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Status Client Specification

Version: 0.1 (Draft)

Authors: Adam Babik adam@status.im, Dean Eigenmann dean@status.im, Oskar Thorén oskar@status.im (alphabetical order)

Abstract

In this specification, we describe how to write a Status client for communicating with other Status clients.

We present a reference implementation of the protocol 1 that is used in a command line client 2 and a mobile app 3.

This document consists of two parts. The first outlines the specifications that have to be implemented in order to be a full Status client. The second gives a design rationale and answers some common questions.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Protocol layers

Implementing a Status clients means implementing the following layers. Additionally, there are separate specifications for things like key management and account lifecycle.

Layer Purpose Technology
Data and payloads End user functionality 1:1, group chat, public chat
Data sync Data consistency MVDS Ratchet
Secure transport Confidentiality, PFS, etc Double Ratchet
Transport privacy Routing, Metadata protection Whisper
P2P Overlay Overlay routing, NAT traversal devp2p

Components

P2P Overlay

Status clients run on the public Ethereum network, as specified by the devP2P network protocols. devP2P provides a protocol for node discovery which is in draft mode here. See more on node discovery and management in the next section.

To communicate between Ethereum nodes, the RLPx Transport Protocol, v5 is used, which allows for TCP-based communication between nodes.

On top of this we run the RLPx-based subprotocol Whisper v6 for privacy-preserving messaging.

There MUST be an Ethereum node that is capable of discovering peers and implements Whisper V6 specification.

Node discovery and roles

There are four types of node roles:

  1. Bootstrap nodes
  2. Whisper relayers
  3. Mailservers (servers and clients)
  4. Mobile nodes (Status Clients)

To implement a standard Status client you MUST implement the last node type. The other node types are optional, but we RECOMMEND you implement a mailserver client mode, otherwise the user experience is likely to be poor.

Bootstrapping

To connect to other Status nodes you need to connect to a bootstrap node. These nodes allow you to discover other nodes of the network.

Currently the main bootstrap nodes are provided by Status Gmbh, but anyone can run these provided they are connected to the rest of the Whisper network.

Status maintains a list of boootstrap nodes in the following locations:

  • Asia:
    • enode://e8a7c03b58911e98bbd66accb2a55d57683f35b23bf9dfca89e5e244eb5cc3f25018b4112db507faca34fb69ffb44b362f79eda97a669a8df29c72e654416784@47.91.224.35:443
    • enode://43947863cfa5aad1178f482ac35a8ebb9116cded1c23f7f9af1a47badfc1ee7f0dd9ec0543417cc347225a6e47e46c6873f647559e43434596c54e17a4d3a1e4@47.52.74.140:443
  • Europe:
    • enode://436cc6f674928fdc9a9f7990f2944002b685d1c37f025c1be425185b5b1f0900feaf1ccc2a6130268f9901be4a7d252f37302c8335a2c1a62736e9232691cc3a@174.138.105.243:443
    • enode://5395aab7833f1ecb671b59bf0521cf20224fe8162fc3d2675de4ee4d5636a75ec32d13268fc184df8d1ddfa803943906882da62a4df42d4fccf6d17808156a87@206.189.243.57:443
  • North America:
    • enode://7427dfe38bd4cf7c58bb96417806fab25782ec3e6046a8053370022cbaa281536e8d64ecd1b02e1f8f72768e295d06258ba43d88304db068e6f2417ae8bcb9a6@104.154.88.123:443
    • enode://ebefab39b69bbbe64d8cd86be765b3be356d8c4b24660f65d493143a0c44f38c85a257300178f7845592a1b0332811542e9a58281c835babdd7535babb64efc1@35.202.99.224:443

These bootstrap nodes do not change, however, we can't guarantee that it will stay this way forever and at some point we might be forced to change them.

Discovery

To implement a Status client you need to discover peers to connect to. We use a light discovery mechanism based on a combination of Discovery v5 and Rendezvous Protocol, (with some modifications). Additionally, some static nodes MAY also be used.

A Status client MUST use at least one discovery method or use static nodes to communicate with other clients.

Discovery V5 uses bootstrap nodes to discover other peers. Bootstrap nodes MUST support Discovery V5 protocol as well in order to provide peers. It is kademlia-based discovery mechanism and it might consume significant (at least on mobile) amount of network traffic to operate.

In order to take advantage from simpler and more mobile-friendly peers discovery mechanism, i.e. Rendezvous protocol, one MUST provide a list of Rendezvous nodes which speak Rendezvous protocol. Rendezvous protocol is request-response discovery mechanism. It uses Ethereum Node Records (ENR) to report discovered peers.

Both peers discovery mechanisms use topics to provide peers with certain capabilities. There is no point in returning peers that do not support a particular protocol. Status nodes that want to be discovered MUST register to Discovery V5 and/or Rendezvous with the whisper topic. Status nodes that are mail servers and want to be discoverable MUST additionally register with the whispermail topic.

The recommended strategy is to use both mechanisms but at the same time implement a structure called PeerPool. PeerPool is responsible for maintaining an optimal number of peers. For mobile nodes, there is no significant advantage to have more than 2-3 peers and one mail server. PeerPool can notify peers discovery protocol implementations that they should suspend their execution because the optimal number of peers is found. They should resume if the number of connected peers drops or a mail server disconnects.

