crds

CRD: blockchain for fast programmable transactions from untrusted code

tl;dr

npm i -g crds
crds host=127.0.0.1 port=9999 dataDirectory=~/.crds

CRD("credits") is a blockchain currency for decentralized, permissionless, realtime, programmatic value exchange. Supports:

  • Mining
  • Custom token minting(permissioned)
  • Charges(permissionless)
  • Chargebacks(timeboxed)

Implemented in pure Javascript.

Motivation

You want a payments API in an untrustedexecution environment (thid-party code). You want apps to define their own notion of value, identity, and ownership. But you also want to exchange value across apps. You want all of this to be done at the speed of user interaction, as opposed to the speed of a bank transfer. You want this without trusting any authority (the "code is law" approach).

That's what CRDdoes.

Overview

CRDis a blockchain with similar structure to bitcoin. It uses the same algorithms (SHA-256, secp256k1), the same mining concept (proof of work hashing to incentivize reeplication), the same conflict resolution (block height), and the same client/server model (P2P nodes).

The main architectureal difference is in the consensus rules and parameters, which are optimized for realtime transactions in untrusted execution environments:

  • There are transaction messages that allow anyone to invoke arbitrary charges(and arbitrarily long charge custody chains). This seems crazy, but charges can be charged backby the address being charged for a brief block range. This undoes the whole charge custody chain. If not charged back, charges settle automatically. Addresses can be lockedat the owner's request for assurance that balance can't leak while you're not looking.
  • Anyone can mint their own currency -- the chain supports multiple independent currencies and P2P exchange between them. Minting a currency means you claim a name, and you get a token representing your exclusive ability to mint currency with that name. These concepts are first-class citizens and enforced by the blockchain consensus rules.
  • Messages are plain JSON. The API is pure HTTP. The code is pure Javascript. If you like web dev, you'll like this. If you don't like web dev, this arrangement is guaranteed to interface with any framework you like.
  • The data store is a simple JSON database that indexes balances and data needed to verify transaction and block integrity. There is no concept of UTXO's (unspent transaction outputs) or scripts. This is simpler to implement, simpler to reason about, and minimizes necessary data storage to only the things the code needs to tell if someone isn't playing by the rules.
  • Mining/block parameters are adjusted to be much faster and have much higher caps than e.g. Bitcoin, allowing use in soft-realtime applications such as games.
  • All of this is designed to be programmable from a lightweight Javasript environment, such as a web browser. There are no wallets or indexes, so there's no blobs to download. There is no binary parsing. If you can compute a hash, construct JSON, and send HTTP, you can participate in the blockchain.

Technical discussion

Blocks

Blocks are JSON files:

{
  "hash": "000063acda12aa7125073934a847bf00e6cd376e6f459e043289de9219b66c3b",
  "prevHash": "000064c989a29312ac0e8bfe88c9e1e2783cc4abdb0a44c7aa8cbfafe81842ed",
  "height": 2,
  "difficulty": 100000,
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "timestamp": 1497528374123,
  "messages": [
    {
      "payload": "{\"type\":\"coinbase\",\"asset\":\"CRD\",\"quantity\":1,\"address\":\"G4ExZ6nYBPnu7Sr1c8kMgbzz3VS9DbGi6cNeghEirbHj\",\"startHeight\":2,\"timestamp\":1497528374123}",
      "signature": "MEUCIQDIwYpShdO6SFxNvdZppECKzPhdbBVuIT2PO/NpsEsAlgIgbmSJb3Am+HnC5JIll/MJDbBPQecZA06QuaPtYCgCNH0="
    }
  ],
  "nonce": 749
}

Hashes

Hashes are SHA-256and cover all keys. The nonce is an arbitrary JSON number that lets you try for a hash under 0xffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff / difficulty. A block with such a hash, a valid previous hash, and all messages valid, is itself accepted as valid and added to the chain.

Database

To get a useful view of the blockchain such as address balances, we simply walk the blocks and deterministically build up an index database. This database is also JSON:

{
  "balances": {
    "G4ExZ6nYBPnu7Sr1c8kMgbzz3VS9DbGi6cNeghEirbHj": {
      "CRD": 3655.8,
      "ZEOCOIN:mint": 1,
      "ZEOCOIN": 99
    },
    "GJfJvo6ZbDXV31g5QuLSKF3NTWQLc36VVNXJBcyhRehY": {
      "CRD": 19.2,
      "ZEOCOIN": 1
    }
  },
  "charges": [
    {
      "payload": "{\"type\":\"charge\",\"srcAddress\":\"GJfJvo6ZbDXV31g5QuLSKF3NTWQLc36VVNXJBcyhRehY\",\"dstAddress\":\"G4ExZ6nYBPnu7Sr1c8kMgbzz3VS9DbGi6cNeghEirbHj\",\"srcAsset\":\"CRD\",\"srcQuantity\":1,\"dstAsset\":\"ZEOCOIN\",\"dstQuantity\":1,\"startHeight\":1148,\"timestamp\":1497553212090}",
      "signature": "MEUCIQDcIpySoqa91+w2DkVH6JUHOvrGNmL5+G0jt0yqUpbHpgIgcqGxWXGnKo9nxkJvveKh3g4rR+hkEJTDEnvLSNZpHQs="
    }
  ],
  "messageRevocations": [
    [
      "MEUCIQCdU8WzRlCiZ7PQ00zAIyAdeBE+kNLEn/nCiS0gHwM5ZQIgYhs5f4I/ofa7GN5t+H/fCZNGFW+F2x9y1w78vvwE26Q="
    ],
    [
      "MEQCIBAYtyW62JRLdz+dsr4FUX3c6czQVqyeITgofPbBmfZLAiBnAJw7qY5p4MLQ5sFGOQbUEHMwU2IPoA3CbTnzkXsfag=="
    ]
  ],
  "minters": {
    "CRD": null,
    "ZEOCOIN": "G4ExZ6nYBPnu7Sr1c8kMgbzz3VS9DbGi6cNeghEirbHj"
  }
}

