Home < SF Bitcoin Meetup < BIP Taproot and BIP Tapscript

BIP Taproot and BIP Tapscript

Speakers: Pieter Wuille

Date: December 16, 2019

Transcript By: Bryan Bishop

Tags: Taproot, Schnorr

Category: Meetup

slides: https://prezi.com/view/AlXd19INd3isgt3SvW8g/



bip-taproot: https://github.com/sipa/bips/blob/bip-schnorr/bip-taproot.mediawiki

bip-tapscript: https://github.com/sipa/bips/blob/bip-schnorr/bip-tapscript.mediawiki

bip-schnorr: https://github.com/sipa/bips/blob/bip-schnorr/bip-schnorr.mediawiki

Please try to find seats. Today we have a special treat. We have Pieter here, who is well known as a contributor to Bitcoin Core, stackexchange, the mailing list, and he has been around forever. He’s the author of multiple BIPs. Today he is going to talk about taproot and tapscript which is basically what the whole Schnorr movement thing became. He’s probably just giving us an update and all the small details and everything else as well. We’d like to thank our sponsors: River Financial, Square Crypto and Digital Garage for making this possible.


Thank you, Mark. My name is Pieter Wuille. I do bitcoin stuff. I work at Blockstream. Today I am going to give an update on the status of really three BIPs that a number of us have been working on for a while, at least 1.5 years. These BIPs are coauthored together with Anthony Towns, Jonas Nick, Tim Ruffing and many other people.

Over the past few weeks, Bitcoin Optech has organized structured taproot review sessions (news) (and workshops and workshop transcript and here) which has brought in attention and lots of comments from lots of people which have been very useful.

Of course, the original idea of taproot is due to Greg Maxwell who came up with it a year or two ago. Thanks to him as well. And all the other people have been involved in this, too.

I always make my slides at the very last minute. These people have not seen my slides. If there’s anything wrong on them, that’s on me.


Okay, so what will this talk be about? I wanted to talk about the actual BIPs and the actual changes that we’re proposing to make to bitcoin to bring taproot, Schnorr signatures, and merkle trees, and a whole bunch of other things. I am mostly not going to talk about taproot as an abstract concept. I previously gave a talk about taproot here I think 1.5 years ago in July 2018. So if you want to know more about the history or the reasoning why we want this sort of thing, then please go have a look at that talk. Here, I am going to talk about a lot of the other things that were brought in that we realized we had to change along the way or that we could and should. I am going to try to justify those things.

I think we’re nearing the end of– we’re nearing the point where these BIPs are getting ready to be an actual proposal for bitcoin. But still feel free, if you have comments, then you’re more than welcome to post them on my github repository, on the mailing list, on IRC, or here in person to make them and I’m happy to answer any questions.

So during this talk, I am really going to go over step-by-step a whole bunch of small and less small details that were introduced. Feel free to raise your hand at any time if you have questions. As I said, I am not going to talk so much about taproot as a concept, but this might mean that the justification or rationale for things is not clear, so feel free to ask. Okay.

Design goals

Why do we want something like taproot? The reason is that we have realized it is possible to improve the privacy, efficiency and flexibility of the bitcoin script system, and doing so without changing the security assumptions.

Primarily what we’re focusing on in terms of privacy is something I’m calling “policy privacy”. There are many types of information that we leak on the network when we’re making transactions. Some of them on-chain, and some of them just during, like by revealing things on the p2p network. But this is only addressing one of them; namely the fact that when you create a script on-chain, you create an output that commits to a script and you spend it, you reveal what that script is to the network. That means that if tomorrow some wallet provider comes up with a fancy 4-of-7 multisig checklocktimeverify script and you start using it, then any transaction you’re doing when someone on the network sees a 4-of-7 multisig with checklocktimeverify then they can probably guess with high certainty that you are using that particular wallet provider.

We’re trying to address policy privacy, which is about not leaking the policy of the spendability conditions of your outputs to the network. The ideal that we’re trying to achieve here would be possible in theory with a recursive zero-knowledge proof construction where you show something like “I know the hash of a program and I know the inputs to that program that will satisfy it” but without revealing what either of those inputs or program are. There are good reasons not to do that. One is, all the generic zero-knowledge proof constructions that we could use are either very large, computationally expensive, rely on new security assumptions, need a trusted setup, all kinds of stuff that we’d really rather avoid at this stage. But things are progressing fast in that domain and I hope that at some point we’ll actually be able to do something moon mathy that completely hides the policy.

I’d like to, when working on proposals for bitcoin, I like to focus on things that are likely to be accepted. That’s another reason to focus on things that don’t change the security assumptions. Right now, bitcoin at the very least requires ECDSA whose security requires the discrete logarithm over the secp256k1 group. It makes a whole bunch of assumptions about hash functions, both standard and non-standard ones. We’re not changing those assumptions at all. In fact, we’re reducing them. Schnorr signatures, which I’ll show that we use, are actually relying on fewer assumptions.