It is worth noticing that an efficient caching strategy can be of great use, especially, on mobile devices. Discovered peers can be cached as they rarely change and used when the client starts again. In such a case, there might be no need to even start peers discovery protocols because cached peers will satisfy the optimal number of peers.

Alternatively, a client MAY rely exclusively on a list of static peers. This is the most efficient way because there is no peers discovery algorithm overhead introduced. The disadvantage is that these peers might be gone and without peers discovery mechanism, it won't be possible to find new ones.

The current list of static peers is published on https://fleets.status.im/. eth.beta is the current group of peers the official Status client uses. The others are test networks.

Mobile nodes

This is a Whisper node which connects to part of the Whisper network. It MAY relay messages. See next section for more details on how to use Whisper to communicate with other Status nodes.

Transport privacy and Whisper usage

Once a Whisper node is up and running there are some specific settings required to commmunicate with other Status nodes.

See Status Whisper Usage Spec for more details.

For providing offline inboxing, see the complementary Whisper Mailserver Spec.

Secure Transport

In order to provide confidentiality, integrity, authentication and forward secrecy of messages we implement a secure transport on top of Whisper. This is used in 1:1 chats and group chats, but not for public chats. See Status Secure Transport Spec for more.

Data Sync

MVDS is used for 1:1 and group chats, however it is currently not in use for public chats.

Status payloads are serialized and then wrapped inside a MVDS message which is added to an MVDS payload, this payload is then encrypted (if necessary for 1-to-1 / group-chats) and sent using whisper which also encrypts it.

Payloads and clients

On top of secure transport, we have various types of data sync clients and payload formats for things like 1:1 chat, group chat and public chat. These have various degrees of standardization. Please refer to Initial Message Payload Specification for more details.

BIPs and EIPs Standards support

For a list of EIPs and BIPs that SHOULD be supported by Status client, please see Status EIPs Standards.

Security Considerations

TBD.

Censorship-resistance

With default settings Whisper over DevP2P runs on odd ports in 30k range, which are easy to block. One workaround for this is to run ports on 443. This doesn't take care of all cases though, and this quickly leads into efforts such as obfuscated transports a la Tor.

See https://github.com/status-im/status-react/issues/6351 for some discussion.

Design Rationale

P2P Overlay

Why devp2p? Why not use libp2p?

At the time the main Status clients were being developed, devp2p was the most mature. However, it is likely we'll move over to libp2p in the future, as it'll provide us with multiple transports, better protocol negotiation, NAT traversal, etc.

For very experimental bridge support, see the bridge between libp2p and devp2p in Murmur.

What about other RLPx subprotocols like LES, and Swarm?

Status is primarily optimized for resource restricted devices, and at present time light client support for these protocols are suboptimal. This is a work in progress.

For better Ethereum light client support, see Re-enable LES as option. For better Swarm support, see Swarm adaptive nodes.

For transaction support, Status clients currently have to rely on Infura.

Status clients currently do not offer native support for file storage.

Why do you use Whisper?

Whisper is one of the three parts of the vision of Ethereum as the world computer, Ethereum and Swarm being the other two. Status was started as an encapsulation of and a clear window to this world computer.

I heard you were moving away from Whisper?

Whisper is not currently under active development, and it has several drawbacks. Among others:

  • It is very wasteful bandwidth-wise and it doesn't appear to be scalable
  • Proof of work is a poor spam protection mechanism for heterogenerous devices
  • The privacy guarantees provided are not rigorous
  • There's no incentives to run a node

Finding a more suitable transport privacy is an ongoing research effort, together with Vac and other teams in the space.

Why is PoW for Whisper set so low?

A higher PoW would be desirable, but this kills the battery on mobilephones, which is a prime target for Status clients.

This means the network is currently vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Alternative methods of spam protection are currently being researched.

Why do you not use Discovery v5 for node discovery?

At the time we implemented dynamic node discovery, Discovery v5 wasn't completed yet. Additionally, running a DHT on a mobile leads to slow node discovery, bad battery and poor bandwidth usage. Instead, each client can choose to turn on Discovery v5 for a short period of time until their peer list is populated.

For some further investigation, see here.

I heard something about mailservers being trusted somehow?

In order to use a mail server, a given node needs to connect to it directly, i.e. add the mailserver as its peer and mark it as trusted. This means that the mail server is able to send direct p2p messages to the node instead of broadcasting them. Effectively, it knows the bloom filter of the topics the node is interested in, when it is online as well as many metadata like IP address.

Data sync

Why is MVDS not used for public chats?

Currently public chats are broadcast-based, and there's no direct way of finding out who is receiving messages. Hence there's no clear group sync state context whereby participants can sync. Additionally, MVDS is currently not optimized for large group contexts, which means bandwidth usage will be a lot higher than reasonable. See P2P Data Sync for Mobile for more. This is an active area of research. The bandwidth issue is further exacerbated by Whisper being very bandwidth heavy.

Footnotes

  1. https://github.com/status-im/status-protocol-go/
  2. https://github.com/status-im/status-console-client/
  3. https://github.com/status-im/status-react/

Acknowledgements

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