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MSC2403: Add "knock" feature

Many people are in invite-only rooms. Sometimes, someone wants to join such a room and can't, as they aren't invited. This proposal adds a feature for a user to indicate that they want to join a room.

Proposal

This proposal implements the reserved "knock" membership type for the m.room.member state event. This state event indicates that when a user knocks on a room, they are asking for permission to join. Like all membership events, it contains an optional "reason" parameter to specify the reason you want to join. Like other membership types, the parameters "displayname" and "avatar_url" are optional. This membership can be sent by users who aren't currently in said room. An example for the membership would look like the following:

{
  "membership": "knock",
  "displayname": "Alice",
  "avatar_url": "mxc://example.org/avatar",
  "reason": "I want to join this room as I really love foxes!"
}

After a knock in a room, a member of the room can invite the knocker, or they can decide to reject it instead.

Client-Server API

A new endpoint is introduced in the Client-Server API: POST /_matrix/client/r0/knock/{roomIdOrAlias}. This allows the client to state their intent to knock on a room.

Additionally, extensions to the GET /_matrix/client/r0/sync endpoint are introduced. These allow a client to receive information about the status of their knock attempt.

POST /_matrix/client/r0/knock/{roomIdOrAlias}

Or the knocking equivalent of POST /_matrix/client/r0/join/{roomIdOrAlias}.

The path parameter (roomIdOrAlias) is either the room ID or the alias of the room you want to knock on. Additionally, several server_name parameters can be specified via the query parameters. The post body accepts an optional string parameter, reason, which is the reason you want to join the room. A request could look as follows:

POST /_matrix/client/r0/knock/%23foxes%3Amatrix.org?server_name=matrix.org&server_name=elsewhere.ca  HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

{
  "reason": "I want to join this room as I really love foxes!"
}

This endpoint requires authentication and can be rate limited.

Responses:

Status code 200:

The user knocked successfully. The room ID of the knocked on room is returned. Example reply:

{
  "room_id": "!ZclcEpFTORTjmWIrqH:matrix.org"
}
Status code 403:

The user wasn't allowed to knock (e.g. they are banned). Example error reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_FORBIDDEN",
  "error": "The user isn't allowed to knock in this room."
}
Status code 404:

The room was not found. Example error reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_NOT_FOUND",
  "error": "Unknown room."
}

Extensions to GET /_matrix/client/r0/sync

In the response to /sync is a rooms field. This is a dictionary which currently contains keys join, invite and leave, which each provide information to the client on various membership states regarding the user.

It is proposed to add a fourth possible key to rooms, called knock. Its value is a mapping from room ID to room information. The room information is a mapping from a key knock_state to another mapping with key events being a list of StrippedStateEvent. StrippedStateEvents are defined as state events that only contain the sender, type, state_key and content keys.

Note that while join and leave keys in /sync use state, we use knock_state here. This mirrors invites use of invite_state.

These stripped state events contain information about the room, most notably the room's name and avatar. A client will need this information to show a nice representation of pending knocked rooms. The recommended events to include are the join rules, canonical alias, avatar, name and encryption state of the room, rather than all room state. This behaviour matches the information sent to remote homeservers when remote users are invited to a room.

This prevents unneeded state from the room leaking out, and also speeds things up (think not sending over hundreds of membership events from big rooms).

Also note that like invite_state, state events from knock_state are purely for giving the user some information about the current state of the room that they have knocked on. If the user was previously in the room, the state events in knock_state are not intended to overwrite any historical state. This applies storage of state on both the homeserver and the client.

The following is an example of knock state coming down /sync.