I think it’s important to point out that it’s not even– a question you could ask is, well, but it should be possible to say “optionally introduce a feature that people can use that changes the security assumptions”. Probably that is what we want to do at some point eventually, but even— if I don’t trust some new digital signature scheme that offers some new awesome features that we may want to use, and you do, so you use the wallet that uses it, effectively your coins become at risk and if I’m interacting with you… Eventually the whole ecosystem of bitcoin transactions is relying on…. say several million coins are somehow encumbered by security assumptions that I don’t trust. Then I probably won’t have faith in the currency anymore. What I’m trying to get at is that the security assumptions of the system are not something you can just choose and take. It must be something that really the whole ecosystem accepts. For that reason, I’m just focusing on not changing them at all, because that’s obviously the easiest thing to argue for. The result of this is that we end up exploring to the extent possible all the possible things that are possible with these, and we have discovered some pretty neat things along the way.

Over the past few years, a whole bunch of technologies and techniques have been invented that could be used to improve the efficiency, flexibility or privacy of bitcoin Script in some way. There’s merkle trees and MASTs, taproot, graftroot, generalized taproot (also known as groot). Then there’s some ideas about new opcodes, new sighash modes such as SIGHASH_NOINPUT, cross-input aggregation which is actually what started all of this… A problem is that there’s a tradeoff. The tradeoff is, on the one hand we want to have– it turns out that combining more things actually gives you better efficiency and privacy especially when we’re talking about policy privacy, say there’s a dozen possible things that interact and every two months there’s a new soft-fork that introduces some new feature…. clearly, you’re going to be revealing more to the network because you’re using script version 7 or something, and it added this new feature, and you must have had a reason to migrate to script version 7. This makes for an automatic incentive to combine things together. Also, the fact that probably not– people will not want to go through an upgrade changing their wallet logic every couple of months. When you introduce a change like this, you want to make it large enough that people are effectively incentivized to adopt it. On the other hand, putting everything all at once together becomes really complex, becomes hard to explain, and is just from an engineering perspective and a political perspective too, a really hard thing. “Here’s 300 pages of specification of a new thing, take it or leave it” is really not how you want to do things.

The balance we end up with is combining some things by focusing on just one thing, and its dependencies, bugfixes and extensions to it, but let’s not do everything at once. In particular, we avoid things that can be done independently. If we can argue that doing some feature as a new soft-fork independently is just as good as doing it at the same time, then we avoid it. As you’ll see, there’s a whole bunch of extension mechanisms that we prefer over adding features themselves. In particular, there will be a way to easily add new sighash modes, and as a result we don’t have to worry about having those integrated into the proposal right away. Also new opcodes; we’re not really adding new opcodes because there’s an extension mechanism that will easily let us do that later.

So the focus is on merkle trees, merkleized abstract syntax trees (MASTs), and taproot, and the things that are required to make those efficient. We’ll look at what are the benefits that those can give us, and makre sure they’re usable. In particular, this is a focus on things that are usable without interactive setup. So both merkle trees and taproot have the advantage that I can just get your public key and compute an address and have people send to it and none of you need to run to your safe, hardware wallets or vaults or something else.

Another thing that is possible is graftroot, which can in some cases offer much better savings and complexity than taproot, but it has the disadvantage that you inherently need access to the private keys. That’s not a reason not to do that, but it’s a reason to avoid it in the first steps.

So let’s actually stop talking about abstract stuff and move on.


What is taproot? Trying to make all output scripts and most spends indistinguishable. How are we going to do that? Instead of having separate concepts for pay-to-pubkey and pay-to-scripthash, we combine them into one and make every output both. Every output will be spendable by one key and zero or more scripts. We’re going to make it in such a way that spending with just a public key will be super efficient: it will only require a single signature on-chain. The downside is that spending with scripts will be slightly less efficient. It’s a very interesting tradeoff you can make where you can actually choose to make one branch more efficient than the others in the script.

What is the justification for doing so? With Schnorr signatures, one key can be easily an aggregate of multiple keys. With multiple keys, it’s easy to say that in most spends of fairly complex scripts on-chain it could be replaced with a script branch of “everyone agrees”. Clearly if I take all the public keys involved in a script and they all agree, then that should be sufficient to spend, regardles of what the scripts actually are. It doesn’t even need to be all of them anyway, say it’s a 2-of-3 where 2 of the keys are online and one is offline… you make the efficient side the two keys that are online, in 99% of the cases you’ll be able to use that branch.

How are we constructing an output? On the slide, you can see s1, s2, and s3. Those correspond to three possible scripts that we want to spend things with. Then we put them into a merkle tree. This is a very simple merkle tree of three elements where we compute m2 as the inner node over s2 and s3. Then m1 is the merkle root that combines it with s1. But then, as a layer on top of that, instead of using that merkle root directly in an output, we’re going to instead use it to tweak the public key p. So p corresponds to the public key that might be an aggregate of multiple keys, but it’s our happy path. We really hope that pretty much all the time we’ll be able to spend with p alone. Our output becomes q which is this formula that takes p and combines it with the merkle root and multiplies it by the generator and adds it. The end result is a new public key that has been tweaked with the merkle root.

