Re: [Ilc] Welcome to the ILC list

Tom Ritter <> Thu, 16 February 2017 18:44 UTC

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From: Tom Ritter <>
Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2017 12:44:12 -0600
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To: David Mazieres expires 2017-05-14 PDT <>
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Subject: Re: [Ilc] Welcome to the ILC list
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On 13 February 2017 at 14:24,  <> wrote:
> Thanks for subscribing to the Internet-level consensus mailing list.
> Now that we've got 50+ people on the mailing list, let's start the
> discussion.
> Consensus is the task of a agreeing on a particular value among
> multiple valid inputs in a distributed system.  This problem is at the
> heart of fault-tolerant replication and distributed transaction
> processing.
> An Internet-level consensus mechanism is one that accommodates the
> decentralized nature of the Internet to agree on values without
> relying on a centralized authority for configuration.  Specifically,
> the goal is to achieve consensus in settings where there may be
> Internet-wide benefit from agreement, yet the security concerns of
> participants and the multi-national nature of the network preclude any
> globally-acceptable consortium in which to concentrate trust.

I'm a little confused here.  The very first example listed on the
mailing list description is:

The IETF trans working group is specifying data structures and
operational mechanisms for providing secure logging and auditing of
TLS server certificates, but lacks a mechanism for determining
consensus among logs (or consensus about whether or not a resource
should be logged). These functions are currently served by an
experimental gossip protocol that can potentially be strengthened
through global consensus.

The Gossip protocol (of which I am an author) does not really attempt
to determine consensus; nor does it attempt to "[agree] on a
particular value among multiple valid inputs in a distributed system".

It attempts to expose all valid values (meaning
has-a-signatures-that-validates) to an Internet-wide group of
participants. If there's a piece of data, signed by a log, we want to
show share the data (or a derivative of it) with "The Internet" (for
some definition of "The Internet") can "The Internet" can review it.

I suppose, after gossip occurs, there is a consensus mechanism. But
it's really very simple and mathematically sound. "Given all the
inputs I have, can I assemble them into a single consistent
Append-Only Merkle Tree; or not?" There is no participation required
with anyone else, the 'consensus mechanism' is positively true or
false for everyone independently. It's the data gathering that's