Request:

GET /_matrix/client/r0/sync HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

Response:

{
  ...
  "rooms": {
    "knock": {
      "!abcdefghijklmo:example.com": {
        "knock_state": {
          "events": [
            {
              "content": {
                "join_rule": "knock"
              },
              "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
              "state_key": "",
              "type": "m.room.join_rules"
            },
            {
              "content": {
                "name": "Some cool room"
              },
              "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
              "state_key": "",
              "type": "m.room.name"
            },
            {
              "content": {
                "url": "mxc://example.com/xyz54321"
              },
              "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
              "state_key": "",
              "type": "m.room.avatar"
            },
            {
              "content": {
                "avatar_url": "mxc://example.org/abc1234",
                "displayname": "Knocking User",
                "membership": "knock"
              },
              "sender": "@knocking_user:example.org",
              "state_key": "@knocking_user:example.org",
              "type": "m.room.member",
            }
          ]
        }
      }
    }
  },
  ...
}

Changes regarding the Public Rooms Directory

A problem arises for discovery of knockable rooms. Ideally one wouldn't have to send their colleagues a room ID for a room that they need to knock on. One of these methods for room discovery is the public rooms directory, which allows us to explore a list of rooms we may be able to join.

The spec does not prevent us from adding rooms with 'knock' join_rules to the public rooms directory. However, a user attempting to join a room in the directory will not know whether to directly attempt a join, or to knock first. The current content of a PublicRoomsChunk does not contain this information:

{
  "aliases": [
    "#murrays:cheese.bar"
  ],
  "avatar_url": "mxc://bleecker.street/CHEDDARandBRIE",
  "guest_can_join": false,
  "name": "CHEESE",
  "num_joined_members": 37,
  "room_id": "!ol19s:bleecker.street",
  "topic": "Tasty tasty cheese",
  "world_readable": true
}

Therefore this proposal adds join_rule as a new, optional field to a PublicRoomsChunk. The join_rule of knockable rooms will be knock, thus giving clients the information they need to attempt entry of a room when a client selects it. It also allows clients to display knockable rooms differently than publicly joinable ones.

For backwards compatibility with old servers, the default value of join_rule is public.

Push Rules

To help knocks be noticed earlier, it would be nice to send a push notification to those in the room who can act on a knock when it comes in, rather than everyone in the room. This would require a push rule to fire only when that user's power level is high enough to accept or reject a knock.

With the current push rules implementation it is possible to place a condition on the sender's power level, but unfortunately the same does not exist for event recipients.

This MSC thus does not propose any changes to push rules at this time, but acknowledges that it would be useful for a future MSC to address when the underlying push rules architecture can support it.

Server-Server API

Similarly to join and leave over federation, a ping-pong game with two new endpoints is introduced: make_knock and send_knock. Both endpoints must be protected via server ACLs.

GET /_matrix/federation/v1/make_knock/{roomId}/{userId}

Asks the receiving server to return information that the sending server will need to prepare a knock event.

Request format:

Parameter Type Description
Path parameters:
roomId string Required. The room ID that should receive the knock.
userId string Required. The user ID the knock event will be for.
Query Parameters:
ver [string] Required. The room versions the sending server has support for.

Note that GET /_matrix/federation/v1/make_join/{roomId}/{userId} does not make ver a required query parameter for backwards compatibility reasons. We have no such restrictions.

Response Format:

Parameter Type Description
room_version string The version of the room where the server is trying to knock.
event Event Template An unsigned template event. May differ between room versions.

Responses

Status code 200:

Returns a template to be used to knock on rooms. May depend on room version.

{
  "room_version": "2",
  "event": {
    "type": "m.room.member",
    "room_id": "!somewhere:example.org",
    "content": {
      "membership": "knock"
    },
    "state_key": "@someone:example.org",
    "origin": "example.org",
    "origin_server_ts": 1549041175876,
    "sender": "@someone:example.org"
  }
}
Status code 400:

This request was invalid, e.g. bad JSON. Example reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_INCOMPATIBLE_ROOM_VERSION",
  "error": "Your homeserver does not support the features required to join this room",
  "room_version": "3"
}
Status code 403:

This request is forbidden, e.g. the user is banned from the room. Example reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_FORBIDDEN",
  "error": "You are not allowed to knock on this room"
}
Status code 404:

The room is unknown to the remote server. Example reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_NOT_FOUND",
  "error": "Unknown room"
}

PUT /_matrix/federation/v1/send_knock/{roomId}/{eventId}

Submits a signed knock event to the resident homeserver for it to accept into the room's graph. Note that event format may differ between room versions.

