Overall design process

Designing a off-chain composable, Mel-backed protocol is roughly a three-step process:

  1. What needs to be on the blockchain? In the mature off-chain composability ecosystem of the future, most of the time you don't need to put anything on the blockchain yourself. For example, given an anonymous communication network and a secure naming system, an I2P-like anonymous web hosting platform can be built by combining the two protocols. But for the low-level primitives we need to build right now (like Gibbername), generally something needs to be on-chain.

  2. How to encode the on-chain info in a light-client legible fashion? We need to then figure out how to encode the on-chain info in the on-chain coin graph in a way that, given the melprot data model, can easily and trustlessly be queried by off-chain programs.

  3. How to uphold invariants in the on-chain data? Often, we need to force the on-chain data to be of a certain shape in order for our encoding to work. This generally requires either writing Melodeon covenants or exploiting some trick of Mel's coin model.

Let's follow this process for Gibbername!

Designing Gibbername

What needs to be on the blockchain?

We don't have any sort of off-chain decentralized key-value store available. So we need to encode the whole contents of the naming system on-chain.

More specifically, for every gibbername, we need to somehow store an on-chain blob of data. Since the blockchain is immutable, we really want to store the history of a particular gibbername on-chain. Anybody can then look up this history to get the data bound to a gibbername.

How to encode the on-chain info?

There is a standard technique for encoding append-only histories in a coin graph: a Catena chain. A Catena chain is simply a chain of transactions, each one spending a particular output coin (say, the first) of the previous one. Metadata on the coins or transactions then encodes the append-only log, and the transaction hash of the first element uniquely identifies the whole chain.

In our case, we can use the CoinData::additional_data field of the coins within a Catena chain to record the binding history of a gibbername. The gibbername itself (like hehheh-hehheh) would be some form of encoding of the location of the first link in the chain.

We will discuss how the "gibbername encoding" that maps a gibbername to a unique blockchain location works in the implementation section.

Now, light clients are able to do the core Gibbername features:

  • Lookup: The latest, unspent entry in the chain will contain the latest piece of data bound to that gibbername.

  • Bind: To bind the name to a different piece of data, a new item can simply be added at the end of the Catena chain.

  • Transfer: Whoever can spend the last item of the Catena chain "owns" the name and has exclusive access to rebind the name or transfer it to a different owner. Rebindings are just a special kind of transfer that repeats the same address as the last binding. (The "permission" is specified in the covenant hash, or "address", embedded in the last coin)

How to uphold invariants?

How do we ensure that the owner of a Gibbername actually continues the Catena chain? We could just define the Catena chain as always continuing from the first output and place no constraints at all — this will give us a canonical interpretation of any transaction as a gibbername and its subsequent first child, first grandchild, etc as a Gibbername binding history.

But this has several disadvantages:

  • It doesn't mark Gibbername activity out in the blockchain, making it easy to mistake other transactions as gibbernames

  • Using any regular chain of coins makes it very easy to accidentally rebind or transfer a gibbername. Wallet software would not be able to distinguish Gibbername coins from regular $MEL coins, and would accidentally spend the first and mess up the binding without a lot of manual intervention.

Instead, we use special transaction metadata custom token denomination to mark Catena chains used by Gibbername. In particular: the first transaction in a Gibbername Catena chain must:

  • Have the Transaction::data field set to "gibbername-v1"

  • Have one of its outputs have denomination Denom::NewCustom and value 1.

Subsequently, the canonical Catena chain is defined as the unique chain of coins that have denomination Denom::Custom(<transaction hash of the first transaction>).

This exploits two nice features of Mel's transaction model:

  • A coin with Denom::NewCustom creates a new, unique token denomination named after the hash of its parent transaction.

  • A coin with value 1 can no longer be subdivided by spending transactions. There's thus always only going to be one unspent coin in the world with the right denomination, making a unique Catena chain.

Gibbername transactions are now very obvious (allowing, say, Melscan to offer a global Gibbername listing), and wallets will no longer accidentally spend Gibbername-related coins because they have their own denomination.

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