Tech 14 August 2018Erik Gibbs
Why canonical transaction ordering for Bitcoin BCH needs more research
Joannes Vermorel, along with Amaury Séchet, Shammah Chancellor and Tomas van der Wansem, recently published (in pdf) their take on switching to a canonical transaction ordering rule (CTOR) for the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain. The idea is to have transactions sorted by their block identifiers, resulting in the complete elimination of scalability difficulties that will allow the blockchain to process larger blocks. The concept has caused a lot of debate in the Bitcoin BCH community, and one Reddit user has now published (in pdf) a well-thought-out piece on why CTOR isn’t yet ready to be the best solution.
To provide a little background, the developers proposed “to replace the topological transaction ordering rule of Bitcoin by the canonical transaction ordering rule, where transactions are expected to be sorted against their transaction identifiers within a block. This change eliminates an entire class of scalability challenges for Bitcoin in order to process very large blocks. This change also delivers two compelling use cases. First, it allows to produce compact proofs of transaction inclusion/exclusion, making chainless apps more capable. Second, it gives a newer degree of control to [Bitcoin Cash] participants to localize their transaction within blocks.”
They further argue that the CTOR model allows for more efficient block emission and propagation, a simpler software implementation, improved transaction proofs and a reduction in potential attack vectors.
The Reddit author, “awemany,” breaks down the various reasons submitted in support of CTOR, showing how all of them are basically fluff that do not do much to actually improve the network and could, ultimately, be a step backwards. He asserts that CTOR ignores the main reasons why blocks are ordered the way they are, and that the solutions proposed by the CTOR developers don’t address the problems that they intend to address.
Awemany points out, “[Transactions] are clearly NOT ordered like this because of an accident, they are ordered like this because it is the natural order. It is the order by which transactions can be generated…” He further points out that the authors dropped the ball on understanding the current topological transaction ordering rule (TTOR), saying, “The successful propagation by natural order comes along with a successful validation in natural order by the network. When transactions go into the Mempool, they can be validated for all the required, transaction-specific rule adherence at that point in time already.”
The backlash over the switch to CTOR, scheduled to take place in BCH’s November upgrade, has been quite substantial, with two definite camps showing their support or opposition to the change. Put simply, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” seems very appropriate in this case. The current TTOR structure doesn’t appear to have any inherent scaling flaws, as argued by the CTOR developers, and the intended transition to TTOR could ultimately prove to be detrimental to BCH blockchain development.
Because there is still a lack of consensus on whether or not CTOR is a viable solution, it is obvious that more research and testing needs to be done. All BCH developers should use their expertise—at all times—to COLLECTIVELY ensure that the network is being developed to continue the evolutionary cycle of what cryptocurrency was originally designed to be.
For its part, CoinGeek will not support the proposed CTOR, although it is “committed to investigating the removal of topological ordering as a potential barrier to scaling but this requires more detailed examination.”
CoinGeek founder Calvin Ayre, an early and vocal advocate of Bitcoin BCH, has stressed the need for preserving the battle-tested protocol, saying: “In the longer term, CoinGeek will continue to support only consensus changes that restore the original Bitcoin protocol, and those that may be demonstrated as absolutely necessary to meeting the goal of massive on-chain scaling to terabyte+ blocks.”
Of course, we at CoinGeek are always open to discourse. In November, the CoinGeek Week, taking place in London on Nov. 28-30, will gather BCH developers and industry movers together to discuss the most pressing issues, opportunities, and risks facing the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem. If you are interested in taking part in that discourse, you are absolutely welcome to join the community.
Looking to help the growth of merchant adoption of Bitcoin Cash? Join the bComm Association, an industry group that intends to be the focal point for miners, merchants, exchanges, developers and members of the BCH community.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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