So we’re going to introduce a new witness version. Segwit as defined in bip141 offered the possibility of having multiple script versions. So we’re going to use that instead of using v0 as we’ve used so far, we define a new one which is script v1. Its program is not a hash, it is in fact the x-coordinate of that point q. There’s some interesting observations here. One, we just store the x-coordinate and not the y-coordinate. A common intuition that people have is that by dropping the y-coordinate we’re actually reducing the key space in half. So people think well maybe this is 1/2 bits reduction in security. It’s easy to prove that this is in fact no reduction in security at all. The intuition is that, if you have an algorithm to break a public key given just an x-coordinate you would in fact always use it. You would even use it on public keys that also had a y-coordinate. So it is true that there’s some structure in public keys, and we’re exploiting that by just storing the x-coordinate, but that structure is always there and it can always be exploited. It’s easy to actually prove this. Jonas Nick wrote a blog post about that not so long ago, which is an interesting read and gives a glimpse of the proofs that are used in this sort of thing.

As I said, we’re defining witness v1. Other witness versions remain unencumbered, obviously, because we don’t want to say anything yet about v2 and beyond. But also, we want to keep other lengths unencumbered… I believe this was a mistake we made in witness v0, which is only valid with 20 or 32 bytes hash … a 20 byte corresponds to a public key hash, and the 32 bytes refers to scripthash. The space of witness versions and their programs is limited. It’s sad that we’ve removed the possibility to use v0. There’s only 16 versions. To avoid that, we leave other lengths unencumbered but the downside is that this exposes us to – a couple of months ago, a issue was discovered in bech32 (bip173) where it is under some circumstances possible to insert characters into an address without invalidating it. I’ve posted on the mailing list a strategy and an analysis that shows how to fix that bech32 problem. It’s unfortunate though that we’re now becoming exposed by not doing this encumberence.

As I said, the output is an x-coordinate directly. It’s not a hash. This is perhaps the most controversial part that I expect of the taproot proposal. There is a common thing that people say. They say, oh bitcoin is quantum resistant because it hashes public keys. I think that statement is nonsense. There’s several reasons why it’s nonsense. First, it makes assumptions about how fast quantum computers are. Clearly when spending an output, you’re revealing the public key. If within that time it can be attacked, then it can be attacked. Plus, there are several million bitcoin right now available on outputs that are actually have known public keys and can be spent with known public keys. There’s no real reason to assume that number will go down. The reason for that is that really, any interesting use of the bitcoin protocol involves revealing public keys. If you’re using lightning, you’re revealing public keys. If you’re using multisig, you’re revealing public keys to your cosigners. If you’re using various kinds of lite clients, they are sending public keys to their servers. It’s just an unreasonable assumption that…. simply said, we cannot treat public keys as secret.

In this proposal, we exploit that by just putting the point directly in the outputs and this just saves us 32 bytes because now we don’t need to reveal both the hash and the outputs((??)). Yes, to save the bytes. Yeah.

Q: What is the reason for not putting the parity of the y-coordinate in there?

A: It’s just to save the bytes. A better justification is that it literally adds no security, so why should we waste a byte on it? Also note that because we’re not hashing things, this byte would go in the output directly where it is not witness discounted.

Also, a relatively recent change to bip-taproot and bip-tapscript is no P2SH support. The reasons for removing P2SH support are that P2SH only has 80 bits of collision resistance security. If you’re jointly constructing a script with someone else, 80 bits security is not something that we expect in the long-term to hold up. Another reason is that P2SH is an inefficient use of the chain… It also reduces our ability of achieving the goal of making all outputs look identical, because if we have both P2SH outputs and non-P2SH outputs then that just gratuitously gives up bits of information or privacy. At this point, I think native segwit outputs and bech32 have been adopted sufficiently that we expect that by the time that taproot if and when it gets rolled out, the stragglers at that point probably either won’t upgrade at all.

More BIP details

I told you that in taproot an output is a public key that we’re tweaking with the merkle root of a tree whose leaves are scripts. Here is the big trick that makes taproot work. x here is the private key to p. Let’s say p is a single participant. It works for multiples too but it’s easier to show this way. x is the private key to p. Q which is P+H(P && merkle root)*G is actually equal to x + that hash times G. In other words, the private key to Q equals x plus that hash. In other words, if you have the private key to p and you know the merkle root, then you know the private key to Q. In the proposal, it says it is possible to spend any taproot output by just giving a signature with that private key to Q. Yes, we just pick a fixed parity. At signing time, if the parity is wrong, you flip your private key just before signing. So literally the only thing that goes on-chain is a single signature, in the happy case. Using schnorr signatures, that P can actually be an aggregate and cooperative spends can just use that single key.

Another advantage of Schnorr signatures is that they are batch verifiable. If we have hundreds or hundreds of thousands of signatures, then we can verify them more efficiently than a single one. This scales approximately with n/log(n). If you have thousands of keys, then you get a factor of 3x easily which is nice for initial block download where in theory you could batch verify over multiple blocks at once.

I lied though– I told you that the leaves of this merkle tree are scripts. They are actually not scripts. They are tuples of a version and a script, so (version, script). The reason for this is simply, we have 5 bits in the header available. We couldn’t get rid of the bytes, there was 5 bits available, so why not use it as an extension mechanism and say for now why not only define semantics for one of them, and if you have another one then for now it’s treated as ANYONECANSPEND and it’s unencumbered? So in a way you have the versioning number at the segwit level, which is an exposed version number because your transcation output reveals what that version number is. But this introduces a new subversion number which is per script. Every leaf can have a different version, which is nice for privacy because now you will only reveal—- if you have 10 branches and only one branch needs a new feature implemented in a new version, then you only reveal that you’re using that new version when you’re actually revealing that particular script branch which is really when you need it.

