Passing Transcripts

Merlin models a proof proof protocol as operating on a transcript context. This means that implementations of proof protocols should not create a transcript internally, but accept an existing transcript as a parameter.

Domain Separation

Because Merlin transcripts are passed as parameters to the proving and verification functions provided by a proof library, applications which use those library functions must create transcript objects to use those functions. But because the transcript creation function takes a domain separation label (see Transcript Operations), this means that every application using a Merlin-based proof system performs domain separation by default, as the application must supply a domain separation label.

Moreover, this also allows an application to bind a Merlin-based proof not just to a single label, but to arbitrary structured application data, by appending structured messages to a transcript before passing it to a proof function. For instance, an application can commit a message to a transcript to turn a Schnorr proof into a signature scheme.

Sequential Composition

Passing a transcript as a parameter also allows automatic sequential composition without requiring any changes to the implementations of the composed proofs. To compose two proof statements, a library or application can append a domain separator identifying the composition, pass the transcript to the first proof function, then pass the transcript to the second proof function. The second proof's messages and challenges are then bound to the first proof's, while the first proof's messages are bound to the composition declaration.

This can be used both at the application level, combining proofs from different libraries (for instance, combining a Bulletproof with a Schnorr proof), or at the library level, allowing a proof to be implemented internally as a composition of two proofs (for instance, implementing the inner-product proof in a Bulletproof independently from the range-to-inner-product reduction proof).