Note that in the past all send_* federation endpoints were updated to /v2 to remove a redundant HTTP error code from the return body. While we don't have the same redundancy here, we start off at /v1 for this new endpoint as per MSC2844.

Request format:

Parameter Type Description
Path parameters:
roomId string Required. The room ID that should receive the knock.
eventId string Required. The event ID for the knock event.

The JSON body is expected to be the full event.

Response Format:

Parameter Type Description
knock_room_state [StrippedStateEvent] Required. State events providing public room metadata

A request could look as follows:

PUT /_matrix/federation/v1/send_knock/%21abc123%3Amatrix.org/%24abc123%3Aexample.org HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json

{
  "sender": "@someone:example.org",
  "origin": "matrix.org",
  "origin_server_ts": 1234567890,
  "type": "m.room.member",
  "state_key": "@someone:example.org",
  "content": {
    "membership": "knock",
    "displayname": "Alice",
    "avatar_url": "mxc://example.org/avatar",
    "reason": "I want to join this room as I really love foxes!"
  }
}

Response:

Status code 200:

The event was successfully accepted into the graph by the homeserver that received the knock. It must then send this knock into the room, before responding to the knocking homeserver, indicating the knock succeeded.

The response contains StrippedStateEvents with room metadata (room name, avatar ...) that the knocking homeserver can pass to the client. The event types that can be sent here should match those of the /sync extensions mentioned above.

This is loosely based on the federated invite request content.

{
  "knock_room_state": [
    {
      "content": {
        "join_rule": "knock"
      },
      "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
      "state_key": "",
      "type": "m.room.join_rules"
    },
    {
      "content": {
        "name": "Some cool room"
      },
      "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
      "state_key": "",
      "type": "m.room.name"
    },
    {
      "content": {
        "url": "mxc://example.com/xyz54321"
      },
      "sender": "@room_admin:example.com",
      "state_key": "",
      "type": "m.room.avatar"
    },
    {
      "content": {
        "avatar_url": "mxc://example.org/abc1234",
        "displayname": "Knocking User",
        "membership": "knock"
      },
      "sender": "@knocking_user:example.org",
      "state_key": "@knocking_user:example.org",
      "type": "m.room.member",
    }
  ]
}
Status code 403:

This request is forbidden, e.g. the user is banned from the room. Example reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_FORBIDDEN",
  "error": "You are not allowed to knock on this room"
}
Status code 404:

The room is unknown to the remote server. Example reply:

{
  "errcode": "M_NOT_FOUND",
  "error": "Unknown room"
}

Restrictions

There are restrictions to being able to set this membership, as well as accepting or denying the knock. A formal description of the changes to the auth rules is given below; first we summarise the semantics of the proposed changes.

Current membership

Only users without a current membership or with their current membership set to "knock" or "leave" can knock on a room. This means that a user that is banned, is invited or is currently in the room cannot knock on it.

Join Rules

This proposal makes use of the existing "knock" join rule. The value of join_rule in the content of the m.room.join_rules state event for a room must be set to "knock" for a knock to succeed. This means that existing rooms will need to opt into allowing knocks in their rooms. Other than allowing knocks, a join rule of "knock" is functionally equivalent to that of "invite", except that it additionally allows external users to change their membership to "knock" under certain conditions.

Auth rules

Each room version defines the auth rules which should be applied in that room version. This MSC proposes a new room version with the following changes to the auth rules from room version 6:

  • Under "5. If type is m.room.member", insert the following after "e. If membership is ban":

    f. If `membership` is `knock`:
      i. If the `join_rule` is anything other than `knock`, reject.
      ii. If `sender` does not match `state_key`, reject.
      iii. If the `sender`'s membership is not `ban`, `invite` or `join`, allow.
      iv. Otherwise, reject.
    