This is primarily useful for large re-designs of script. I don’t think there’s any such thing in the near or mediate-term future, but I think it’s good to have something where we can just swap things out. To make a clear distinction about where you would use a witness version number versus this leaf version number, I think the witness version is something that we want to use for changing the execution structure like if we want to change the merkle tree or if we want to change things like cros-input aggregation, graftroot, those changes would need to be a new witness version and we can’t put them into the leaf version number. When we want to replace the tree structure, use a new witness version number. If you just want to make some changes to script, you can use the leaf version number, in fact you might want to use another mechanism which I’ll talk about later.

At this point, only one version is defined, c0. I’ll get back on why that’s not just 0 and why it’s c0. This version we call tapscript. That is actually the second BIP which describes the modifications to script as they apply to scripts under leaf version c0 in taproot.

Another advantage of having this the second layer of versioning is, say that in a later change, graftroot gets introduced which will need a new witness version. We might want to reuse the leaf versions because there’s no repercussions on script itself.

When talking about that merkle tree, this is something that Eric over there observed… we don’t actually care about where in the tree our script is, we only care about the fact that it is somewhere. It’s fairly annoying to come up with a bitwise encoding that tells you go left here, go right here, go left here, etc. So the idea is, before hashing, the two branches will be sorted lexigraphically. Pick the lowest first, and now you don’t need to say which side you go on. You just reveal your leaf and you reveal the hashes to combine it with, and you’re done. This is also a very weak privacy improvement, because it automatically mungles the tree order. If you change the public keys in it, or something, so you’re not actually revealing in your policy where that position was. It’s not perfect, but it’s something of a privacy improvement.

When spending through the scriptpath, what do you need to do? You need to reveal the script, the leaf version, inputs to that script and a merkle branch that proves it was committed to by your root. How do we do that? You put on the witness stack when spending an input, you give the inputs to the script, then the script itself (so far the same as P2SH), but a third element is added called a “control block” which contains marker bits, then the leaf version. It stores the sign of Q and unfortunately we do need to reveal the sign of Q otherwise the result is not batch verifiable. There’s two possible equations and you’d get a combinatorial explosiion if you tried to verify multiples at once, so we need one bit to convey this sign of Q, and then we need the merkle path.

What these marker bits are for, is that by setting the top two bits of the first byte of the last stack element in the witness stack, to 1, we have the remarkable property that we can detect taproot spends without having access to the inputs. I don’t know what it’s useful for, but it feels like there’s some static analysis advantage where I can look at a transaction and an input and say this is a taproot spend and I don’t need to go lookup the UTXO or anything to know that. The reason for this is that any such bytes at the end would imply a P2WSH spend with a disabled opcode… so clearly those can’t exist.

For verification, we compute S from the leaf and the script as the first hash, then compute the merkle root from that S together with the path you provided. Verify that equation, and again this is batch verifiable, together with the Schnorr signatures. They can all be thrown into one batch. Then execute the script with the input stack and then fail if it fails execution.

Another change is that in all… should I stop a moment and ask if there are questions so far about anything? No, all good?

Murch: If anyone has a question, just raise your hand and I’ll bring you a microphone. Okay, go on.

sipa: We’ll give it another five seconds.

Tagged hashes

Another thing that we’re proposing is that instead of just using single or double sha256 directly, we suggest to use tagged hashes. The idea is that every hash is given a tag. The goal of this is doing domain separation. So hashes used for computing a signature hash should we really don’t want them to ever collide or be reinterpretable as a hash and a merkle tree, or a hash used to a derive a nonce, or a hash to tweak the public key in taproot. An easy way to do that is by tagging a hash along with every hash you compute. How we do this is we take your tag, which is an ASCII string, you hash it, you double that hash which now becomes 64 bytes, and that is a prefix before you put the data that you’re hashing yourself. Now, because 64 bytes is the block size of sha256, it means that for any given constant tag, sha256 with that tag actually just becomes sha256 with a different initialization function. This costs nothing, because we precompute the new initialization vector after hashing the tag. Because nowhere today to the best of my knowledge in bitcoin is anywhere a protocol that hashes two single sha256 hashes at the beginning of another sha256 hash, this should never collide with any existing usage either. The rationale here is that bitcoin transaction merkle tree actually has had vulnerabilities in the past from not having such a separation. It uses the same algorithm for hashing the inner nodes and the leaves, and there’s a whole bunch of scary bugs that result from this, some that were more recent, but the earliest was 2012 where– you can look up the details. Anyway, these things are scary and we’re providing a simple standard to avoid this.

All the tags that we’re using are for the leaves, for combining the scripts with the version number, that’s tapleaf. For the branches of the merkle tree, it’s tapbranch. For the tweaking the public key, it’s taptweak. Then there’s one for sighashes and inside Schnorr signatures we also use them. Many of these are very likely overkill, but I think it’s good practice to start doing this.

