’ve worked in the Bitcoin space, to get MuSig2 into the hands of users. I was excited about it from the beginning of the taproot conversations and everything. So, when BitGo first did Taproot support, back when we launched it concurrent with the taproot soft fork, we had read the draft work by Jonas, Nick, and all of them on MuSig2. So we put a theoretically signable MuSig2 key in our first taproot implementation almost two years ago. Then the spec changed, that wasn’t signable with MuSig2.
But here we are almost two years later, we’ve launched MuSig2 support, so this lets BitGo customers with hot wallets have their multisig BitGo spends look just like single-sig taproot spends. And I can tell more stories about this if you guys want, but I think it’s a huge announcement, and getting MuSig2 into the hands of customers, making it so that there’s really no big drawback to using multisig for a lot of purposes, I think is huge for the future of Bitcoin.
Mike Schmidt: Maybe talk a little bit about what was the drawback to using multisig before, and how does MuSig2 help that?
Rearden Code: Yeah, sure. So there were two big drawbacks to multisig before this, and one is privacy. If you’re using a multisig, there’s kind of two multisig sizes that are fairly common, and that’s BitGo’s 2-of-3, or Casa’s 3-of-5. Outside of that, if you use any other multisig than 2-of-3 or 3-of-5, you pretty much alert exactly what wallet software you’re using. So it’s a privacy downside there, where everyone knows when you’re using multisig which wallet you’re using. And in some cases, they can even narrow it down to, you must be one of just a few people using that wallet because multisig isn’t that popular, especially these less common multisigs.
The other downside to multisig historically has been fees. Signatures are big, 16 to 20 vbytes, call it, for each signature. So, every additional signer on a multisig adds a lot of cost to your transactions. MuSig2 with taproot solves both of those, where if you use your taproot keypath with MuSig2, it’s just one signature onchain, and it looks like any other single-sig spend onchain as well. So, the cost is the same and the appearance onchain is the same.
Mike Schmidt: I’m curious if there is any of the software that you’ve developed to implement MuSig2, BIP327, that BitGo will be open-sourcing for the community to be using, or if that’s something that you guys are keeping proprietary for now?
Rearden Code: Yeah, great question. So, we have two MuSig2 implementations involved in our total deployment. Being a multisig wallet, we have signers that exist in two places typically, three in some cases, but not for MuSig2. And so we have our HSM proprietary software, you guys were talking about HSMs for VLS. So we have the MuSig2 on our HSM, and that’s closed-source code. But we also implemented it in TypeScript, and there’s a library out there called Musig-js that is open source and anybody can look at or use.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Murch, do you have any questions or feedback for your alma mater here and their rollout?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I think this is just the coolest thing ever, because just the week that I left BitGo in 2020, I wrote an article about how to use P2TR to implement 2-of-3 inputs, and of course with BitGo in mind because I had been working there for over three years, and I was the lead on rolling out segwit there. So we were, back then, the first business enterprise I’d say, two weeks after segwit activation, we got segwit working for our customers. And of course, BitGo has hundreds of Bitcoin companies as their customers. So, pushing out segwit that quickly, especially as in 2017, there was this huge block space demand, and of course later that year we saw that huge spike of feerates, but BitGo had segwit support already, so our customers, by the droves, switched over to segwit.
I hope that, well, right now the block space demand is not quite as high, but I really love that BitGo has put out MuSig2 support basically the moment that the spec was finalized. And now customers of BitGo, which make up, I don’t know, the official numbers by BitGo, I think, are something like 20% of all transactions go through BitGo; so, being able to switch those outputs to MuSig2 outputs and look like single-sig onchain for all of these companies that are currently using multisig, which has fee savings and privacy implications, and also just increases the pool of people that use keypath taproot spends already, that’s really awesome. Brandon, you wanted to say something else?
Rearden Code: It’s 20% of value on Bitcoin, not 20% of transactions. We tend to move bigger transactions!
