[tor-dev] Nov 2013 proposal status summary

Nick Mathewson nickm at torproject.org
Thu Nov 14 18:38:04 UTC 2013

This list of open Tor proposals is based on one I sent out in
June of last year[1], based on the one I did in May[2] of the year
before.  I should try to do these more regularly.

[1] https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-dev/2012-June/003641.html
[2] https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-dev/2011-May/002637.html

The dates after each paragraph indicate when I last
revised the paragraph.

Only open, needs-revision, and needs-research proposals are listed
here.  Dead, superseded, closed, and finished proposals are listed
elsewhere.  See proposal 001 for a summary of the proposal workflow.

127  Relaying dirport requests to Tor download site / website

     The idea here was to make it easier to fetch and learn about
     Tor by making it easy for relays to automatically act as
     proxies to the Tor website.  It needs more discussion, and
     there are some significant details to work out.  It's not at
     all clear whether this is actually a good idea or not.
     Probably, there are better choices when it comes to
     distributing software and updates. (11/2013)

131  Help users to verify they are using Tor [NEEDS-REVISION]

     This one is not a crazy idea, but I marked it as
     needs-revision since it doesn't seem to work so well with
     our current designs. It seems mostly superseded by proposal
     211. (11/2013)

132  A Tor Web Service For Verifying Correct Browser Configuration

     This proposal was meant to give users a way to see if their
     browser and privoxy (yes, it was a while ago) are correctly
     configured by running a local webserver on  I'm not
     sure the status here. Generally, I'm skeptical of designs
     that run webservers on localhost, since they become a target
     for cross-site attacks. (11/2013)

133  Incorporate Unreachable ORs into the Tor Network

     This proposal had an idea for letting ORs that can only make
     outgoing connections still relay data usefully in the network.
     It's something we should keep in mind, and it's a pretty neat
     idea, but it radically changes the network topology.  Anybody
     who wants to analyze new network topologies should definitely
     have a look. (5/2011)

140  Provide diffs between consensuses

     This proposal describes a way to transmit less directory
     traffic by sending only differences between consensuses, rather
     than the consensuses themselves.  It is mainly languishing for
     lack of an appropriately licensed, well-written, very small,
     pure-C implementation of the "diff" and "patch" algorithms.
     (The good diffs seem to be GPL (which we can't use without
     changing Tor's license), or spaghetti code, or not easily
     usable as a library, or not written in C, or very large, or
     some combination of those.)  (5/2011)

141  Download server descriptors on demand

     The idea of this proposal was for clients to only download the
     consensus, and later ask nodes for their own server descriptors
     while building the circuit through them.  It would make each
     circuit more time-consuming to build, but make bootstrapping
     much cheaper.

     Microdescriptors obsolete a lot of this proposal, and present
     some difficulties in using in a way compatible with
     it. (6/2012)

143  Improvements of Distributed Storage for Tor Hidden Service

     Here's a proposal from Karsten about making the hidden
     service DHT more reliable and secure to use.  It could use
     more discussion and analysis. We should look into it as part
     of efforts to improve designs for the next generation of
     hidden services.

     One problem with the analysis here, though, is that it
     assumes a fixed set of servers that doesn't change.  One
     reason that we upload to N servers at each chosen point in
     the ring is that the hidden service host and the hidden
     service client may have different views of which servers
     exist. We need to re-do the analysis with some fraction of
     recent consensuses. (11/2013)

144  Increase the diversity of circuits by detecting nodes
     belonging the same provider

     This is a version of the good idea, "Let's do routing in a way
     that tries to keep from routing traffic through the same
     provider too much!"  There are complex issues here that the
     proposal doesn't completely address, but I think it might be a
     fine idea for somebody to see how much more we know now than we
     did in 2008, particularly in light of the relevant paper(s) by
     Matt Edmann and Paul Syverson. (5/2011)

145  Separate "suitable as a guard" from "suitable as a new guard"

     Currently, the Guard flag means both "You can use this node as a
     guard if you need to pick a new guard" and "If this node is
     currently your guard, you can keep using it as a guard."  This
     proposal tries to separate these two concepts, so that clients can
     stop picking a router once it is full of existing clients using it
     as a guard, but the clients currently on it won't all drop it.

