As was recently announced in a previous blog (here), btcd is an alternative full-node implementation of the bitcoin wire protocol and block validation written in Go that is currently under active development.
We’d now like to announce a public preview of one of the core packages from btcd. The package is named btcwire and it implements the bitcoin wire protocol. The code can be reviewed on github here:
Overall Package Design
At a high level, this package provides support for marshalling and unmarshalling supported bitcoin messages to and from the wire. This package does not deal with the specifics of message handling such as what to do when a message is received. This provides the caller with a high level of flexibility.
For the uninitiated, the bitcoin wire protocol consists of exchanging messages between peers. Each message is preceded by a header which identifies information about it such as which bitcoin network it is a part of, its type, how big it is, and a checksum to verify validity. All encoding and decoding of message headers is handled by this package.
To accomplish this, there is a generic interface for bitcoin messages named Message which allows messages of any type to be read, written, or passed around through channels, functions, etc. In addition, concrete implementations of most of the currently supported bitcoin messages are provided. For these supported messages, all of the details of marshalling and unmarshalling to and from the wire using bitcoin encoding are handled so the caller doesn’t have to concern themselves with the specifics.
Interoperability and Test Coverage
Here at Conformal, we are keenly aware of how important it is that any full-node implementations agree on the exact same set of rules for what blocks get included into the block chain as minor differences can lead to chain forks and double-spends. However, despite the challenges, we also believe that it is imperative for the evolution of the bitcoin ecosystem as a whole that multiple reference implementations come to bear. It will substantially improve the diversity and resilience of the bitcoin ecosystem and infrastructure in the same way web standards have improved the web.
Since btcd is financial software and errors could lead to someone losing money, we take test coverage particularly seriously. At the time of this writing, the btcwire package has 78.5% test coverage of all lines, however we will be increasing this to 100% over the coming days.
Edit: The package now has 100% test coverage as of 5/13/2013.
Our goal is to continue releasing packages from btcd as we increase test coverage and bring them up to a professional level. The intent is that each piece can then be publicly reviewed for correctness as they become available while we continue work on the remaining packages.
Bitcoin 2013 Conference
I’m scheduled to give a lightning talk at the bitcoin 2013 conference Saturday afternoon regarding btcd and the general importance of alternative full bitcoin node implementations to the bitcoin ecosystem.
Come out and see me!