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Last active Apr 11, 2022
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Hi dlc-dev and bitcoin-dev,

tl;dr OP_CTV simplifies and improves performance of DLCs by a factor of a lot.


Dryja introduced the idea of Discreet Log Contracts (DLC) in his breakthrough work1. Since then (DLC) has become an umbrella term for Bitcoin protocols that map oracle secret revelation to an on-chain transaction which apportions coins accordingly. The key property that each protocol iteration preserves is that the oracle is an oblivious trusted party -- they do not interact with the blockchain and it is not possible to tell which event or which oracle the two parties were betting on with blockchain data alone.

OP_CHECKTEMPLATEVERIFY (CTV) a.k.a. BIP119 2 is a proposed upgrade to Bitcoin which is being actively discussed. CTV makes possible an optimized protocol which improves DLC performance so dramatically that it solves several user experience concerns and engineering difficulties. To me this is the most compelling and practical application of CTV so I thought it's about time to share it!

Present state of DLC specification

The DLC specifications3 use adaptor signatures to condition each possible payout. The protocol works roughly like this:

  1. Oracle(s) announce events along with a nonce R for each event. Let's say each event has N outcomes.
  2. Two users who wish to make a bet take the R from the oracle announcement and construct a set of attestation points S and their corresponding payouts.
  3. Each attestation point for each of the N outcomes is calculated like S_i = R + H(R || X || outcome_i) * X where X is the oracle's static key.
  4. The users combine the attestation points into contract execution transaction (CET) points e.g CET_i = S1_i + S2_i + S3_i. Here CET_i is the conjunction (AND) between the event outcomes represented by S1_i, S2_i, S3_i.
  5. The oracle(s) reveals the attestation s_i where s_i * G = S_i if the ith is the outcome transpired.
  6. Either of the parties takes the s_is from each of the attestations and combines them e.g. cet_i = s1_i + s2_i + s3_i and uses cet_i to decrypt the CET adaptor signature encrypted by CET_i and broadcast the transaction.

Performance issues with DLCs

In the current DLC protocol both parties compute:

  • E * N attestation points where E is the number of events you are combining and N is the number of outcomes per event. (1 mul)
  • C >= E * N CET adaptor signatures and verify them. (2 mul -- or with MuSig2, 3 muls).

Note that the number of CETs can be much greater than the number of attestation points. For example, if an oracle decomposes the price of BTC/USD into 20 binary digits e.g. 0..(2^20 -1), you could have E=20,N=2,C=2^20. So the biggest concern for worst case performance is the adaptor signatures multiplications.

If we take a multiplication as roughly 50 microseconds computing MuSig2 adaptor signatures for ~6000 CETs would take around a second of cpu time (each) or so. 6000 CETs is by no means sufficient if you wanted, for example, to bet on the BTC/USD price per dollar. Note there may be various ways of precomputing multiplications and using fast linear combination algorithms and so on but I hope this provides an idea of the scale of the issue. Then consider that you may want to use a threshold of oracles which will combinatorially increase this number (e.g. 3/5 threshold would 10x this).

You also would end up sending data on the order of megabytes to each other.

committing to each CET in a tapleaf with CHECKTEMPLATEVERIFY

What can we do with OP_CTV + Taproot to improve this?

Instead of creating an adaptor signature for every CET, commit to the CET with OP_CTV in a tapleaf:


When the oracle(s) reveals their attestations either party can combine them to get the secret key corresponding to CET_i and spend the coins to the CET (whose CTV hash is CET-hash) which distributes the funds according to the contract.

This replaces all the multiplications needed for the adaptor signature with a few hashes! You will still need to compute the CET_i which will involve a point normalisation but it still brings the computational cost per CET down from hundreds of microseconds to around 5 (per party). There will be a bit more data on chain (and a small privacy loss) in the uncooperative case but even with tens of thousands of outcomes it's only going to roughly double the virtual size of the transaction. Keep in mind the uncooperative case should hopefully be rare too esp when we are doing this in channels.

The amount of data that the parties need to exchange is also reduced to a small constant size.

getting rid of combinatorial complexity of oracle thresholds

Now that we're using script it's very easy to do a threshold along with the script. e.g. a 2/3:

<attestation-point1> CHECKSIG
<attestation-point2> CHECKSIGADD
<attestation-point3> CHECKSIGADD

The improvement here is that the amount of computation and communication does not increase with the number of oracles in the threshold. The size of the witness only increases linearly in the number of oracles and only in the un-cooperative case. This also solves a security issues with the current spec because attestation points from different oracles are no longer summed (which is a problem 4).

Getting rid of the attestation point multiplication

It's possible to get rid of the EC multiplications from the attestation point computation too. This is optimistically a 10x improvement but in the most important cases it's a negligible improvement since computing the E*N attestion points is a small fraction of the total CET point computation.

Recall the original Schnorr style DLC attestation point was computed like:

S_i = R + H(R || X || outcome_i) * X

So for each outcome we have to hash it and multiply the result by the oracle's public key. I don't think the hashing is necessary6.

First note that an oracle attestation scheme is not a signature scheme:

  1. The users need to be able to compute the attestation point beforehand (signature schemes do not require the verifier to be able to compute anything before hand).
  2. There is a very different concept of a forgery -- you don't care about someone being able to forge signatures under the oracle's key in general you only care about them being able to forge an attestation corresponding to some previously announced event i.e. you only care about forgeries of things that people are actually betting on.

Long story6 short we can get rid of the hash and do the following instead for the outcome_i:

S_i = R + i * X

For each outcome_i the oracle will reveal a different linear combination of R and X. However, if we still want to preserve the ability to add attestation points together to create an AND like condition for points attestations from the same oracle so we have to do:

S_i = i * R + X

which when we combine two attestations from the same oracle becomes:

S1_i + S2_j = (i*R1 + X) + (j*R2 + X) = i*R1 + j*R2 + 2*X

As you can see the addition preserves the linear structure. If you were to do the original suggestion it would be:

S1_i + S2_j = (i*X + R1 + (j*X + R2) = (i + j)*X + R1 + R2)

Which loses the structure and creates collisions e.g. S1_1 + S2_2 = S1_2 + S2_1 . Note that this collision problem also exist in the current spec and original paper[4,5] but requires a solving a hashing k-sum that should be hard to do in practice.

So, when we compute for i in 1..N, S_1 = R + X and each subsequent is S_i = S_{i-1} + R and so we only need to do one addition for each attestation point.

In summary

In the worst case this improves DLC performance by ~30x compared to using MuSig2 adaptor signatures because it gets rid of all multiplications for both parties. In the case of a 3/5 threshold performance would be improved by another 10x. Depending on the kind of event, removing the attestation point multiplication will also help. Communication complexity also becomes constant.

In other words, from the user's perspective everything can happen pretty much instantly even on more resource constrained devices and bad internet connections.

The downside is the protocol is that in the un-cooperative case, the size of the witness is bigger and the transaction is distinguishable from other protocols (it's not longer scriptless).


Special thanks to:

  • Ruben Somsen who first made the observation that OP_CTV could be applied to DLCs in the way presented here.
  • Thibaut Le Guilly who did benchmarking of getting rid of the attestation point multiplication.
  • Nadav Cohen who pointed out that doing R + i*X was broken.
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