Not a balanced merkle tree

Another observation is that this merkle tree of all the scripts that you might want to spend a particular output with, doesn’t need to be a balanced merkle tree. We’re never even necessarily materializing it. You’re just… the verifier clearly doesn’t care if it’s balanced, because he can’t even observe the whole tree. You just give it a path. There’s good reasons why you may not want to make it balanced. In particular, if you have some branches that are far less likely than others, then you can put them further away and make the more likely ones further up. There’s actually a very simple algorithm for doing this called Huffman tree which is used in simple compression algorithms where you make a list of all your possibilities together with their probabilities and combine the smallest two and put them in a node together, and you combine them and build a tree, and that’s your tree and it’s in fact the optimal one. We do in the BIP today there’s a limit of 128 levels which is clearly more than what is practical for a balanced tree. You’re clearly not going to construct things with billions of spending possibilities… it would be too hard to even compute the address, it could easily turn into spending seconds, minutes and more. But because of this unbalancing, we still want a limit for spam protection so that you can’t just dump kilobytes of text into your merkle tree. This is something to consider that may make things more efficient.


A final thing is something we’re calling the annex. The idea is that, observe that today in bitcoin transactions you have a locktime and an nSequence value. The locktime has always been there. The nSequence value was useless because its original design didn’t actually work. Its semantics were later changed in bip68. To turn them into relative locktime. The question is, what if we want more of those things? What if we wanted a way to have an input that could only be spent in a chain whose blockhash at a certain height is a certain value? The obvious way would be to do something with like a nLockTime field on a transaction but there is no such field and we can’t easily add one, at least not without running into all sorts of complications. So what we’re doing is that, the witness stack when spending a taproot output can have a final element optionally called an annex which is just ignored. Right now there’s no semantics associated with it, except that it is signed by all signatures. You can’t add or remove it, as long as your transaction has signatures. It’s also non-standard to use it. This would let you very elegantly say, if the first byte of the annex is this, then it’s given these certain semantics. Another use case I’ll get back to this once I talk about resource limits in script where you could use an annex to declare an expensive opcode and pay for it upfront because we may not want to add very expensive opcodes otherwise. I recognize that this might be the least obvious part of the presentation; is this clear?


This is the other BIP that describes the semantics when executing a script, specifically when the leaf version is c0. This is bip-tapscript. By now, the reason that it is c0 and not 0 is because of those marker bits that let you detect that it is a taproot spend even without the inputs.

We start from the script semantics as they were in bip141 segwit but with a number of changes. The most obvious change is that well instead of CHECKSIG and CHECKSIGVERIFY these things now use Schnorr signatures instead of ECDSA signatures. The justification is simply that we want these to be able to be batch verifiable and therefore there’s no reason to support both. Another difference is that CHECKMULTISIG is no longer available. The reason for that is that, so CHECKMULTISIG today you give it a list of public keys and then a list of signatures and it finds which signature matches which public key. This retry behavior is not something you can batch verify. A possibility would be to just to declare which keys belongs to which signature, but it turns out that wasn’t actually much more efficient than not having an opcode for that at all. So instead, our proposal adds CHECKSIGADD which is the same as CHECKSIG but it increments an accumulator with whether or not the signature check was successful. So this lets you implement a CHECKMULTISIG as key CHECKSIG key CHECKSIGADD key CHECKSIGADD 5 equal and this will do the same thing. It’s a few more opcode bytes, but for simple things you’ll probably want to turn it into a merkle tree where every branch is one combination of your multisig anyway which is more efficient.

The next thing to discuss is OP_SUCCESS. In bitcoin script today, we have a whole bunch of NOP opcodes. These were probably added specifically with the intent of having an upgrade mechanism so that we can easily add new opcodes to the bitcoin script language. So far they have been used twice, for checklocktimeverify and checksequenceverify. The problem with redefining these NOPs is that in order to be soft-fork compatible they can only do one of two things: abort or not do anything at all. This is the reason why CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY and CHECKSEQUENCEVERIFY opcodes today don’t pop their argument from the stack and you always need an OP_DROP after that. It’s because their redefinition of a NOP as a result they cannot modify the stack in any way.

A solution to that is instead of having an opcode that doesn’t do anything (a NOP), have an opcode that just returns TRUE and that’s OP_SUCCESS. That might sound unsafe, but it’s exactly as unsafe as having new witness versions that are undefined. You won’t use them until you have a use for them, and you won’t use them until they have defined locked-in semantics on the network. We’re taking a whole swath of disabled and never-defined opcode numbers, and turning them into “return TRUE”. Later, these opcodes can be redefined to be anything, because everything is soft-fork compatible with “return TRUE”.

Bram: Is that “return TRUE” at parse time?

sipa: It is at parse time. There’s a preprocessing step where the script gets decoded before execution and even if you have an OP_SUCCESS in an unexecuted IF branch for example, it still means “return TRUE”. This means it can be used to introduce completely new semantics, it can change resource limits, it change the parse function in a way if you say the first byte of your script becomes OP_SUCCESS and so on. So this is just the most powerful way of doing it.

