BitTorrent extension for DHT RSS feeds

Author: Arvid Norberg, arvid@libtorrent.org
Version: 1.1.1

This proposal has been superseded by the dht_put feature. This may still be implemented on top of that.

This is a proposal for an extension to the BitTorrent DHT to allow for decentralized RSS feed like functionality.

The intention is to allow the creation of repositories of torrents where only a single identity has the authority to add new content. For this repository to be robust against network failures and resilient to attacks at the source.

The target ID under which the repository is stored in the DHT, is the SHA-1 hash of a feed name and the 512 bit public key. This private key in this pair MUST be used to sign every item stored in the repository. Every message that contain signed items MUST also include this key, to allow the receiver to verify the key itself against the target ID as well as the validity of the signatures of the items. Every recipient of a message with feed items in it MUST verify both the validity of the public key against the target ID it is stored under, as well as the validity of the signatures of each individual item.

As with normal DHT announces, the write-token mechanism is used to prevent IP spoof attacks.

terminology

In this document, a storage node refers to the node in the DHT to which an item is being announce. A subscribing node refers to a node which makes look ups in the DHT to find the storage nodes, to request items from them.

linked lists

Items are chained together in a geneal singly linked list. A linked list does not necessarily contain RSS items, and no RSS related items are mandatory. However, RSS items will be used as examples in this BEP:

key = SHA1(name + key)
+---------+
| head    |           key = SHA1(bencode(item))
| +---------+         +---------+
| | next    |-------->| item    |          key = SHA1(bencode(item))
| | key     |         | +---------+        +---------+
| | name    |         | | next    |------->| item    |
| | seq     |         | | key     |        | +---------+
| | ...     |         | | ...     |        | | next    |--->0
| +---------+         | +---------+        | | key     |
| sig     |           | sig     |          | | ...     |
+---------+           +---------+          | +---------+
                                           | sig     |
                                           +---------+

The next pointer is at least 20 byte ID in the DHT key space pointing to where the next item in the list is announced. The list is terminated with an ID of all zeroes.

The ID an items is announced to is determined by the SHA1 hash of the bencoded representation of the item iteself. This contains all fields in the item, except the signature. The only mandatory fields in an item are next, key and sig.

The key field MUST match the public key of the list head node. The sig field MUST be the signature of the bencoded representation of item or head (whichever is included in the message).

All subscribers MUST verify that the item is announced under the correct DHT key and MUST verify the signature is valid and MUST verify the public key is the same as the list-head. If a node fails any of these checks, it must be ignored and the chain of items considered terminated.

Each item holds a bencoded dictionary with arbitrary keys, except two mandatory keys: next and key. The signature sig is transferred outside of this dictionary and is the signature of all of it. An implementation should stora any arbitrary keys that are announced to an item, within reasonable restriction such as nesting, size and numeric range of integers.

skip lists

The next key stored in the list head and the items is a string of at least length 20 bytes, it may be any length divisible by 20. Each 20 bytes are the ID of the next item in the list, the item 2 hops away, 4 hops away, 8 hops away, and so on. For simplicity, only the first ID (1 hop) in the next field is illustrated above.

A publisher of an item SHOULD include as many IDs in the next field as the remaining size of the list warrants, within reason.

These skip lists allow for parallelized lookups of items and also makes it more efficient to search for specific items. It also mitigates breaking lists missing some items.

Figure of the skip list in the first list item:

n      Item0  Item1  Item2  Item3  Item4  Item5  Item6  Item7  Item8  Item9  Item10
0        O----->
20       O------------>
40       O-------------------------->
60       O------------------------------------------------------>

n refers to the byte offset into the next field.

list-head

The list head item is special in that it can be updated, without changing its DHT key. This is required to prepend new items to the linked list. To authenticate that only the original publisher can update the head, the whole linked list head is signed. In order to avoid a malicious node to overwrite the list head with an old version, the sequence number seq must be monotonically increasing for each update, and a node hosting the list node MUST not downgrade a list head from a higher sequence number to a lower one, only upgrade.

The list head's DHT key (which it is announced to) MUST be the SHA1 hash of the name (n) and key fields concatenated.

Any node MUST reject any list head which is announced under any other ID.

messages

These are the messages to deal with linked lists.

The id field in these messages has the same semantics as the standard DHT messages, i.e. the node ID of the node sending the message, to maintain the structure of the DHT network.

The token field also has the same semantics as the standard DHT message get_peers and announce_peer, when requesting an item and to write an item respectively.

nodes and nodes6 has the same semantics as in its get_peers response.

requesting items

This message can be used to request both a list head and a list item. When requesting a list head, the n (name) field MUST be specified. When requesting a list item the n field is not required.

{
   "a":
   {
      "id": <20 byte ID of sending node>,
      "key": <64 byte public curve25519 key for this list>,
      "n": <list name>
      "target": <target-id for 'head' or 'item'>
   },
   "q": "get_item",
   "t": <transaction-id>,
   "y": "q",
}

When requesting a list-head the target MUST always be SHA-1(feed_name + public_key). target is the target node ID the item was written to.

