# Summary 1) Segregated witnesses separates transaction information about what coins were transferred from the information proving those transfers were legitimate.
2) In its current form, segregated witnesses makes validationless mining easier and more profitable than the status quo, particularly as transaction fees increase in relevance. 3) This can be easily fixed by changing the protocol to make having a copy of the previous block's (witness) data a precondition to creating a block. # Background ## Why should a miner publish the blocks they find? Suppose Alice has negligible hashing power. She finds a block. Should she publish that block to the rest of the hashing power? Yes! If she doesn't publish, the rest of the hashing power will build a longer chain than her chain, and she won't be rewarded. Right? Well, can other miners build on top of Alice's block? If she publishes nothing at all, the answer is certainely no - block headers commit to the previous block's hash, so without knowing at least the hash of Alice's block other miners can't build upon it. ## Validationless mining Suppose Bob knows the hash of Alice's new block, as well as the height of it. This is sufficient information for Bob to create a new, valid, block building upon Alice's block. The hash is needed because of the prevhash field in the block header; the height is needed because the coinbase has to contain the block height. (technically he needs to know nTime as well to be 100% sure he's satisfying the median time rule) What Bob is doing is validationless mining: he hasn't validated Alice's block, and is assuming it is valid. If Alice runs a pool her stratum or getblocktemplate interfaces give sufficient information for Bob to figure all this out. Miners today take advantage of this to reduce their orphan rates - the sooner you can start mining on top of the most recently found block the more money you earn. Pools have strong incentives to only publish work that's valid to their hashers, so as long as the target pool doesn't know who you are, you have high assurance that the block hash you're building upon is real. Of course, when this goes wrong it goes very wrong, greatly amplifying the effect of 51% attacks and technical screwups, as seen by the July 4th 2015 chain fork, where a majority of hashing power was building on top of an invalid block. ## Transactions However other than coinbase transactions, validationless mined blocks are nearly always empty: if Bob doesn't know what transactions Alice included in her block, he doesn't know what transaction outputs are still unspent and can't safely include transactions in his block. In short, Bob doesn't know what the current state of the UTXO set is. This helps limit the danger of validationless mining by making it visible to everyone, as well as making it not as profitable due to the inability to collect transaction fees. (among other reasons) # Segregated witnesses and validationless mining With segregated witnesses the information required to update the UTXO set state is now separate from the information required to prove that the new state is valid. We can fully expect miners to take advantage of this to reduce latency and thus improve their profitability. We can expect block relaying with segregated witnesses to separate block propagation into four different parts, from fastest to propagate to slowest: 1) Stratum/getblocktemplate - status quo between semi-trusting miners 2) Block header - bare minimum information needed to build upon a block. Not much trust required as creating an invalid header is expensive. 3) Block w/o witness data - significant bandwidth savings, (~75%) and allows next miner to include transactions as normal. Again, not much trust required as creating an invalid header is expensive. 4) Witness data - proves that block is actually valid. The problem is #4 is optional: the only case where not having the witness data matters is when an invalid block is created, which is a very rare event. It's also difficult to test in production, as creating invalid blocks is extremely expensive - it would be surprising if an anyone had ever deliberately created an invalid block meeting the current difficulty target in the past year or two. # The nightmare scenario - never tested code ~never works The obvious implementation of highly optimised mining with segregated witnesses will have the main codepath that creates blocks do no validation at all; if the current ecosystem's validationless mining is any indication the actual code doing this will be proprietary codebases written on a budget with little testing, and lots of bugs. At best the codepaths that actually do validation will be rarely, if ever, tested in production. Secondly, as the UTXO set can be updated without the witness data, it would not be surprising if at least some of the wallet ecosystem skips witness validation. With that in mind, what happens in the event of a validation failure? Mining could continue indefinitely on an invalid chain, producing blocks that in isolation appear totally normal and contain apparently valid transactions. It's easy to imagine this happening from an engineering perspective: a simple implementation would be to have the main mining codepaths be a separate, not-validating, process that receives "invalid block" notifications from another process containing a validating implementation of the Bitcoin protocol. If a bug/exploit is found that causes that validation process to crash, what's to guarantee that the block creation codepath will even notice? Quite likely it will continue creating blocks unabated - the invalid block notification codepath is never tested in production. # Easy solution: previous witness data proof To return segregated witnesses to the status quo, we need to at least make having the previous block's witness data be a precondition to creating a block with transactions; ideally we would make it a precondition to making any valid block, although going this far may receive pushback from miners who are currently using validationless mining techniques. We can require blocks to include the previous witness data, hashed with a different hash function that the commitment in the previous block. With witness data W, and H(W) the witness commitment in the previous block, require the current block to include H'(W) A possible concrete implementation would be to compute the hash of the current block's coinbase txouts (unique per miner for obvious reasons!) as well as the previous block hash. Then recompute the previous block's witness data merkle tree (and optionally, transaction data merkle tree) with that hash prepended to the serialized data for each witness. This calculation can only be done by a trusted entity with access to all witness data from the previous block, forcing miners to both publish their witness data promptly, as well as at least obtain witness data from other miners. (if not actually validate it!) This returns us to at least the status quo, if not slightly better. This solution is a soft-fork. As the calculation is only done once per block, it is *not* a change to the PoW algorithm and is thus compatible with existing miner/hasher setups. (modulo validationless mining optimizations, which are no longer possible) # Proofs of non-inflation vs. proofs of non-theft Currently full nodes can easily verify both that inflation of the currency has no occured, as well as verify that theft of coins through invalid scriptSigs has not occured. (though as an optimisation currently scriptSig's prior to checkpoints are not validated by default in Bitcoin Core) It has been proposed that with segregated witnesses old witness data will be discarded entirely. This makes it impossible to know if miner theft has occured in the past; as a practical matter due to the significant amount of lost coins this also makes it possible to inflate the currency. How to fix this problem is an open question; it may be sufficient have the previous witness data proof solution above require proving posession of not just the n-1 block, but a (random?) selection of other previous blocks as well. Adding this to the protocol could be done as soft-fork with respect to the above previous witness data proof. -- 'peter'[:-1]@petertodd.org 000000000000000002c7cfc8455339de54444ac9798cad32cbfbcda77e0f2b09
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