Serverless Payjoin Protocol Design

A draft BIP has been submitted for the design of a payjoin protocol that stands a better chance at adoption: BIP 77: Payjoin Version 2: Serverless Payjoin by DanGould · Pull Request #1483 · bitcoin/bips · GitHub.

This document proposes a backwards-compatible second version of the payjoin protocol described in BIP 78, allowing complete payjoin receiver functionality including payment output substitution without requiring them to host a secure public endpoint. This requirement is replaced with an untrusted third-party relay and streaming clients which communicate using an asynchronous protocol and authenticated, encrypted payloads.

The proceeding discussion has given rise to a number of considerations and changes that I’m keeping track of on Delving Bitcoin.

Proposed Design

Metadata Security

Data security is paramount to achieving effective privacy through a widespread implementation. However, Tor and optional VPN support may undermine adoption and privacy respectively.

I have recently discovered Oblivious HTTP (OHTTP), i.e. one-hop onion routing, to separate IP addresses from requests. I have recruited independent server operators to run OHTTP proxies to support serverless payjoin. The network protocol needs to be carefully considered to prevent an OHTTP proxy from conducting timing attacks of its own.

Authenticated Encryption

Payjoin version 1 depends on third party public key infrastructure (TLS Certificate Authorities or Tor) to secure interactions. I propose payjoin v2 clients share ephemeral public keys to authenticate and encrypt payloads associated with particular payjoin requests peer-to-peer instead. OHTTP uses a simple Hybrid Public Key Encryption (HPKE) standard to this end which we can make use of inside the payjoin application as well.

However, standard HPKE does not support secp256k1. Since all bitcoin software must support this curve we ought to support secp256k1 HPKE. Since secp256k1 is secure for our purposes and all parties relying on HPKE agree on a cryptosystem without conferring with third parties, this should be feasible.

Network Transport

We should use common network transport to be supported by as many clients as possible. By removing a TLS requirement such a protocol could even be supported by Bitcoin Core, since it would not introduce new upstream dependencies.

I have explored a number of transport mechanisms for serverless payjoin, going as far as PoC implementations for a number of the following:

  • HTTP long polling
  • STUN/TURN/ICE p2p NAT traversal
  • WebRTC
  • WebSockets / Nostr
  • WebTransport
  • Custom application transport on QUIC

Pointing at widespread support and ease of implementation leads me back to simple HTTP polling. Additionally, HTTP support allows IP metadata to be secured using Oblivious HTTP. Using plain HTTP has the additional benefit of seamless backwards compatibility.

Backwards Compatibility

Version 2 payjoin relays may operate version 1 HTTPS ingress alongside v2 OHTTP to allow version 1 senders to attempt payjoin. Receiving version 1 payjoin over version 2 relay would require receivers to remain online, which may pose a UX challenge. Version 1 payloads are unencrypted and unauthenticated, so their senders would need to disable payjoin output substitution.

PSBT Version 2

PSBT version 2 allows for simple multiparty transaction construction and mutation. New PSBT fields can also be introduced to carry payjoin parameters to forgo a dependency on an additional serialization format like JSON.

BIP 21 Public Key Encoding

Since the latest proposed design shares two keys (OHTTP, Payjoin PK) in the BIP21 URI it is critical to be efficient in the way these are represented in text. base64 URL encoding and blockchain commons UR encoding are both viable, with UR encoding behaving a bit better when displayed in QR codes.

What do you think?

I’m posting this to Delving Bitcoin to hear what you think of this design and its applicability to software you use and maintain. Let me know what you think.

Follow the community links found on to get involved.

New users can only post two links in a post, so I’ll have to follow up with links to protocols referenced in this doc. Thanks for understanding.

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Oblivious HTTP (OHTTP)

Hybrid Public Key Encryption (HPKE)

Mitigating Oblivious HTTP Relay Timing Attacks

Although sender and receiver IP addresses are hidden from the payjoin relay and require OHTTP proxy and payjoin relay to collude in order to correlate a particular pair of payjoin peers, If both sender and receiver are using the same OHTTP proxy the timing of their traffic may sufficient for that proxy to correlate their IPs together.

Long-polling in particular, where the payjoin relay responds once relevant data is available may make these timing attacks problematic. Without sufficient traffic or dispersion of OHTTP proxy, timing attacks will always be feasible. Therefore the first order of business is to build up sufficient payjoin v2 adoption.

In order to mitigate the timing problem while advancing adoption, I propose that payjoin-enabled services which already know client IP addresses, (e.g. BitMask, BullBitcoin, Boltz) Operate their own OHTTP proxies and delegate a third party to operate their payjoin relay. If two of a service’s users payjoin together under this design, the service may already be able to identify a correlation, but the payjoin relay would not.

Assuming sufficient relay traffic i.e. overlapping payjoin protocol interactions parties, I think the ability to correlate sender and receiver sharing an OHTTP proxy can be mitigated with 1. regular HTTP polling rather than long-polling and 2. random delays and 3. A shift to larger third-party OHTTP proxies which transport relatively more traffic. Delays would only work if they were sufficient enough so that an attacker would be unable to collect enough data to unwind the randomness and obtain clarity about the behavior of a specific set of peers.

Choosing a proper URI encoding for payjoin params pj pubkey and subdirectory and ohttp Key Configuration

Both the session public key and ohttp Key Configuration are included in the payjoin version 2 bitcoin URI. An early version of this protocol used base64url encoding since that’s a dense binary to text encoding that’s already available used in another payjoin dependency to encode PSBTs.

A payjoin-enabled bitcoin URI looks like this. I seek to find the decide on the most suitable way to encode $SUBDIRECTORY_PUBKEY and $OHTTP_KEY_CONFIG.


Bitcoin URIs are often QR encoded, and base64Url breaks QR Alphanumeric Encoding and leads to QR codes with a much higher density that are more difficult to scan. Some other options have been proposed.

UR Encoding

UR Encoding was suggested on the bitcoin-dev mailing list since it encodes tagged fields and includes a checksum without breaking QR alphanumeric encoding. However, the payjoin subdirectory has no tagged fields since it’s just a single key, and the OHTTP RFC Key Configuration media type encoding already has a specified binary representation, making tags unnecessary.


Bytewords is basically UR minus the tagged fields. However it’s less dense than some of the following suggestions. Setting aside the checksum, it is as dense as base16 or hexadecimal encoding. It adds a new dependency too.


Bech32 includes a human readable prefix and a checksum over a base32 encoding scheme. It’s relatively dense and the checksum and prefix help it not be mistaken for other data. This encoding is used for segwit address types. Bech32m is a later version used for segwit v1+ addresses that fixed an issue with checksum malleability.


Base45 RFC 9285 is the character set used for QR Alphanumeric Encoding, so that’s about as dense as can be for this application but does not include a checksum. The checksum is critical for the address where funds end up but less critical for public key exchange to facilitate secure transport. This might be the way to go, but it adds a dependency.

My favorites

I tend to favor bech32m with pk for public key and oh for ohttp Key Configuration prefixes. It’s already included in every piece of bitcoin software that supports segwit addresses. The prefix and checksum are nice to have without being too costly. base45 seems nice too, but it’s adds an extra dependency only to save a few bytes.