Gregory Maxwell recently pointed out to me in private conservation that
there potentially existed a fundemental disagreement between him and I
on our philosophical approaches to blockchains, in that he prioritised
the notion of the blockchain as an anti-replay oracle, and I prioritised
it as a publication layer. Here I'll talk about the differences and
simularities between those two approaches.

What's Anti-Replay?

We have some action - perhaps spending a txout - and we only want it to
be possible for that action to happen once; we don't want it to be
possible for that action to be replayed again. This is inherently not
possible with cryptography alone as cryptography is just math and any
mathematical calculation can be repeated with different parameters.

What's an Anti-Replay Oracle?

We need the following primitives operating on message m, pubkey p, and a
valid signature sig1 for m, p:

    AntiReplaySign(m, p, sig1) -> sig2
    VerifyAntiReplaySig(m, p, sig2) -> True or False

Additionally once AntiReplaySign() has been used once for a given pubkey
it is impossible to re-run the primitive on a different message m'. This
is of course impossible to implement with math alone, but we can
implement it with a trusted third party. For instance Carol can perform
the AntiReplaySign operation and make the promise that she will only
ever perform it once for any given (m,p) tuple.

Maxwell points out in CoinWitness¹ that the anti-replay oracle is
sufficient to implement a digital currency. So long as the trusted
oracle, or majority of a federation of trusted oracles, is honest coins
cannot be double-spent and can be securely passed from owner-to-owner
with an ever-growing transcriptⁱ proving each valid spend.

i) The transcript is needed in this model only because the oracles do
   nothing more than promise to never sign a message twice; it can be
   removed if the oracles additionally validate transactions in some

The Blockchain as an Anti-Replay Oracle

In Bitcoin miners act as a trusted anti-replay oracle. If they follow
the Bitcoin protocol faithfully for any given txout one and only one
valid scriptSig will ever be accepted into the blockchain. Thus the
spend of a txout is a valid anti-replay-protected signature, and the
validity of that signature can be verified by SPV clients with a merkle
path to the block headers.

Using proof-of-publication to prove non-replay

Given a secure proof-of-publication² system we can prove non-replay. We
define a valid signature as both being published on that system, as well
as there existing no other valid signature. (proof-of-non-publication)
An attempt to fraudulently create a second signature will either fail
the first test - not being published at all - or will fail the second
test - not being able to prove no other valid signature exists.

Thus we see that proof-of-publication can be used to securely audit the
honesty of an anti-replay oracle, resulting in secure anti-replay
protection without the requirement of trust.

However the converse is not possible: anti-replay cannot be used to
implement proof-of-publication. Knowing that no conflicting message
exists says nothing about who be in posession of that message, or
indeed, any message at all. Thus anti-replay is not sufficient to
implement other uses of proof-of-publication such as decentralized

Anti-replay in place of proof-of-publication to secure audit logs

The author's proof-of-concept Uniquebits⁴ allows Alice to prove to Bob
that some set of records R_i that she has given to Bob is the same set
of records she has given to everyone else - that is no R_i' exists.
Secondly Alice can update the records producing R_{i+1}, and Bob can
determine if such an update exists.

Currently Uniquebits uses proof-of-publication via the Bitcoin
blockchain directly for both guarantees. It could however make use of
the anti-replay function provided by Bitcoin to satisfy the first
requirement with the following protocol:

0) Alice publishes record set R_i such that H(T_i + n_i) is committed in
   R_i, where T_0 is a txout she controls, and n_i is a nonce.

1) Alice creates T_{i+1}, another txout that she controls, and nonce

2) Alice creates R_{i+1} which commits to H(T_{i+1} + n_i)

3) Finally to publish R_{i+1} she spends T_i in a transaction X_{i+1}
   that commits to R_{i+1} (e.g. in an OP_RETURN output, or with

This process can be repeated again indefinitely, starting at step #1.
When Alice wants to prove to Bob - who has R_i - she simply gives him a
SPV proof that transaction X_{i+1} exists in the blockchain along with
n_i. This proves that T_i was spent, which can only happen once, and
that it committed to R_{i+1}. As the output can only be spent once it is
not possible to create a valid-looking R_{i+1}'

However to prove to Bob that R_{i+1} is the most recent set of records
Alice still needs to use proof-of-publication, by showing him txout
T_{i+1} is unspent.

Case study: Fidelity-bonded Ledgers/Federated Sidechains

The author's Fidelity-Bonded Ledgers⁶ and the more general idea of
Federated Sidechains⁷ both describe the notion of a trusted third party,
possibly implemented as a federated majority set, who guarantees the
correct maintenance of some financial ledger according to some set of
rules. Coins can be moved to/from the ledger by payment to a specific
set of scriptPubKey's. Federated sidechains proposes that the
scriptPubKey simply be a n-of-m multisig; fidelity-bonded ledgers
proposes new opcodes that allow redemption via proof-of-fraud.

In any case someone relying on a transaction within the ledger itself
still needs to be able to audit that their view of the ledger is the
same view everyone else sees; in short that there do not exist
double-spends on the ledger. The author's fidelity-bonded ledgers paper
proposed that the ledger be made available over a Tor-accessible website
to prevent selective censorship. The federated sidechains proposal is
mute on this issue.

As the state of the ledger is a specific instance of the more general
set of records problem that Uniquebits solves as can use the same
principles for fidelity-bonded ledgers/federated sidechains. The third
party periodically publishes the ledger state to the Bitcoin blockchain
allowing anyone to detect if their copy of the ledger is incomplete; if
not there may be double-spends in it. Finally proof of such
double-spends can trigger the destruction of a fidelity-bond⁸ and/or
return funds to their rightful owners. (with appropriate opcodes⁷)

Censorship of the ledger state publications is an issue, however in the
case of financial ledgers with pegged funds we can use the pegged funds
themselves in the publication. Censoring those publications by
preventing the designated txouts from being spent then becomes
equivalent to blacklisting funds. This requires a majority of hashing
power supporting the blacklist, and is a highly politically charged
issue⁹ in the Bitcoin community.


1) Really Really ultimate blockchain compression: CoinWitness,
   Gregory Maxwell, Aug 19th 2013, Accessed 2014-12-20,

2) Setting the record straight on Proof-of-Publication,
   Peter Todd, Dec 12th 2014,

3) Decentralized digital asset exchange with honest pricing and market depth,
   Peter Todd, Feb 9th 2014,

4) Uniquebits, Peter Todd, Accessed 2014-12-20,

5) Homomorphic Payment Addresses and the Pay-to-Contract Protocol,
   Ilja Gerhardt and Timo Hanke, Dec 13th 2012,

6) Fidelity-bonded ledgers, Peter Todd, Feb 25th 2013,

7) Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,
   Blockstream, Oct 22nd 2014,
   SHA256: 680c71aef9ed578720e25c58fd50de5cdbee755c3800e7601dad9a745ca65cf3,

8) Fidelity-bonded banks: decentralized, auditable, private, off-chain payments,
   Peter Todd, Feb 23rd 2014,

9) WARNING: Bitcoin Address Blacklists have been forced into the Gentoo Linux 
bitcoind distribution by Luke-jr against the will of other core devs. Gentoo 
maintainers are clueless and not reversing the change.  Boycott Gentoo now.,
   historian1111, Oct 10th 2014, Accessed 2014-12-20,


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