IronPigeon is a decentralized communication protocol that provides high confidentiality and authenticity for the messages.
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IronPigeon is a decentralized communication protocol that provides high confidentiality and authenticity for the messages.

Build status NuGet package

Messages are signed for authenticity, encrypted for confidentiality, and transmitted indirectly so that eavesdroppers find it difficult or impossible to establish whether two parties have even communicated, what was communicated or how much was communicated.

This project includes libraries that implement the protocol and a message relay web service project that provides the cloud component necessary for passing messages.

See the end of this file for instructions on contacting the author using the IronPigeon protocol.

Installing IronPigeon

The recommended way to acquire the binary is via the IronPigeon NuGet package.

For email-like message exchange, the IronPigeon.Dart NuGet package is recommended.

Hosting IronPigeon


There are a small collection of objects that work together to provide the functions required to send and receive messages. These objects can be manually and individually instantiated, and properties set on them to point to the other objects you've created. Or you can rely on MEF to do this work for you.

When targeting .NET 4.0, use MEF as it is found in the framework under the System.ComponentModel.Composition namespace.
When targeting .NET 4.5 or Windows 8, you should use the MEF "v2" found in the Microsoft.Composition NuGet package. The code below assumes you're using the MEF framework from NuGet. Most fundamental IronPigeon services are in the core IronPigeon assembly, so we add that entire assembly to the MEF catalog:

var configuration = new ContainerConfiguration()

// When targeting desktop apps:
// When targeting WinRT apps:

According to standard MEF code, you'll need a container to begin using instances of these services:

var container = configuration.CreateContainer();

You will need to configure some of these services (setting properties, etc.) and other services you'll call methods on to actually send and receive messages. You can acquire these services directly from the container using:

var someService = container.GetExport<T>();

The preferred approach however is that you define your own MEF part with importing properties that will automatically be set to instances of these services, like this:

public class MyImports {
    public /*WinRT*/Channel Channel { get; set; }

    public RelayCloudBlobStorageProvider MessageRelayService { get; set; }

    public ICryptoProvider CryptoProvider { get; set; }

    public OwnEndpointServices OwnEndpointServices { get; set; }

The latter approach will require that you add your part to the MEF catalog prior to creating the container:



IronPigeon has three settings that it needs to work:

  1. A URL to post public blobs to
  2. A URL to request new inboxes from
  3. The length of asymmetric keys to generate for newly created endpoints.

Assuming the context of running inside the MyImports class as defined above, the following code demonstrates configuring the above listed settings.

this.MessageRelayService.BlobPostUrl = new Uri("");
this.MessageRelayService.InboxServiceUrl = new Uri("");
this.CryptoProvider.ApplySecurityLevel(SecurityLevel.Minimum); // minimum is good for testing as keys generate faster

The URLs above are examples. They can point to any compatible cloud service.

Establishing a communications channel

To send a message via IronPigeon, a pair of endpoints must exist. Endpoints have both public and private components, containing the public and private cryptographic key pairs respectively. When party A shares its public endpoint with party B, party B can send party A messages. When two parties each create their own endpoints and exchange their public components, the two parties may communicate securely.

Creating an endpoint

The following code creates a new endpoint.

this.Channel.Endpoint = await this.OwnEndpointServices.CreateAsync();

An OwnEndpoint instance includes the private keys required for receiving messages at that endpoint. It is therefore usually advisable to persist the private keys after creating the endpoint so that messages can be received in a subsequent session of the application.

using (var stream = File.OpenWrite("user private endpoint file")) {
    await this.Channel.Endpoint.SaveAsync(stream);

Publishing an endpoint so others may send messages to it

The OwnEndpoint.PublicEndpoint property contains the public data that a remote party needs to send messages to your endpoint. The public endpoint may be transmitted to interested remote parties by any means. One method is to publish the public endpoint data to a web server and share the URL to that data with the remote party. Publishing the endpoint and obtaining the URL can be done with a single line:

Uri shareableAddress = await this.OwnEndpointServices.PublishAddressBookEntryAsync(this.Channel.Endpoint);

A remote party can turn this URL back into a public Endpoint like this:

public DirectEntryAddressBook AddressBook { get; set; }

Endpoint friend = await this.AddressBook.LookupAsync(shareableAddress);

Sending and receiving messages

Sending a message

A simple text message can be sent to a remote party:

var payload = new Payload(Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes("hello, world"), "text/plain");
var recipients = new[] { friend };
var expiration = DateTime.UtcNow + TimeSpan.FromMinutes(5);
await this.Channel.PostAsync(payload, recipients, expiration);

Receiving messages

Checking the cloud inbox for inbound messages to your endpoint can be done in any of a few ways.

This line will check for any incoming messages and immediately return with the set of messages that were waiting. If no messages were waiting, an empty set is returned:

var incoming = await this.Channel.ReceiveAsync();

To receive long-poll style push notification of any incoming messages, add a longPoll: true parameter. This will cause the receive operation to complete only when a message is actually received. In this way, you can use an asynchronous loop to continuously receive and process messages as soon as they arrive.

var incoming = await this.Channel.ReceiveAsync(longPoll: true);

Either way, processing the incoming messages is simple:

foreach (var payload in incoming) {
    var message = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(payload.Content);

Finally, if you're building a Windows 8 app, you can employ the Windows Push Notification service and avoid using a long poll connection yourself, allowing your application to receive notifications even when it is not running, or when the computer is in a low power state:

public WinRTChannel Channel { get; set; }

await this.Channel.RegisterPushNotificationChannelAsync(...);

Email-like communications

If the messages to exchange resemble emails, consider using Dart as the message format. This is facilitated by the PostalService and Message types:


public PostalService PostalService { get; set; }

var message = new Message(ownEndpoint, recipients, "subject", "body");
await this.PostalService.PostAsync(message);
var incoming = await this.PostalService.ReceiveAsync(longPoll: true|false);

Contact the author

To contact the author using the IronPigeon protocol follow these steps:

  1. Clone this project.
  2. Open the IronPigeon.sln in Visual Studio 2013.
  3. Set the Clients\WpfChatroom project as the startup project.
  4. Press F5.
  5. Create your own endpoint and save it to disk so you can open it next time.
  6. Click the "Chat with author" button.
  7. Send me a message.

I may reply right away. But I may reply in a day or two. Check back occasionally by re-launching the sample and opening the same endpoint file you used to send me the message.