Data Structures

Data Structures

RLE+ Bitset Encoding

RLE+ is a lossless compression format based on RLE. Its primary goal is to reduce the size in the case of many individual bits, where RLE breaks down quickly, while keeping the same level of compression for large sets of contiugous bits.

In tests it has shown to be more compact than RLE itself, as well as Concise and Roaring.


The format consists of a header, followed by a series of blocks, of which there are three different types.

The format can be expressed as the following BNF grammar.

    <encoding> ::= <header> <blocks>
      <header> ::= <version> <bit>
     <version> ::= "00"
      <blocks> ::= <block> <blocks> | ""
       <block> ::= <block_single> | <block_short> | <block_long>
<block_single> ::= "1"
 <block_short> ::= "01" <bit> <bit> <bit> <bit>
  <block_long> ::= "00" <unsigned_varint>
         <bit> ::= "0" | "1"

An <unsigned_varint> is defined as specified here.


The blocks represent how many bits, of the current bit type there are. As 0 and 1 alternate in a bit vector the inital bit, which is stored in the header, is enough to determine if a length is currently referencing a set of 0s, or 1s.

Block Single

If the running length of the current bit is only 1, it is encoded as a single set bit.

Block Short

If the running length is less than 16, it can be encoded into up to four bits, which a short block represents. The length is encoded into a 4 bits, and prefixed with 01, to indicate a short block.

Block Long

If the running length is 16 or larger, it is encoded into a varint, and then prefixed with 00 to indicate a long block.

Note: The encoding is unique, so no matter which algorithm for encoding is used, it should produce the same encoding, given the same input.

Bit Numbering

For Filecoin, byte arrays representing RLE+ bitstreams are encoded using LSB 0 bit numbering.


See the draft IPLD hash map spec for details on implementing the HAMT used for the global state tree map and throughout the actor code.

Other Considerations

  • The maximum size of an Object should be 1MB (2^20 bytes). Objects larger than this are invalid.