Of all the different upgrade mechanisms that are in this proposal, OP_SUCCESS is the one I don’t want to lose. The leaf versions can effectively be subsumed by OP_SUCCESS just start your script with an opcode like OP_UPGRADE and now your script has completely new semantics. This is really powerful and should make it much easier to add new opcodes that do this or that.

Another thing is upgradeable pubkey types. The idea is that if you have a public key that is passed to CHECKSIG, CHECKSIGVERIFY or CHECKSIGADD, that is not the usual 32 bytes (not 33 bytes anymore, it’s 32 bytes because also there we’re just using the x-coordinate). If it’s not 32 then we treat that public key as an unknown public key type whose signature check will automatically succeed. This means that you can do things like introduce a new digital signature scheme without introducing new opcodes every time. Maybe more short-term, it means that it’s also usable to introduce new signature hashing schemes where otherwise you would have to say oh I have slightly different sighash semantics like SIGHASH_NOINPUT or ANYPREVOUT or whatever it’s called these days. Introducing them would, every time you would need to have three new opcodes otherwise. Using upgradeable public key types, this problem goes away.

Another is making “minimal IF” a consensus rule. “Minimal IF” is currently a standardness rule that has been in segwit forever and I haven’t seen anyone complain about it. It says that the input to an OP_IF or an OP_NOTIF in the scripting language has to be exactly TRUE or FALSE and it cannot be any other number or bytearray. It’s really hard to make non-malleable scripts without it. This is actually something that we stumbled upon when doing research on miniscript and tried to formalize what non-malleability in bitcoin script means, and we have to rely on “Minimal IF” and otherwise you get ridiculous scripts where you have two or three opcodes before every IF to guarantee they’re right. So that’s the justification, it’s always been there, we’re forced to rely on it, we better make it a consensus rule.

The last one is new code separator semantics. The OP_CODESEPARATOR has been in bitcoin forever. It was probably originally intended as a delegation mechanism because it restricted what part of the script was being signed by signatures, and you could actually implement a delegation mechanism with this. Unfortunately, in mid 2010 when the execution of the scriptsig and the scriptpubkey was split and the CODESEPARATOR in one doesn’t influence the signatures in the other, anymore, then that functionality was broken. So we looked at that and thought, well what is it useful for? There’s one thing that it can still be used for, namely where you have multiple execution branches through your scripts like IF THEN ELSE and you want your signatures to commit to which of the branch you’re taking… by putting a CODESEPARATOR in one of them, you change what script they are signing, and as a result indirectly lets you commit to what branch you’re taking in the script. I don’t know if anyone using this in production but I’ve certainly heard of people thinking about using this. So we’re going to keep this part and drop the rest. We’re just going to make signatures sign the last executed CODESEPARATOR position without those things.

Resource limits

Okay, resource limits. Bitcoin script today has a 10,000 byte script size limit which we propose to drop. The reason for this is that it has no use. There is literally no data structure left in taproot whose size depends on the size of your script, or any way in which execution time is more than proportional to your script size. Before, so even in segwit, every signature hash contains the entire script being executed which means that if you have a script of 10,000 bytes and they’re all CHECKSIGs, then you’re going to do 10,000 CHECKSIGs that each hash 10,000 bytes and this is a new version of the quadratic hashing problem that was improved before like in segwit there’s fewer quadratic hashing things left than in the legacy system that came before it, but in taproot they’re all gone. We actually just pre-hash the script once, and then it gets included in the signature hash every time. So with that, we don’t need that anymore.

Also, the 201-non-push ops limit, which is my favorite crazy thing in bitcoin. We got rid of that too. To show how crazy it is, right now in bitcoin script there is a rule that says that the total number of non-push opcodes in your script can be at most 201. This counts executed and unexecuted opcodes. However, when you execute a CHECKMULTISIG, the number of public keys participating in that CHECKMULTISIG counts towards this limit, but only the executed ones. So that’s another thing that– I discovered this while working on miniscript where I had a fuzzer constructing random scripts and we had miniscripts reasoning about oh is this a valid script and handing it to Bitcoin Core to verify and some didn’t pass and it was because of this CHECKMULTISIG thing. There’s really no reason for this weird limit.

Lastly, we removed the block-wide 80,000 sigop limits and replace it with one-sigop per 50 bytes of witness rule. This accomplishes a really cool thing that we get rid of multi-dimensional optimization. Right now, there are two independent resource limits for blocks. There’s the weight and there’s the sigops. In normal transactions like the number of sigops is way below the ratio where this matters. But you can maliciously construct scripts that no miner will know how to optimize for correctly. This is very vaguely exploitable. It’s just an income reduction, right. A miner will not be able to find the optimal bin packing solution to given all these transactions and they have fees and weights and sigops what’s the optimal combination. But the downside is that if they would try to be smarter, then fee estimation on the network would be harder. By removing the sigops limit, and basically translating the sigops into bytes, which is what this does, like every 50 bytes you get a credit of 1 sigop you can do. Given that a public key plus a signature already costs 96 bytes, there’s absolutely no reason why you would ever need to go over this limit. That way, there’s only a single limit that is left to optimize for, and things get a lot easier.

