Bitcoin Cash Specification

P2P Layer

P2P Network Message

The Bitcoin Cash Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Network protocol is a binary protocol used by Full Nodes and SPV Nodes, transmitted over TCP/IP. Individual nodes on the Bitcoin Cash network connect and create a mesh network where each node is indirectly connected to many others via just a couple of hops. In the original Satoshi implementation of the P2P protocol the design of INV and getdata have been used for propagating transaction data using the rules of the gossip protocol values: forwarding validated transactions to a few peer-nodes who send it to others until the entire network has the transaction. This emergent behavior of the P2P layer allows fast propagation without undue strain on any individual node.

The P2P protocol is designed around messages. Each message is separate and self-contained. Nodes should be tolerant of message-types they do not understand. It is best to simply ignore those.

Generally speaking, each message is an event that the node can choose to respond to. Events can be notifications of new data (transactions/blocks/etc), requests for such data to be sent, or the sending of the data itself. In some specific cases a message can indicate the rejection of another message, though this is optional and should not be relied upon.

These design decisions were made with consideration to communication with untrusted/uncooperative partners.

Developer Notes: A common message strategy is to wait for any message that provides the required data (with a timeout), and then separately issue the request in a retry loop to multiple peers.

Message Format

The P2P network has a variety of message types. All P2P messages follow a binary format with the following structure:

Field Length Format Description
net magic 4 bytes byte array(BE) See net magic.
command string 12 bytes string(BE) See command string.
payload byte count 4 bytes unsigned integer(LE) The size of the payload. The total max size of any message is 268,435,456 bytes (256 MiB), and the header for a message is always 24 bytes, therefore the max value of the payload byte count is 268,435,432 bytes, while the min value is zero (indicating no additional payload).
payload checksum 4 bytes byte array(BE) The message checksum is the first 4 bytes of a double-sha256 hash of the payload.
payload variable message-specific See message types for links to message-specific page, which describe the payload for each message.

See Example Message for a concrete example of this with a message that does not contain an extended payload.

Net Magic

The network identifier is used to separate blockchains and test networks. This reduces unnecessary load on peers, allowing them to rapidly ban nodes rather then forcing the peer to do a blockchain analysis before banning or disconnecting. For Bitcoin Cash main net, the net magic field is always 0xE3E1F3E8 (the ASCII string, “cash”, with each byte’s highest bit set). Any message received that does not begin with the net magic is invalid.

The net magic is designed to be unlikely to occur in normal data–the characters are rarely used upper ASCII, are not valid as UTF-8, and produce a large 32-bit integer with any alignment.

Command String

The command string is a fixed-length 12 byte ASCII string. Commands may not be longer than 12 bytes. Commands that are shorter than 12 bytes are right-padded with null bytes (0x00). The command string is used to determine the type of message being transmitted. Messages with an unrecognized command string are ignored by most implementations but may result in a ban by implementations that diverge from the Satoshi-client defacto standard.

Message Types

Announcements

Command String Synopsis
filteradd Adds a single item into an installed filter
filterclear Removes an installed filter
filterload Inserts a transaction and merkle block filter into the peer
inv Notifies peers about the existence of some information (generally a block or transaction)
dsproof-beta Informs participants of an attempt to double spend

Requests

Command String Synopsis
feefilter Requests that transactions without sufficient fees are not relayed
getaddr Requests a list of active peers
getblocks Requests block hash identifiers
getdata Requests information from a peer
getheaders Requests block headers from a peer
ping Requests a confirmation (pong) that the peer is still active
sendheaders Requests that new blocks are sent as headers instead of hashes
version Describes peer capabilities
mempool Request mempool contents

Responses

Command String Synopsis
addr Provides a peer with the addresses of other peers
block Provides the contents of a block
headers Provides a set of block headers (unsolicited or GETHEADERS response)
notfound Indicates that a requested resource could not be relayed
merkleblock Provides a provable subset of a block’s transactions, as filtered by FILTERADD
pong Reply to a ping message
reject Response by well-behaved clients if a message cannot be handled
tx Provides a transaction
verack Response to a version message

Example message

The below segments, when concatenated in order, create a sample verack message.

Label Sample Value (Hexadecimal Representation)
Net Magic(BE) E3E1F3E8
Command String (“verack”)(BE) 76657261636B000000000000
Payload Byte Count(LE) 00000000
Payload Checksum(LE) 5DF6E0E2

Below is the full, concatenated sample message (in hexadecimal):

E3E1F3E876657261636B000000000000000000005DF6E0E2