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Decentralized Attestations Storage - Current Challenges

Kulpreet Singh, Chlu

Abstract

Our ongoing effort for implementing a decentralized vendor ratings and reviews system has posed a number of challenges while trying to store attestations provided by peers such that they are stored in persistent, decentralized storage that validate attestations before storing them. We are using IPFS for our current implementation but providing layers of validation and replication highlights the need for storage network that can provide these features in a generic manner such that various Dapps can use the same network. In this document we motivate the need for such a network by highlighting the challenges we are facing during our implementation effort.

Introduction

The Chlu reputation protocol provides decentralized ratings and reviews for vendors who until now are entrapped by centralized marketplaces that lock vendor reputations in walled gardens. We published our analysis of the Chlu protocol using the RWOT design considerations for decentralized reputation system.

During our ongoing development work to provide a decentralized platform for ratings and reviews data, we have encountered the need for a decentralized PKI and the challenges faced while trying to provide an "always available" attestations storage network such that the DID owner can't refuse an attestation - as long as it is valid. The need for our requirements and how we aim to provide it is described in the Chlu protocol.

In this document we briefly describe our protocol and highlight the challenges facing our work. We acknowledge the need for Chlu to start supporting the Decentralized Identifiers specifications and Linked Data Signatures specifications. Finally, we point out changes we would like to discuss around Decentralized Identity Hubs Specifications.

Chlu Protocol Overview

We haven't started using DID specification yet, and we plan to start using them as soon as our first reference implementation is complete.

The actors in the Chlu protocol are marketplaces (both centralized and decentralized), vendors selling goods and services on marketplaces and customers making purchases through those marketplaces.

We next provide a quick over of the Chlu protocol as it stands without implementing DID specs.

  1. Vendors obtain a keypair from a marketplace (S_vm, P_vm). The secret let S_vm is signed by the marketplace using the marketplace root key pair, (S_m, P_m). The public keys P_m and P_vm are published in well-known location under marketplace control. The problem of depending on a well-known locations and DNS are identified in 'Challenge 1.'

  2. Vendors sign P_vm with their own identifying key. Currently we use IPNS for distributing this vendor identity key and we want to explore using DID specifications to provide this.

  3. Marketplaces generate a payment request on behalf of a vendor by signing the payment request using S_vm.

  4. The payment request includes a reference to the public key P_vm that can be used to verify the payment request.

  5. Customers receive the signed payment request, validate that the payment request was signed by the P_vm referenced from it, and that P_vm is signed by the claiming vendor and the marketplace.

  6. Once the payment request is validated, the customer creates a rating and review, stores it in a decentralized storage network and finally makes a payment via a cryptocurrency including a reference to the rating and review in the payment transaction. Chlu saves the rating and review on IPFS and then uses flooding messages to provide replication. See 'Challenge 2.'

  7. Validation - Anyone who finds the rating and review can validate the review, by checking the rating and review data has a reference to payment request that was signed by the vendor and a marketplace - or directly by a marketplace on behalf of the vendor. See 'Challenge 3.'

  8. Finally, Chlu requires that vendors can control which marketplaces have access to their ratings and reviews data. We are working on a bespoke encryption scheme that is a stand in for authorization DID methods specification. See 'Challenge 4.'

Challenges

  1. We use .well-known location to distribute marketplace root keys. We are aware of the problems with the approach, and we want to switch to decentralized PKI as soon as one is easily usable for production use. Ideally, we could work towards providing an implementation of a decentralized identity hub that can be used without using a token to pay for its use.

  2. We are using IPFS to provide for a replicated store for ratings and reviews data. Chlu IPFS nodes validate any new data and then store it, they also help any new nodes receive historical data. We would like to switch to an implementation of the Decentralized Identity Hub Specification. However, the specifications state how attestations can be accessed, but we want to provide means to a) create attestations and store them and b) enable attestation authors to update the attestations. The need for updating attestations is derived from requirements in e-commerce world for allowing customers to edit their reviews.

  3. It is important that the storage network only store ratings and reviews that are valid and linked to a payment via a cryptocurrency. We at Chlu believe that a generic validating storage network is possible and that such a network can be configured to support a number of different validation protocols. The storage network should then only store attestations that are valid according to a supported protocol.

  4. Vendors can choose to authorize marketplaces to read reviews and ratings as they want to join or leave a marketplace. When vendors share their ratings and review history with a marketplace, it should have access to all the past and future attestations received by the vendor. This requires that the Decentralized Identity Hubs need to provide support for sharing all the past and future attestations data. Our stand in solution is a brute force solution of encrypting the review data with marketplace public key and publishing the encrypted data on IPFS. We think there is a better, more elegant solution possible, especially around the decentralized hub specifications.

Related work

Chlu proposes to save ratings and reviews on a decentralized network and linked to a blockchain transaction. This is closest to the Chainpoint, Factom and Blockstack Identity. However both Factom and Tierion require a token for using the network, while using Blockstack Identity requires that application be built on top of their stack, which some Dapp authors might be reluctant to do, especially those using Ethereum as a smart contracts platform.

Conclusion

We think a freely accessible peer to peer storage network to store DIDs and attestations could work if the right incentives are provided to the participants.

Such a storage network will allow anyone to leave an attestation for an entity, as long as they provide a proof that the storage network knows how to validate. The storage network will only store attestations for proof types (protocols) that it supports and will only store an attestation if it is valid. Nodes on a storage network could load/unload proof types they want to support.

In Chlu's case the attestations are in the form of ratings and reviews for a vendors, and marketplaces have a strong incentive to run a full replicating node for the simple reason of having local access to all the data available on the network that they have been given read access to.

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