Maybe you wonder, well, why only sigops? Why not big hashes or other expensive opcodes? So I did some benchmarking. Like what are the most complex slowest slow scripts we could come up with in terms of execution time per byte that don’t use CHECKSIGs? It turns out there’s fairly close like within an order of magnitude, which I guess is not really close, but it’s not crazy far off of the worse you can do with just CHECKSIG. So that’s the reason for only counting CHECKSIGs here. But imagine in the future there’s an OP_SNARKVERIFY or OP_X86 or OP_WEBASSEMBLY that costs orders of magnitude more than a CHECKSIG now per byte, will want to price those proportionally… it doesn’t matter that it’s exactly proportional, but you need to be able to reason that a block full of these is not going to become an attack vector. So how do you do that? The problem is, say this SNARKVERIFY costs the equivalent of 1000 bytes worth of CHECKSIGs but your script isn’t 1000 bytes and no reasonable input to this opcode will be 1000 bytes. You’d be incentivized to, you know, stuff your transaction with zero bytes or something just to make it pass. That’s actually another justification for the annex where you can use an annex on the input to say, virtually increment the cost of this transaction by this many bytes. Just treat it as as if it was a kilobyte bigger, and I’ll even pay fees for it. Now you can see why it is important that you can statically determine an input is a taproot spend without having the inputs available, because otherwise I hand you a transaction on the network and you want to compute its size, you want to compute its fee rate, and in order to compute the fee rate you need to know its size, and its size is now being amended by this annex. But by allowing this to be done statically, by using a recognizable pattern for taproot spends, this is much easier and you don’t need the UTXO set or anything else available to compute the size of transactions. Likely this never happens, I have no concrete ideas for what this would be useful for, but it’s an extension mechanism that we considered and found interesting.

There’s also some changes to the signature hashing algorithm as I alluded to earlier, with the scriptpubkeys. The sizes don’t matter anymore. So we have the same sighash modes, which is the easiest to argue for. I don’t think the existing sighash modes like ALL, SINGLE, NONE, and ONE, and ANYONECANPAY, I don’t think they are particularly great- most of them are never used. But it’s just easier to argue to not change the semantics, especially with upgradeable pubkeys we can easily introduce new sighash modes later. So it’s less of a concern to do this perfectly right now. A big one is that inputs commit to all input amounts, not just the amount of the output they are spending. The reason for that is a particular attack that exists today on hardware wallets or offline signing devices where say there’s malicious wallet software and there’s a hardware wallet and the malicious software colludes with a miner to spend all of someone’s coins into fees. This is why we commit to amounts in the first place in segwit, but it is not sufficient because you actually need to commit to all of them. The reason is that, as a malicious wallet, you can give the hardware wallet two transactions. I give it two– I do two signing attempts. The first time, I lie about the amount on the first inputs, but I’m honest on the second one. On the second attempt, I’m honest on the second one but I lie about the first. So now I can take the signatures from these two, combine them into one single valid transaction that moves everything into fees. This attack has been described, it’s fairly obscure to pull off. In order to address it, we should commit to all input amounts and this problem goes away. Committing to all input amounts and all output amounts effectively means you’re committing to the fee itself.

Another one is committing to the scriptpubkey. There is some issues where you can lie to a hardware device like oh this is a p2sh versus a non-p2sh spend. This would in theory make them report fee rates incorrectly or something. Good practice and this can be completely avoided by committing to the scriptpubkey.

All variable length data is now pre-hashed. The hashing that you do for any checksig is now just a constant, up to 200 something bytes. This is the reason why we can get rid of the script size limits.

In that sighash, at the transaction level, data goes first before the input level data which allows in theory some additional caching where you pre-compute that whole part once. Then obviously, all the new things, you commit to the annex, the leaf hash, and the CODESEPARATOR position.

That’s all I have about changes introduced in tapscript. I have another slide about future things, but if there’s any questions about any of these things, feel free.

murch: How has the organized taproot review been going? I haven’t heard that much about that.

Bitcoin Optech has organized a public structured taproot review session. It was a 7-week thing where every week there was a curriculum which was some subset of the changes to discuss, and once or twice a week there would be a moment where people could ask questions and review things. The first weeks went very well. There were tons of questions, very good suggestions on improvements. The later weeks, it’s been dropping off significantly. I think this is the last week. Tomorrow I think is the last Q&A session. Overall I’m happy, and this gave a lot of exposure about these ideas to people who gave lots of good comments, some pull requests. There were only a few actual semantic changes that came out of this. Or ideas about that. Most of it has been just about some things being unclear, rationales being unclear, and requests for stating motivations better.

Bram: The RETURN TRUE extension semantics… that implies that you’re not doing any delegation? Or you’re only delegating to a trusted thing or a thing of known code at the time you do the call? It makes it so you can’t do a graftroot where you have a graftroot.

sipa: You can, I think.

Bram: You can’t do partial delegations. So you’re either completely trusting something, or not calling it.

sipa: First of all, graftroot is not included here so that’s not a concern. Longer-term, I don’t see the problem really. When delegating, you delegate to a new script and if you delegate to a script that has an OP_RETURN TRUE, then that’s your problem- you’re not going to do that.

