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The Extended UTXO Model

February/2020, Workshop on Trusted Smart Contracts (Financial Cryptography 2020)


Bitcoin and Ethereum, hosting the two currently most valuable and popular cryptocurrencies, use two rather different ledger models, known as the UTXO model and the account model, respectively. At the same time, these two public blockchains differ strongly in the expressiveness of the smart contracts that they support. This is no coincidence. Ethereum chose the account model explicitly to facilitate more expressive smart contracts. On the other hand, Bitcoin chose UTXO also for good reasons, including that its semantic model stays simple in a complex concurrent and distributed computing environment. This raises the question of whether it is possible to have expressive smart contracts, while keeping the semantic simplicity of the UTXO model.

In this paper, we answer this question affirmatively. We present Extended UTXO (EUTXO), an extension to Bitcoin’s UTXO model that supports a substantially more expressive form of validation scripts, including scripts that implement general state machines and enforce invariants across entire transaction chains.

To demonstrate the power of this model, we also introduce a form of state machines suitable for execution on a ledger, based on Mealy machines and called Constraint Emitting Machines (CEM). We formalise CEMs, show how to compile them to EUTXO, and show a weak bisimulation between the two systems. All of our work is formalised using the Agda proof assistant.