Mark Erhardt: Oh, back when I worked there, it was 20% of the transactions. I guess now it’s 20% of the value moved through Bitcoin.
Rearden Code: That’s what I’ve most recently heard.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent. Well, thank you for jumping in to explain your work. I echo both of your sentiments that this is a very cool and important announcement. Hopefully we will see more of these types of announcements from other companies in the future. Brendan, any final words before we move along in the newsletter?
Rearden Code: I just want to say thank you to Jonas, Nick, well especially Jonas for his time on this. We talked with him quite a bit throughout the process of developing it, and he was super-helpful and always thoughtful, and it really made it possible for us to get here and be the first company to do this, because he was so patient with his time.
Peach adds RBF support
Mike Schmidt: Next item that we highlighted from client and services software changes implementing Bitcoin tech is Peach adding RBF support. So, the Peach Bitcoin mobile application is intended to be used for P2P exchange, so buying and selling bitcoin. They have a variety of, I think, fiat integrations, and I think they use multisig escrow for doing the exchange. And they noted in a tweet, “Bitcoin fees went up and Peach users got some of their transactions stuck in the mempool. You can now bump the fees to your outgoing transaction”. I’m not exactly sure how the setup is. I do believe that there is a multisig escrow, so I guess, Murch, how would that work then if they’re fee bumping and a multisig, they need to do some coordination on the fee bumping transaction?
Mark Erhardt: Well, if they’re doing RBF in a multisig setup, then definitely they would need to get at least a quorum of signers involved to create a replacement transaction. So, I’m not entirely sure how they implemented that, but I do know that that is definitely non-trivial to implement because, well, I looked at it way back when I was at BitGo still, how to do RBF with BitGo, and we didn’t ship it back then, at least. I wonder, have you looked more at Peach in general? Is that sort of the spiritual successor to LocalBitcoins, which recently shut down altogether?
Mike Schmidt: It does seem like it, yeah. I haven’t used it myself, other than seeing mentions of it on Twitter. People seem very supportive of the P2P exchanging, no KYC solution.
Phoenix wallet adds splicing support
Next item from the newsletter is actually something we talked about last week, which is Phoenix wallet adding splicing support. We had t-bast, or t-best, on last week and I suspected that we were going to be covering this item, so we talked with him a bit. He gave a more in-depth explanation of ACINQ’s Phoenix wallet than we’ll get into today, so you should jump back and listen to that segment of the podcast; that’s #259. But this is a mobile Lightning wallet that uses a single, dynamic channel that is rebalanced using splicing and a mechanism similar to the swap-in-potentium technique that we talked about previously. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I just wanted to point out again because it’s just so cool, essentially what they changed their model to is where they previously would have multiple channels between their customers and themselves, now they will have a single channel per customer. And when you want to send funds from your channel onchain, they just splice out a UTXO. They sort of spend the funding output directly into a new funding output to make a new channel, you make a recipient output to the receiver that you wanted to pay, and you therefore have an uninterrupted channel. And vice versa, when you receive, they stage the funds in the swap-in-potentium output and then splice it in when it’s confirmed, so that there’s also no interruption of your channel.
It makes a lot of the UX around having a Lightning channel and, well, just like channel management and the abstract concepts that are involved in that and, why can I not receive the full amount of balance that is outstanding from the other party, and all of those sort of headaches that new users especially have when they use Lightning, they are drastically simplified by this approach. So, I’m very excited to eventually be able to use that for my Phoenix wallet. And they don’t pay me, that was just an endorsement from me personally!
Mike Schmidt: Yes, I guess disclaimer for this section for all eternity is that we aren’t paid to cover or not cover any particular items here. This is just something that I go through based on what I see on particular projects, on some of the recap shows, on my own list of software projects, and of course Twitter.