     It's not clear whether this has anonymity issues, and it's not
     clear whether the imagined performance gains are actually
     worthwhile. (5/2011)

147  Eliminate the need for v2 directories in generating v3 directories

     This proposal explains a way that we can phase out the
     vestigial use of v2 directory documents in keeping authorities
     well-informed enough to generating the v3 consensus.  It's
     still correct; somebody should implement it before the v2
     directory code rots any further. (5/2011)

156  Tracking blocked ports on the client side

     This proposal provides a way for clients to learn which ports
     they are (and aren't) able to connect to, and connect to the
     ones that work.  It comes with a patch, too.  It also lets
     routers track ports that _they_ can't connect to.

     I'm a little unconvinced that this will help a great deal: most
     clients that have some ports blocked will need bridges, not
     just restriction to a smaller set of ports.  This could be good
     behind restrictive firewalls, though.

     The router-side part is a little iffy: routers that can't
     connect to each other violate one of our network topology
     assumptions, and even if we do want to track failed
     router->router connections, the routers need to be sure that
     they aren't fooled into trying to connect repeatedly to a
     series of nonexistent addresses in an attempt to make them
     believe that (say) they can't reach port 443.

     This one is a paradigmatic "open" proposal: it needs more
     discussion.  The patch probably also needs to be ported to
     0.2.3.x; it touches some code that has changed. (5/2011)

157  Make certificate downloads specific

     This proposal added cross-certification and
     signing-key-specific download URLs for directory authority
     certificates. It's implemented on the server side in, and we implemented the client-side download
     part in  There's a remaining SHOULD that
     needs to turn into a MUST, and that's it: see bug #10162 for
     the branches we should merge to finish this one.  (11/2013)

159  Exit Scanning

     This is an overview of SoaT, with some ideas for how to integrate
     it into Tor. (5/2011)

164  Reporting the status of server votes

     This proposal explains a way for authorities to provide a
     slightly more verbose document that relay operators can use to
     diagnose reasons that their router was or was not listed in the
     consensus.  These documents would be like slightly more verbose
     versions of the authorities' votes, and would explain *why* the
     authority voted as it did.  It wouldn't be too hard to
     implement, and would be a fine project for somebody who wants
     to get to know the directory code. (5/2011)

165  Easy migration for voting authority sets

     This is a design for how to change the set of authorities without
     having a flag day where the authority operators all reconfigure
     their authorities at once.  It needs more discussion.  One
     difficulty here is that we aren't talking much about changing the
     set of authorities, but that may be a chicken-and-egg issue, since
     changing the set is so onerous.

     If anybody is interested, it would be great to move the discussion
     ahead here. (5/2011)

168  Reduce default circuit window

     This proposal reduces the default window for circuit sendme
     cells.  I think it's implemented (or mostly implemented) in  If so, we should make sure that tor-spec.txt is
     updated and close it. (11/2013)

172  GETINFO controller option for circuit information
173  GETINFO Option Expansion

     These would help controllers (particularly arm) provide more
     useful information about a running Tor process.  They're
     accepted and some parts of 173 are even implemented: somebody
     just needs to implement the rest. (5/2011)

175  Automatically promoting Tor clients to nodes

     Here's Steven's proposal for adding a mode between "client
     mode" and "relay mode" for "self-test to see if you would be a
     good relay, and if so become one."  It didn't get enough
     attention when it was posted to the list; more people should
     review it. (5/2011)

177  Abstaining from votes on individual flags

     Here's my proposal for letting authorities have opinions about some
     (flag,router) combinations without voting on whether _every_ router
     should have that flag.  It's simple, and I think it's basically
     right.  With more discussion and review, somebody could/should
     build it, I think. (11/2013)

182  Credit Bucket

     This proposal suggests an alternative approach to our current
     token-bucket based rate-limiting, that promises better
     performance, less buffering insanity, and a possible end to
     double-gating issues. (6/2012)

185  Directory caches without DirPort

     The old HTTP directory port feature is no longer used by
     clients and relays under most circumstances.  The proposal
     explains how we can get rid of the requirement that non-bridge
     directories have an open directory port. (6/2012)

188  Bridge Guards and other anti-enumeration defenses

     This proposal suggests some ways to make it harder for a relay
     on the Tor network to enumerate a list of Tor bridges. Worth
     investigating and possibly implementing. (6/2012)

190  Bridge Client Authorization Based on a Shared Secret [NEEDS-REVISION]
191  Bridge Detection Resistance against MITM-capable Adversaries

     Proposal 187 reserved the AUTHORIZE cell type; these
     proposals suggests how it could work to try to make it
     harder to probe for Tor bridges. They need more alternatives
     and attention, and possibly some revision and analysis.
     Number 190 needs revision, since its protocol isn't actually
     so great. (11/2013)