Note that: - Both the sender and state_key fields are set to the user ID of the knocking user. This is different to an invite membership event, where the sender is the inviter and the state_key is the invitee. - f.ii is justified as one user should not be able to knock on behalf of another user. - f.iii is justified as knocks should not be allowed if the knocking user has been banned from the room, is invited to the room or if they are already in the room. - Knocks are not restricted by power level like invites are. The join_rules are already used to enforce whether someone can or cannot knock. However, power level rules do apply when approving or denying the knock, as discussed in the Membership Changes section below.

Additionally, note that redactions of knock events are not a concern, as membership keys are excluded from being redacted as defined by all current room versions.

Membership changes

Once someone has sent a knock membership into the room, the membership for that user can be transitioned to the following possible states:

  • invite: In this case, the knock was accepted by someone inside the room and they are inviting the knocker into the room.
  • leave: In this case, similar to how kicks are handled, the knock has been rejected. Alternatively, the knocking user has rescinded their knock.
  • ban: In this case, the knock was rejected and the user has been prevented from sending further knocks.

Let's talk about each one of these in more detail.

Membership change to invite

The knock has been accepted by someone in the room.

The user who is accepting the knock must have the power level to perform invites. The accepting user's homeserver will then send an invite - over federation if necessary - to the knocking user. The knocking user may then join the room as if they had been invited normally.

To accept a knock, the client should call POST /_matrix/client/r0/rooms/{roomId}/invite with the user ID of the knocking user in the JSON body.

If the knocking user is on another homeserver, then the homeserver of the accepting user will call PUT /_matrix/federation/v2/invite/{roomId}/{eventId} on the knocking homeserver to inform it that the knock has been accepted.

The knocking homeserver should assume an invite to a room it has knocked on means that its knock has been accepted, even if the invite was not explicitly related to the knock attempt.

Note that client or homeserver implementations are free to automatically accept this invite given they're aware that it's the result of a previous knock. In case of failing to auto-accept an invite on the homeserver, it's recommended for homeservers to pass the invite down to the client so that it may try at a later point (or reject the potentially broken invite) at the user's discretion.

Membership change to leave via rejecting a knock

The knock has been rejected by someone in the room.

To reject a knock, the rejecting user's client must call POST /_matrix/client/r0/rooms/{roomId}/kick with the user ID of the knocking user in the JSON body. Rejecting a knock over federation has a slight catch, though.

When the knocking user is on another homeserver, the homeserver of the rejecting user needs to send the leave event over federation to the knocking homeserver. However, this is a bit tricky as it is currently very difficult to have events from a room propagate over federation when the receiving homeserver is not in the room. This is due to the remote homeserver being unable to verify that the event being sent is actually from a homeserver in the room - and that the homeserver in the room had the required power level to send it. This is a problem that currently affects other, similar operations, such as disinviting or unbanning a federated user. In both cases, they won't be notified as their homeserver is not in the room.

While we could easily send the leave event as part of a generic transaction to the remote homeserver, that homeserver would have no way to validate the prev_events and auth_events that the event references. We could send those events over as well, but those will also reference other events that require validation and so on.

A simple thing we could easily do here is to trust the leave event implicitly if it is sent by the homeserver we originally knocked through. We know this homeserver is (or at least was) in the room, so they're probably telling the truth. This is almost an edge case though, as while you'll knock through one homeserver in the room, there's no guarantee that the admin that denies your knock will be on the same homeserver you knocked through. Perhaps the homeserver you knocked through could listen for this and then send the event back to you - but what if it goes offline in the meantime?

As such, informing remote homeservers about the rejection of knocks over federation is de-scoped for now, and left to a future MSC which can solve this class of problem in a suitable way. Rejections should still work for the homeservers that are in the room, as they can validate the leave event for they have access to the events it references.

Membership change to leave via rescinding a knock

The knocking user has rescinded their knock.