Mining Development Kit call for feedback
Next item that we covered this week is a call for feedback on the Mining Development Kit (MDK). So the team working on the MDK posted an update, a blog post, on their progress to develop hardware, software, and firmware for Bitcoin mining systems. I believe this is largely driven by Block, and they’re looking for feedback from the community about different use cases, scope, and approach. The intention behind the MDK is to provide developers a bunch of tools to unlock any creativity and innovation in the Bitcoin mining hardware space. So, their initial proposal included a Bitcoin mining hashboard, a custom design controller board designed to work with that hashboard, a suite of open source firmware, software API, and web front end to allow developers to mess with the parameters of the hashboard using an interface, and also a bunch of reference materials and support documentation so folks can easily customize this hashboard.
In one of their blog posts, they mentioned, “We anticipate the MDK being useful for development projects focused on integrating Bitcoin mining into various novel use cases, such as heating solutions, off-grid mining, home mining, or intermittent power applications, as well as optimization of Bitcoin mining hardware for traditional commercial mining operations. With the MDK, we see significant opportunity to increase the accessibility and openness of Bitcoin mining hardware in order to accelerate innovation in the field”. Murch, do you have any familiarity with the MDK idea and any of the progress there?
Mark Erhardt: No, I mostly just rediscovered that through your section here in the newsletter, but it does sound pretty cool to have just this building block that becomes more accessible. And I think we can generally just use more competition in the mining hardware sector.
Binance adds Lightning support
Mike Schmidt: Next item from the newsletter is about Binance adding Lightning support. So Binance posted an announcement for both integration of Lightning for their sending out, which would be withdrawing from the exchange, as well as receiving, which would be a deposit into the exchange, using the LN. And I believe that there is some chatter from team members from the Binance team that mentioned that they were working on Lightning around the time of the fee spike. So, I believe that this is motivated by the recent fee spike on the Bitcoin Network. Murch, thoughts?
Mark Erhardt: Well, it’s always been surprising to me that especially these exchanges, well, at least if they also dabble in smaller amounts, why they wouldn’t have done this years ago. So, it’s good to see more exchanges to roll out this. I think that, of course, Bitfinex has had Lightning support for a long time. I recall that Bitstamp might have also. But generally, especially for companies that should anticipate a large amount of transactions being sent right between each other, having Lightning support would be pretty amazing. So, for example, I would anticipate that people that arbitrage would try to send funds between exchanges and when these exchanges are able to discover that a send is going from one to the other, that they, for example, just facilitate that via Lightning.
Mike Schmidt: Yes, much similar to the value proposition originally from Liquid as well, which was quick exchange of Bitcoin between exchanges. Curious to see how the interexchange LN continues to grow.
Nunchuk adds CPFP support
Mike Schmidt: Last piece of software that we highlighted from the newsletter is Nunchuk adding CPFP support. So, Nunchuk is a mobile wallet that supports multisig wallet setups and hardware signing devices, and they had RBF fee bumping in the first version of their wallet and are now adding CPFP fee bumping as an option as well. And they specifically call it, “The advantage of CPFP over RBF in the use case of the recipient wanting to fee bump an incoming transaction”. And so they have a nice blog post that we linked to that explains some of their rationale and why they did this. Murch, thoughts?
Mark Erhardt: Now we just need package RBF and cluster mempools so that when multiple people are CPFPing stuff, it also gets recognized as contributing to the overall package feerate rather than just competing CPFP.
Mike Schmidt: That wraps up the client and service software update section of the newsletter. We’ll move on to Notable code and documentation changes and I’ll take a moment to call to the audience. If you have a question or comment about anything that we’ve talked about, or really anything Bitcoin tech-related, feel free to request speaker access or comment on this Twitter thread with a question, and we’ll try to get to that at the end of our Spaces here.
Bitcoin Core #27411
Bitcoin Core #27411, preventing a node from advertising its Tor or I2P address to peers on other networks, like plain IPv4 or IPv6. Murch, why would we want to prevent advertising that, and what are the potential concerns? I understand there’s some fingerprinting here potentially, but maybe it’s worth digging a little bit, a level deeper here, to understand why this PR was merged.