192  Automatically retrieve and store information about bridges

     This proposal gives an enhancement to the bridge information
     protocol, where clients remember more things about bridges, and
     are able to update what they know about them over time.  Could
     help a lot with bridge churn. (6/2012)

194  Mnemonic .onion URLs

     Here's one of several competing "let's make .onion URLs
     human-usable" proposals.  This one makes sentences using a
     fixed map.  This kind of approach is likely to obsoleted if
     we go ahead with current plans for hidden services that
     would make .onion addresses much longer, though. (11/2013)

195  TLS certificate normalization for Tor 0.2.4.x

     Here's the followup to proposal 179, containing all the parts
     of proposal 179 that didn't get built, and a couple of other
     tricks besides to try to make Tor's default protocol less
     detectable.  I'm pretty psyched about the part where we let
     relays drop in any any self-signed or CA-issued certificate
     that they like.  Some of this is done in ticket #7145;
     we should decide, however, how much we want to push towards
     normalizing the main Tor protocol. (11/2013)

196  Extended ORPort and TransportControlPort

     Here are some remaining pieces of the pluggable transport
     protocol that give Tor finer control over the behavior of
     its transports.  Much of this is implemented in 0.2.5
     now; we should figure out what's left, and whether we want
     to build that. (11/2013)

197  Message-based Inter-Controller IPC Channel

     This proposal is for an architectural enhancement in Tor
     deployments, where Tor coordinates communications between the
     various programs (Vidalia, TorBrowser, etc) that are using
     it. (6/2012)

199  Integration of BridgeFinder and BridgeFinderHelper

     Here's a proposal for how Tor can integrate with a client
     program that finds bridges for it. I've seen some work being
     done on things called "BridgeFinder"; I don't know what the
     status of the current proposal is, though. (11/2013)

201  Make bridges report statistics on daily v3 network status requests

     Here's a proposal for bridges to better estimate the number of
     bridge users. (6/2012)

202  Two improved relay encryption protocols for Tor cells

     Here's a sketch of the two broad classes of alternatives for
     improving how relay encryption works. Right now, progress on
     this proposal is stalled waiting for the ideal wide-block
     construction to come along the line. (11/2013)

203  Avoiding censorship by impersonating an HTTPS server

     This one is a design for making a bridge that acts like an
     HTTPS server (by *being* an HTTPS server) until the user
     proves they know it's a bridge. (11/2013)

209  Tuning the Parameters for the Path Bias Defense

     In this proposal, Mike discusses alternative parameters for
     getting better result out of the path-bias-attack detection
     code. (11/2013)

210  Faster Headless Consensus Bootstrapping

     This proposal suggests that we get our initial consensus by
     launching multiple connections in parallel, and fetching the
     consensus from whichever one completes. In my opinion, that
     would be a fine idea when we're fetching our initial
     consensus from non-Authority DirSources, but we shouldnt' do
     anything to increase the load on authorities.  (11/2013)

211  Internal Mapaddress for Tor Configuration Testing

     Here, the idea is to serve an XML document over HTTP that
     would let the know when it's using Tor.  The XML document
     would be returned when you make a request over Tor for a
     magic address in  I think we need to do
     _something_to solve this problem, but I'm not thrilled with
     the idea of having any more magical addresses like this; we
     got rid of .noconnect for a reason, after all. (11/2013)

212  Increase Acceptable Consensus Age

     This proposal suggests that we increase the maximum age of a
     consensus that clients are willing to use when they can't
     find a new one, in order to make the network robust for
     longer against a failure to reach consensus.  In my
     opinion, we should do that.  If I recall correctly, there
     was some tor-dev discussion on this one that should get
     incorporated into a final, implementable version. (11/2013)

215  Let the minimum consensus method change with time

     This proposal describes how we can raise the minimum
     allowable consensus method that all authorities must
     support, since the ancient "consensus method 1" would not
     actually be viable to keep the Tor network running.  We
     should do this; see ticket #10163. (11/2013)

219  Support for full DNS and DNSSEC resolution in Tor

     Here's a design to allow Tor to support a full range of DNS
     request types. It probably isn't adequate on its to make
     DNSSEC work realistically, since naive DNSSEC requires many
     round trips that wouldn't be practical over Tor.  It has a
     ton of inline discussion that needs to get resolved before
     this is buildable. (11/2013)

220  Migrate server identity keys to Ed25519

     This one is an intial design to migrate server identity keys
     to Ed25519 for improved security margin.  It needs more
     analysis of long-term migration to other signing key types,
     and eventual dropping of RSA1024 keys entirely.   (11/2013)

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