[tor-dev] Proposal: Message-based Inter-controller IPC Channel

Mike Perry mikeperry at torproject.org
Fri Mar 16 23:09:53 UTC 2012

Filename: xxx-postmessage-ipc.txt
Title: Message-based Inter-controller IPC Channel
Author: Mike Perry
Created: 16-03-2012
Status: Proposed
Target: 0.2.4.x


  This proposal seeks to create a means for inter-controller
  communication using the Tor Control Port.


  With the advent of pluggable transports, bridge discovery mechanisms,
  and tighter browser-Vidalia integration, we're going to have an
  increasing number of collaborating Tor controller programs
  communicating with each other. Rather than define new pairwise IPC
  mechanisms for each case, we will instead create a generalized
  message-passing mechanism through the Tor Control Port.

Control Protocol Specification Changes


    Sent from the client to the server. The syntax is:

      "CONTROLLERNAME" SP ControllerID
        ControllerID = 1*(ALNUM / "_")

	Server returns "250 OK" and records the ControllerID to use for
    this control port connection for messaging information if successful,
    or "553 Controller name already in use" if the name is in use by
    another controller, or if an attempt is made to register the special 
    names "all" or "unset".

    [CONTROLLERNAME need not be issued to send POSTMESSAGE commands,
     and CONTROLLERNAME may be unsupported by initial POSTMESSAGE
     implementations in Tor.]


    Sent from the client to the server. The syntax is:

      "POSTMESSAGE" SP "@" DestControllerID SP LineItem CRLF
         DestControllerID = "all" / 1*(ALNUM / "_")

	If DestControllerID is "all", the message will be posted to all
    controllers that have "SETEVENTS POSTMESSAGE" set. Otherwise, the
    message should be posted to the controller with the appropriate

	Server returns "250 OK" if successful, or "552 Invalid destination
    controller name" if the name is not registered.

    [Initial implementations may require DestControllerID always be


      "650" SP "POSTMESSAGE" SP MessageID SP SourceControllerID SP
                        "@" DestControllerID SP LineItem CRLF
         MessageID = 1*DIGIT
         SourceControllerID = "unset" / 1*(ALNUM / "_")
         DestControllerID = "all" / 1*(ALNUM / "_")

      MessageID is an incrementing integer identifier that uniquely
      identifies this message to all controllers.

	  The SourceControllerID is the value from the sending
      controller's CONTROLLERNAME command, or "unset" if the
      CONTROLLERNAME command was not used or unimplemented.

  GETINFO commands
    "recent-messages" -- Retrieves messages 
      sent to ControllerIDs that match the current controller 
      in POSTMESSAGE event format. This list should be generated
      on the fly, to handle disconnecting controllers.

    "new-messages" -- Retrieves the last 10 "unread" messages
      sent to this controller, in POSTMESSAGE event format. If
      SETEVENTS POSTMESSAGE was set, this command should always return

    "list-controllers" -- Retrieves a list of all connected controllers
      with either their registered ControllerID or "unset".

Implementation plan

  The POSTMESSAGE protocol is designed to be incrementally deployable.
  Initial implementations are only expected to implement broadcast
  capabilities and SETEVENTS based delivery. CONTROLLERNAME need not be
  supported, nor do non-"@all" POSTMESSAGE destinations.

  To support command-based controllers (which do not use SETEVENTS) such
  as Torbutton, at minimum the "GETINFO recent-messages" command is
  needed.  However, Torbutton does not have immediate need for this

Mike Perry
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