Mark Erhardt: Right. So, let’s take another step back here. Bitcoin Core nodes will regularly announce their own IP address to their peers. So, when you have a Bitcoin Core node, in order to ensure that other Bitcoin Core nodes, or generally nodes on the network I should say, hear about your existence, the node will, about every 24 hours I believe, rebroadcast its own IP address as it knows about itself. So, this sort of self-advertisement is a repeated announcement of the node’s IP address.
I think that Martin discovered this issue where if you are on I2P, you can be active on I2P without having an identity for yourself. And while Bitcoin Core was already always using the best fitting representation of itself in the network where it was self-advertising, this could cause that because there was no self-identity on I2P that it instead published its Clearnet identity. So of course, if you’re on I2P and you’re publishing your Clearnet ID and your IP address, then that is sort of a privacy hazard.
So, what this PR does is it shores up the separation of your identity between those networks in the sense that when you self-advertise, you will only ever self-advertise the identity corresponding to that network and it cannot leak over. So on I2P, you would only advertise your I2P identity; on Clearnet, you would only ever self-advertise as your Clearnet identity. Note that of course, if you are forwarding just generally a set of IP addresses that have been advertised to you, and that includes your identity from the other network, you would still forward that as part of your regular package, you will just not do it for the self-advertisement that you regularly do every 24 hours. So, yeah, this is basically a bug fix for a privacy issue.
Mike Schmidt: Excellent explanation. Thank you, Murch, for taking that one.
Core Lightning #6347
Next PR is Core Lightning #6347. And as a reminder, CLN is heavily based on this plugin architecture, where different plugins can do different things to customize how that Lightning node behaves, and this particular PR allows you a plugin to subscribe to all event notifications. I think previously you had to specifically say what types of events your plugin wanted to subscribe to, and now you can subscribe to all using the * wildcard. I noticed that in the opening of this PR, I think it was Rusty that said, ‘‘It is not recommended, but it is useful for plugins which want to provide generic infrastructure for others”. So, I guess there’s certain types of plugins that would benefit from this, but in general, it is not recommended. Murch, any thoughts?
Mark Erhardt: No, not on this specifically, but I just saw that someone asked a question on VLS. So Ken, could you explain to us whether VLS allows any automation in regard to rebalancing channels?
Ken Sedgwick: Oh, that’s a great question. Personally, I use CLBOSS a bunch because that can set up a whole lot of activity. Today, I’m putting the VLS signer in permissive mode when CLBOSS is rebalancing the channels. So, we do not currently have what we need there. That said, it should be possible to, for example, if you’re doing a loop out, I think is the one that you frequently need to do to get liquidity, you should be able to present the onchain transaction to the signer as a proof that it’s okay to make the Lightning payment necessarily to facilitate the loop out. So, we are optimistic that we will be able to support loop out, for example, and other such looping rebalancing.
The other thing is circular routing. So, you route a payment to yourself through several other nodes in order to adjust the balance of all of those. That one’s much easier because basically you’re paying an invoice where you are the receiver of the invoice. And so, it seems very simple to make that safe. Does that answer the question?
Mark Erhardt: I believe so, that sounds pretty good. This was asked by Chad Pleb on Twitter, by the way.
Core Lightning #6035
Mark Erhardt: Thanks for the question, Chad. Next PR from the newsletter is Core Lightning #6035, adding the ability to request a bech32m address for receiving deposits to P2TR output scripts. And this change is optional for requesting a bech32 address for receiving a deposit. And it also does change the default for change to now be sent to a P2TR output by default. Go ahead.
Mark Erhardt: Actually, in this context, I think it’s interesting to point out, if any of you are involved with any Bitcoin businesses that are apprehensive about changing their receive address standard to P2TR already, you can totally change your change addresses to P2TR way earlier than you can change the receive addresses, because the change addresses are only the addresses that you send yourself to. So, you know that you’ll be able to send to them, even if your customers haven’t upgraded yet to send to P2TR. You could, if you have a very high volume wallet, potentially already save costs or, well, at least if the feerates go up way higher later on, the inputs will be cheaper if you’ve stored your funds in P2TR outputs. So, yeah, you can totally consider just upgrading your change addresses first and then later upgrading your receive addresses when you feel confident that users generally have enough support for sending to bech32m.
