Paper 2018/642

Commit-Chains: Secure, Scalable Off-Chain Payments

Rami Khalil, Alexei Zamyatin, Guillaume Felley, Pedro Moreno-Sanchez, and Arthur Gervais


Current permissionless blockchains suffer from scalability limitations. To scale without changing the underlying blockchain, one avenue is to lock funds into blockchain smart-contracts (collateral) and enact transactions outside, or off- the blockchain, via accountable peer-to-peer messages. Disputes among peers are resolved with appropriate collateral redistribution on the blockchain. In this work we lay the foundations for commit-chains, a novel off-chain scaling solution for existing blockchains where an untrusted and non-custodial operator commits the state of its user account balances via constant-sized, periodic checkpoints. Users dispute operator misbehavior via a smart contract. The commit-chain paradigm enables for the first time that off-chain users can receive payments while being offline. Moreover, locked funds can be managed efficiently at constant communication costs, alleviating collateral fragmentation. We instantiate two account-based commit-chain constructions: NOCUST, based on a cost-effective challenge-response dispute mechanism; and NOCUST-ZKP, which provides provably correct operation via zkSNARKs. These constructions offer a trade-off between correctness, verification, and efficiency while both are practical and ensure key properties such as balance safety; that is, no honest user loses coins. We implemented both constructions on a smart contract enabled blockchain. Our evaluation demonstrates that NOCUST's operational costs in terms of computation and communication scale logarithmically in the number of users and transactions, and allow very efficient lightweight clients (a user involved in e.g. 100 daily transactions only needs to store a constant 46 kb of data, allowing secure payments even on mobile devices). NOCUST is operational in production since March 2019.

Available format(s)
Cryptographic protocols
Publication info
Preprint. MAJOR revision.
2nd layer protocolsblockchain scalability
Contact author(s)
arthur @ gervais cc
2019-12-24: last of 4 revisions
2018-07-06: received
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Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Rami Khalil and Alexei Zamyatin and Guillaume Felley and Pedro Moreno-Sanchez and Arthur Gervais},
      title = {Commit-Chains: Secure, Scalable Off-Chain Payments},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/642},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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