Bitcoin Optech Newsletter #30

This week’s newsletter describes a proposed LN feature to allow making spontaneous payments and provides our longest-ever list of notable code changes to popular Bitcoin infrastructure projects.

News

  • PR opened for spontaneous LN payments: LN protocol developer Olaoluwa Osuntokun opened a pull request to allow an LN node to send a payment to another node without first receiving an invoice. This takes advantage of LN’s Tor-like onion routing by allowing a spender to choose a preimage, encrypt it so that only the receiver’s node can decrypt it, and then route a payment along LN like normal using the hash of the preimage. When the payment reaches the receiver, they decrypt the preimage and disclose it to the routing nodes in order to claim the payment.

    Spontaneous payments help in cases where users just want to do ad hoc payment tracking, for example you initiate a 10 mBTC withdrawal from an exchange and either 10 mBTC shows up in your balance within a few moments or you contact support. Or you just publish your node’s information and users can send you donations without having to get an invoice first. For tracking specific payments, users should still continue to generate invoices which can be uniquely associated with particular orders or other expected payments.

    Osuntokun’s pull request for LND is still marked as a work in progress as of this writing, so we don’t know yet when the feature will become generally available to LND users or whether other LN implementations will also provide the same feature in a compatible way.

Optech recommends

If you prefer listening to audio rather than reading the weekly Optech newsletter, Max Hillebrand of World Crypto Network has recorded readings of every newsletter to date—providing a total of more than 6 hours of technical news about Bitcoin so far. Audio and video is available on YouTube, and audio only is also available as a podcast via iTunes and acast. Optech thanks Max for volunteering to perform the readings and for doing them so well. We encourage everyone who would prefer to receive the newsletter in video or audio form to follow Max for future readings.

Notable code changes

Notable code changes this week in Bitcoin Core, LND, C-Lightning, Eclair, and libsecp256k1.

  • Bitcoin Core #14941 makes the unloadwallet RPC synchronous. It won’t return now until the specified wallet has finished being unloaded.

  • Bitcoin Core #14982 adds a new getrpcinfo RPC that provides information about the RPC interface. Right now it returns an active_commands array listing all RPCs that haven’t returned yet.

  • LND #2448 adds a standalone watchtower, allowing it to “negotiate sessions with clients, accept state updates for active sessions, monitor the chain for breaches matching known breach hints, [and] publish reconstructed justice transactions on behalf of tower clients.” This is one of the last pieces of an initial watchtower implementation than can help protect LN nodes that are offline from having their funds stolen—a feature that’s an important part of making LN mature enough for general use.

  • LND #2439 adds the default policy for the watchtower, such as allowing the tower to handle a maximum of 1,024 updates from a client in a single session, allowing the watchtower to receive a reward of 1% of the channel capacity if the tower ends up defending the channel, and setting the default onchain feerate for justice transactions (breach remedy transactions).

  • LND #2198 gives the sendcoins RPC a new sweepall parameter that will spend all of the wallet’s bitcoins to the specified address without the user having to manually specify the amount.

  • C-Lightning #2232 extends the listpeers command with a new funding_allocation_msat field that returns the amounts initially placed into a channel by each peer.

  • C-Lightning #2234 extends the listchannels RPC to take a source parameter for filtering by node id. The same pull request also causes the invoice RPC to include route hints for private channels if you have no public channels unless you also set the new exposeprivatechannels parameter to false. Route hints suggest part of a routing path to the spender so they can send payments through nodes they previously didn’t know about.

  • C-Lightning #2249 enables plugins by default on C-Lightning again, but a note is added to their documentation indicating that the API is still “under active development”.

  • C-Lightning #2215 adds a libplugin library that provides a C-language API for plugins.

  • C-Lightning #2237 gives plugins the ability to register hooks for certain events that can change how the main process handles those events. An example given in the code is a plugin that prevents the LN node from committing to a payment until a backup of important information about the payment has been completed.

  • Eclair #762 adds limited probing. Probing in LN is sending an invalid payment to a node and waiting for it to return an error. If the node doesn’t return an error, it likely means that it or some other node along a payment path to it is offline and unable to process payments. Because the probe was an invalid payment that can never be redeemed, the sending node can immediately treat it as a timed out payment with no risk of loss. This update to Eclair only allows probing a node’s direct peers—the nodes with which Eclair has an open channel.