The n field is the name of the list. If specified, It MUST be UTF-8 encoded string and it MUST match the name of the feed in the receiving node.

request item response

This is the format of a response of a list head:

{
   "r":
   {
      "head":
      {
         "key": <64 byte public curve25519 key for this list>,
         "next": <20 bytes item ID>,
         "n": <name of the linked list>,
         "seq": <monotonically increasing sequence number>
      },
      "sig": <curve25519 signature of 'head' entry (in bencoded form)>,
      "id": <20 byte id of sending node>,
      "token": <write-token>,
      "nodes": <n * compact IPv4-port pair>,
      "nodes6": <n * compact IPv6-port pair>
   },
   "t": <transaction-id>,
   "y": "r",
}

This is the format of a response of a list item:

{
   "r":
   {
      "item":
      {
         "key": <64 byte public curve25519 key for this list>,
         "next": <20 bytes item ID>,
         ...
      },
      "sig": <curve25519 signature of 'item' entry (in bencoded form)>,
      "id": <20 byte id of sending node>,
      "token": <write-token>,
      "nodes": <n * compact IPv4-port pair>,
      "nodes6": <n * compact IPv6-port pair>
   },
   "t": <transaction-id>,
   "y": "r",
}

A client receiving a get_item response MUST verify the signature in the sig field against the bencoded representation of the item field, using the key as the public key. The key MUST match the public key of the feed.

The item dictionary MAY contain arbitrary keys, and all keys MUST be stored for items.

announcing items

The message format for announcing a list head:

{
   "a":
   {
      "head":
      {
         "key": <64 byte public curve25519 key for this list>,
         "next": <20 bytes item ID>,
         "n": <name of the linked list>,
         "seq": <monotonically increasing sequence number>
      },
      "sig": <curve25519 signature of 'head' entry (in bencoded form)>,
      "id": <20 byte node-id of origin node>,
      "target": <target-id as derived from public key and name>,
      "token": <write-token as obtained by previous request>
   },
   "y": "q",
   "q": "announce_item",
   "t": <transaction-id>
}

The message format for announcing a list item:

{
   "a":
   {
      "item":
      {
         "key": <64 byte public curve25519 key for this list>,
         "next": <20 bytes item ID>,
         ...
      },
      "sig": <curve25519 signature of 'item' entry (in bencoded form)>,
      "id": <20 byte node-id of origin node>,
      "target": <target-id as derived from item dict>,
      "token": <write-token as obtained by previous request>
   },
   "y": "q",
   "q": "announce_item",
   "t": <transaction-id>
}

A storage node MAY reject items and heads whose bencoded representation is greater than 1024 bytes.

re-announcing

In order to keep feeds alive, subscriber nodes SHOULD help out in announcing items they have downloaded to the DHT.

Every subscriber node SHOULD store items in long term storage, across sessions, in order to keep items alive for as long as possible, with as few sources as possible.

Subscribers to a feed SHOULD also announce items that they know of, to the feed. Since a feed may have many subscribers and many items, subscribers should re-announce items according to the following algorithm.

1. pick one random item (i) from the local repository (except
   items already announced this round)
2. If all items in the local repository have been announced
  2.1 terminate
3. look up item i in the DHT
4. If fewer than 8 nodes returned the item
  4.1 announce i to the DHT
  4.2 goto 1

This ensures a balanced load on the DHT while still keeping items alive

timeouts

Items SHOULD be announced to the DHT every 30 minutes. A storage node MAY time out an item after 60 minutes of no one announcing it.

A storing node MAY extend the timeout when it receives a request for it. Since items are immutable, the data doesn't go stale. Therefore it doesn't matter if the storing node no longer is in the set of the 8 closest nodes.

RSS feeds

For RSS feeds, following keys are mandatory in the list item's item dictionary.

ih
The torrent's info hash
size
The size (in bytes) of all files the torrent
n
name of the torrent

example

This is an example of an announce_item message:

{
   "a":
   {
      "item":
      {
         "key": "6bc1de5443d1a7c536cdf69433ac4a7163d3c63e2f9c92d
            78f6011cf63dbcd5b638bbc2119cdad0c57e4c61bc69ba5e2c08
            b918c2db8d1848cf514bd9958d307",
         "info-hash": "7ea94c240691311dc0916a2a91eb7c3db2c6f3e4",
         "size": 24315329,
         "n": "my stuff",
         "next": "c68f29156404e8e0aas8761ef5236bcagf7f8f2e"
      }
      "sig": <signature>
      "id": "b46989156404e8e0acdb751ef553b210ef77822e",
      "target": "b4692ef0005639e86d7165bf378474107bf3a762"
      "token": "23ba"
   },
   "y": "q",
   "q": "announce_item",
"t": "a421"
}

Strings are printed in hex for printability, but actual encoding is binary.

Note that target is in fact SHA1 hash of the same data the signature sig is the signature of, i.e.:

d9:info-hash20:7ea94c240691311dc0916a2a91eb7c3db2c6f3e43:key64:6bc1de5443d1
a7c536cdf69433ac4a7163d3c63e2f9c92d78f6011cf63dbcd5b638bbc2119cdad0c57e4c61
bc69ba5e2c08b918c2db8d1848cf514bd9958d3071:n8:my stuff4:next20:c68f29156404
e8e0aas8761ef5236bcagf7f8f2e4:sizei24315329ee

(note that binary data is printed as hex)

RSS feed URI scheme

The proposed URI scheme for DHT feeds is:

magnet:?xt=btfd:<base16-curve25519-public-key> &dn= <feed name>

Note that a difference from regular torrent magnet links is the btfd versus btih used in regular magnet links to torrents.

The feed name is mandatory since it is used in the request and when calculating the target ID.

rationale

The reason to use curve25519 instead of, for instance, RSA is compactness. According to http://cr.yp.to/, curve25519 is free from patent claims and there are open implementations in both C and Java.