To rescind a knock, the knocking user's client must call POST /_matrix/client/r0/rooms/{roomId}/leave. To rescind a knock over federation, the knocking homeserver must complete a make_leave, send_leave dance with a homeserver in the room.

Membership change to ban

The knock has been rejected by someone in the room and the user has been banned, and is unable to send further knocks.

This one is fairly straightforward. Someone with the appropriate power levels in the room bans the user. This will have the same effect as rejecting the knock, and in addition prevent any further knocks by this user from being allowed into the room.

If the user is unbanned, they will be able to send a new knock which could be accepted.

To ban the user, the client should call POST /_matrix/client/r0/rooms/{roomId}/ban with the user ID of the knocking user in the JSON body.

Informing the knocking user about the update is the same as rejecting the knock.

Potential issues

This new feature would allow users to send events into rooms that they don't partake in. That is why this proposal enables the knock join rule, in order to allow room admins to opt in to this behaviour.

Alternatives

The possibility of initiating a knock by sending EDUs between users instead of sending a membership state event into a room has been raised. This is an ongoing discussion occurring at https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/2403/files#r573180627.

Client UX recommendations

After a knock is received in a room, it is expected to be displayed in the timeline, similar to other membership changes. Clients can optionally add a way for users of a room to review all current knocks.

Please also note the recommendations for clients in the "Security considerations" section below.

Security considerations

Clients must take care when implementing this feature in order to prevent simple abuse vectors that can be accomplished by individual users. For instance, when a knock occurs, clients are advised to hide the reason until the user interacts with the client in some way (e.g. clicking on a "show reason" button). The user should reveal the reason only if they choose to.

It is recommended to not display the reason by default as else this would essentially allow outsiders to send messages into the room.

It is still theoretically possible for a homeserver admin to create many users with different user IDs or display names, all spelling out an abusive message, and then having each of them knock in order.

Clients should also do their best to prevent impersonation attacks. Similar to joins, users can set any displayname or avatar URL they'd like when knocking on a room. Clients SHOULD display further information to help identify the user, such as User ID, encryption verification status, rooms you share with the user, etc. Care should be taken to balance the importance of preventing attacks while avoiding overloading the user with too much information or raising false positives.

Another abuse vector is allowed by the ability for users to rescind knocks. This is to help users in case they knocked on a room accidentally, or simply no longer want to join a room they've knocked on. While this is a useful feature, it also allows users to spam a room by knocking and rescinding their knocks over and over. Particularly note-worthy is that this will generate state events that homeservers in the room will need to process. And while join/leave state changes will do the same in a public room, the act of knocking is much lighter than the act of joining a room.

In both cases, room admins should employ typical abuse mitigation tools, such as user bans and server ACLs. Clients are encouraged to make employing these tools easy even if the offensive user or server is not present in the room.

Unstable prefix

An unstable feature flag is not required due to this proposal's requirement of a new room version. Clients can check for a room version that includes knocking via the Client-Server API's capabilities endpoint. Experimental implementation should use xyz.amorgan.knock as a room version identifier.

The new endpoints should contain an unstable prefix during experimental implementation. The unstable counterpart for each endpoint is:

C-S knock:

  • POST /_matrix/client/knock/{roomIdOrAlias}
  • POST /_matrix/client/unstable/xyz.amorgan.knock/knock/{roomIdOrAlias}

S-S make_knock:

  • GET /_matrix/federation/v1/make_knock/{roomId}/{userId}
  • GET /_matrix/federation/unstable/xyz.amorgan.knock/make_knock/{roomId}/{userId}

S-S send_knock:

  • PUT /_matrix/federation/v1/send_knock/{roomId}/{eventId}
  • PUT /_matrix/federation/unstable/xyz.amorgan.knock/send_knock/{roomId}/{eventId}

Finally, an unstable prefix is added to the key that comes down /sync, the join rule for rooms and the content.membership key of the member event sent into rooms when a user has knocked successfully. Instead of knock, experimental implementations should use xyz.amorgan.knock.