[tor-dev] Mnemonic 80-bit phrases (proposal)

Robert Ransom rransom.8774 at gmail.com
Tue Feb 28 22:53:13 UTC 2012

On 2012-02-28, Sai <tor at saizai.com> wrote:
> Hello all.
> We've written up our proposal for mnemonic .onion URLs.
> See
> https://docs.google.com/document/d/sT5CulCVl0X5JeOv4W_wC_A/edit?disco=AAAAAERhFsE
> for details; please read the full intro for explanations and caveats,
> as some are important.

I'm not going to follow that link.  (Tor specification-change
proposals are sent to the tor-dev mailing list in their entirety and
copied into a Git repository for archival, not left on an
easily-changed web page.)

> tl;dr: It's a system that would have all three properties of being
> secure, distributed, and human-meaningful… but would *not* also have

We do not care whether names are ‘human-meaningful’.  (“Tor” is not a
human-meaningful name.)

We would like a naming system which provides *memorable* names, if
that is possible.  (I've never seen a distributed naming system which
provides secure and memorable names.)

But we care even more about other usability properties of a naming
system, such as how easily users can type a name given a copy of it on
paper, how easily users can transfer a name to a friend over the
telephone, and how easily users can compare two names maliciously
crafted by an attacker with plausible computational power to be
similar (whether in written form or in spoken form).

> choice of name (though it has the required *canonicality* of names),

By proposing to add a new naming system for Tor's existing hidden
service protocol, you are already assuming and claiming that hidden
service names do not need to be canonical.  Why do you think
‘canonicality’ is required?

> and has a somewhat absurdist definition of 'meaningful'. :-P

Then your system's names are unlikely to be memorable.

> Please feel free to put comments there or on list.
> Right now we're at the stage just before implementation; namely, we
> haven't yet collated the necessary dictionaries, but we have a
> reasonably good idea of how the system would work, including needed
> constraints on the dictionaries. If you have suggestions or comments,
> now is a good time to talk about them, so that if any of it affects
> the dictionary collation step we don't waste work.

The dictionaries required by a dictionary-based naming system strongly
influence whether the resulting names will be memorable.  The
usability tests which will prove that your scheme does not provide
sufficient usability benefit to justify shipping many large
dictionaries with Tor cannot begin until after you have collected the

Robert Ransom

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