Bram: I know you don’t want to support colored coins, but if I did, then you have this sort of partial delegation- this outer thing that is enforcing the color, and an inner thing that might support transactions within the colored coin itself.

sipa: I think you can still do that as long as you structure the requirements on the caller as an assertion. I think the semantics you want is that, when delegating you first completely execute that level of the script. If it returns false, for any reason, you return false, and then you do all of the invoked delegations.

Bram: The main issue.. and I don’t have a good solution for this, is if you want an extension that returns some value. Like some new function that returns a new thing, then this extension mechanism makes it hard to do that.

sipa: Sounds like something to discuss when this becomes an issue.

murch: Any more questions?

What’s next

We need to finish addressing all the comments from review. There’s still a few open issues. This is the last week of the Bitcoin Optech review sessions. I hope and I think the sentiment in general is positive. I am hopeful that we will find widespread acceptance for these changes. We’ll have to work on requesting a BIP number, I think we’ll have it in the next few days. Then there’s work on reference code, unit tests, and just review, test vectors, and need to open up a demo pull request to Bitcoin Core with an implementation… and then some unclear stuff… and then one day it will activate on the network. I am purposefully not going into details on how activation might happen. I think different people have different opinions on that aspect. That’s something up to the community to decide how these things make their way forward.

In parallel, once it’s clear that these things will happen, there’s work that can be done on reference implementations for wallets and libraries. Things like bip174 PSBT extensions, I know Elichai has been working on that. Miniscript will probably want to extend that to support taproot. Given the whole structure introducing with the merkle tree, and the tweaked key, just getting an overview of what a script is or what a policy is enorced by a particular output becomes harder so we will want better and better tools to actually be able to deal with this. There will be fewer and fewer ways that you can do these things manually.

That was my talk, thank you very much.


Q: What’s the type of pushback if any you are seeing?

sipa: I think I’ve seen some comments on putting public keys directly in an output… but even that has been far less than I had feared.

murch: So deploy in 2 weeks?

sipa: No, I think the most valuable feedback is critical review including questions like “why are you doing this, is this part necessary” or comments like “this is a bad idea”. I haven’t heard any such comments. That might be due to either the right people haven’t looked at it yet, or the proposal is already polished enough that we’re past that stage. I think all kinds of comments are useful. It’s very hard to judge where acceptance lies. I can go on twitter and ask hey all in favor… I don’t think that the responses would be very useful, even the positive ones. This is a hard question. In the end, I think we’ll know consensus when we see it.

Q: Around this merkle tree and creating more complex scripts, what is the future looking like there with tools and wallets to actually build those things? What’s the work that needs to be done there?

sipa: Yeah, so, it’s interesting that at this point we’re really focusing on defining the semantics primarily the consensus side of things. But there’s a whole lot of work to do on integration and on the signing side. A lot of it is optional. I suspect that many wallets will just implement the single key signing because that’s all they care about and single key signing isn’t all that much harder in taproot than something else. At the same time, there’s a lot of more flexibility and possibilities that are there.

Q: Given that the depth of the tree can be 128, you can have quite sizable scripts. Have you seen anything novel coming out of that in review?

sipa: There’s obvious things like, you take a multisig and you split it out into a tree where every leaf is one combination of keys and you aggregate the keys per leaf together. So you just have a couple thousand leafs… say maybe 5-of-10 or something. I don’t know. And then you have a couple dozen leaves that are each just a single key. It’s far more efficient and much more private than doing it directly as a script that just gives all the public keys. Really a lot of this depends on what kind of policies that people want.

Q: In the last major soft-fork, we activated segwit and we saw some pushback from some stakeholders and ecosystem people that hadn’t been involved that much in design. Are you aware of any activity to reach out to those subsets of the community like miners in particular?

sipa: No, I am not aware. But everyone is welcome to review. The ecosystem is probably more well organized now than it was a while ago. I don’t expect it to be a problem. Of course, we don’t know if miners will go along and how long it will take. This is all up to activation mechanism which is still an open question.

Q: What about potentially simplifying multisig applications; what’s going to be the most common or powerful use case you can get from this? If you reduce down to a single signature on-chain.

sipa: That’s a possibility, but it comes with complexity. The verification side of things becomes simpler but actually building an interactive protocol between multiple parties that jointly sign for a single key is more complicated than signing a multisig today. It has pitfalls. I wouldn’t be surprised if in practice it ends up onyl being a few players that do this. That’s fine, because things are still indistinguishable.

Q: A quick question about the annex. Is that strictly for making transactions being able to weight their incentives properly…

sipa: That’s one reason. There’s another example which is the anti-fee sniping thing. Right now there’s a technique for anti-fee sniping where you put a locktime on a transaction for a block not far in the past. If a miner tries to intentionally reorg the chain to grab the fees of this perhaps high-fee-paying transaction, then they wouldn’t be able to do so and they would still need to wait. If there was a way to make a transaction that says this is only valid in a chain that builds off of this blockhash, then this becomes a lot more powerful. I don’t know if it’s sufficiently desirable, but it’s an example of something that you could do.

Q: You could even create a bounty to vote against a split or something like that, because you commit to only one side of the split.

sipa: This is fork protection, too. I think that’s the context in which it was originally proposed.

1h 26min

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