Mike Schmidt: Next PR here is to the LND repository, LND #7768, implementing a change that allows the ultimate receiver of an HTLC to accept a greater amount than they requested, with a longer time before it expires than they requested. And we’ve covered this a couple of different times in our recap. And one thing that I always get back to, that I think is the best explanation, is in t-bast’s BOLT PR. He explains this well, and I’ll quote him, “It is important to ensure that intermediate nodes and final nodes have similar requirements. Otherwise, a malicious intermediate node could easily probe whether the next node is the final recipient or not. Unfortunately, the requirements for intermediate nodes were more lenient than requirements for final nodes. Intermediate nodes allowed overpaying and increasing the CLTV [CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY] expiry, whereas final nodes required a perfect equality between HTLC values and onion values”.
So due to that concern about probing, there’s been changes, and we note those BOLTs #1032 and #1036 and we covered it in Newsletter #225 as well. Murch, do you have anything to add to that?
Mark Erhardt: Just when I was reading this, one thing that came to mind was obviously you cannot lower either of those two numbers. If you forward too little money, the next hop will not accept the forward because the amount of fees that they would be able to keep, while still fulfilling the obligation encoded in the onion that they unwrap, would leave them less fees than they require, and so they would reject it. Similarly, you cannot send a lower expiry because the forwarding hop requires some sort of delta to have enough time to settle a multi-hop payment when it needs to go onchain. And if the expiry on the inner onion and the one that they are forwarded do not leave enough for their own delta, then they would reject it.
So really, you can only overpay a little bit or leave too much time for the next hop in order to see whether they behave differently than expected. And yeah, if of course the recipient was strict about the things that they requested in the original invoice and now reject an HTLC that is being forwarded to them because they are too generous, then that is the privacy leak here at that point.
Mike Schmidt: Last PR this week is to the libsecp repository. And to set the context here, sometimes compilers attempt to optimize certain pieces of code that was designed to run in a fixed amount of time, and when it does that optimization, it changes that fixed amount of time to potentially run in a variable amount of time. When you have a variable time code that works with private keys and nonces, it may lead to side-channel attacks. We link to a few of those that have potentially occurred in the past. And so, this PR begins automatic testing using development snapshots, using the GCC and Clang compilers, which may help detect some of these optimizations that those compilers are doing, in order to detect those changes that can result in these sorts of side-channel attacks. Murch?
Mark Erhardt: Yeah, I wanted to jump in a little bit there. So, constant time is when you require that an operation on your computer always takes the same amount of time, regardless what inputs are provided. So for example, if you’re implementing a cryptographic operation, and that cryptographic operation is faster if the key value is lower, you might be leaking privacy or giving hints to someone that is observing exactly how much computation you’re doing or how much energy you’re drawing through a cable, by taking less time or less energy for the operation when the key is lower, right? So, especially cryptographic operations implement constant-timeness in order to ensure that whatever data you’re using under the hood, especially the secret data, it always looks indistinguishable to any observers, and that’s what this is about here.
So, yeah, I think we covered it just recently with libsecp, I think it was GCC had an optimization where it did something smarter than expected and optimized away something that was done to enforce constant-timeness. And there was actually also recently an announcement by, I believe it was Intel, that they were going to introduce a runtime flag or something for their chips that allow us to enforce constant-timeness on certain operations or instruction sets. So, there is some progress in this issue in various avenues.
Mike Schmidt: Well, that wraps up this Newsletter #260. Murch, any parting words?
Mark Erhardt: No, all good. Have a nice week.
Mike Schmidt: All right, thank you to Jack and Ken from VLS for joining, Gloria from the Waiting for confirmation series, and Rearden Code from BitGo talking about MuSig. Thank you all for taking the time to join us and explain the work that you’re doing. Have a good week. Cheers.