The database is immutable and proceeds in lockstep with blocks -- that is, when a new block comes in we chunch the numbers and tick the database to the next state. The database holds every piece of metadata we need to check integrity of the next block -- such as the balance of every address, the confirmed message signatures that still have a valid TTL (to prevent replays), and the unsettled charges that can be charged back by the payer.

Mempool

There is a memory pool ("mempool") which holds messages that are valid, but yet not confirmed by the network.

The mempool is used as the data source for messages to include into blocks when mining, but it also serves to present a realtime view of the network to clients, without any confirmation delay. The tradeoff is that any message in the mempool has a chance of not being mined by the network and superceded by an incompatible message. Therefore balances and views are soft by default -- validating them requires looking at the confirmed blocks.

Every message has a TTL (time to live) encoded as a block height and the message is only valid if mined by a block in that range. This allows the mempool to be automatically cleared of messages that were not attractive enough to be picked up by the network.

Mining

Successfully mining a block involves computing a SHA-256hash of a block that is numerically less than some value. That value is driven by the consensus rules. The block contains an arbitrary JSON nonce so that mining can be retried until success.

Blocks include a claim of difficulty and timestamp. Both are checked and factored into the hash. The required hash target for each block is computed from the average difficulty and timestamp range of the previous few blocks to maintain a constant rate of block creation. Timestamp accuracy is enforced by ensuring a block timestamp must be greater than the median timestamp of the previous few blocks.

A CPU mining facility is provided.

Client/server peering

Everything happens over plain HTTP, with JSON requests/responses. There is no request structure or batching (no JSON-RPC or such), just plain JSON. There's a websocket API for push notifications, which is a useful performance feature for mining and realtime network views (eliminates the need to poll). There is no encryption, but any part can trivially run over HTTP/2 TLS if desired.

Like most blockchains, the architecture is a client/server model, where servers are peering nodes on the network, and clients submit queries and requests to servers (nodes) to interact with the blockchain. There are no privileged peers; each peer simply follows the rules of the network and invalid blocks/messages are ignored.

Replication happens over the same client HTTP protocol. Messages and blocks are replicated, but each peer maintains their own database. Replicating the database would require trusting the source and there is no trust infrastructure for this.

Incentives

There is a (relatively large) block size limit designed to disincentivize abusing the blockchain for arbitrary data storage. The problem therefore reduces to an incentive scheme.

Messages are free to submit to miners (no "transaction fee"). However, each message has a hash, and this hash has a difficulty associated with it (number of leading zeroes). When mining a block, the target difficulty required for the block is reduced by the difficulty of the hash each included message. The amount of difficulty reduction is designed to be precisely the difficulty of mining the hash of the message.

Therefore, although messages are "free" to submit to the network, miners are incentivized to include into blocks the messages with the greatest proof of work attached (because this work counts towards reducing the target difficulty they must achieve). Prioritization of messages in the blockchain is reduced to computation work on the sender's part.

Spamming the network with useless messages (either by miners or third parties) is unprofitable: spam counts towards mining progress of the miner, not the spammer. Therefore a miner is incentivised to simply mine instead of spamming, and third parties waste resources by spamming -- resources that could be profitably spent mining. The hash functions for messages and blocks are the same for this reason.

Notes

Note there is no concept of transaction outputs or scripts. The tradeoff is users can't invent their own signing scheme without a consensual software upgrade/fork, but we save memory and disk space and gain performance and simplicity. Consistency guarantees are the same as other blockchains, includiong bitcoin.

Also note the multiple currencies and minters/minting tokens. Each additional currency has a name (such as ZEOCOIN), and a corresponding :minttoken (such as ZEOCOIN:mint). This grants permission for posting minttransactions to create more tokens of a currency. Anyone can register a new currency provided the name isn't taken, which grants the currency's initial :minttoken. The :minttoken itself can be transferred to grant mint authority over the currency. All of this happens on the blockchain and is auditable by hand.

A short history of database snapshots (literally just old copies of the database files) is kept to allow for easy backtracking to a previous state if we detect a blockchain fork and need to reconstruct the new state. We never try to "undo" the database however -- it only goes forward in time, which keeps code simple to reason about. If we don't have enough history to go back to (i.e. we're seriously desynchronized from the true blockchain), the price we pay is reindexing the blockchain from scratch. No biggie.

One more interesting piece is charges and chargebacks. Charges are a special kind of send transaction that doesn't need any signature. Which sounds crazy, but, charges are "unsettled" for a mandatory grace period during which the payer (who has the key to their address) can sign a chargeback transaction to abort the charge. This allows for frictionless, permissionless, and trustless payments from untrusted code, since damage can be trivially undone (even automatically) by the affected party.

Charges and chargebacks are transitive. That is, if A charges B, then C charges A, both charges will go through frictionlessly in realtime. However, a chargeback from B will undo bothcharges if it would make them invalid. The database tracks all the state required to implement this.

HomePage

https://github.com/modulesio/hasher#readme

Repository

https+https://github.com/modulesio/crd


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