Re: [jose] draft-ietf-jose-json-web-signature ; flattened serialization

Sergey Beryozkin <> Wed, 29 October 2014 10:05 UTC

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Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:04:41 +0000
From: Sergey Beryozkin <>
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Cc: Richard Barnes <>
Subject: Re: [jose] draft-ietf-jose-json-web-signature ; flattened serialization
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Our project has recently got the initial JWE Serialization code added in 
(from FH Köln contributors).

I agree with Fraser. It's an obvious case of the premature optimization, 
we are talking about saving 10-15 bytes of the payload at the cost of 
introducing two JWS Serilaization variants with the flattened option 
mostly duplicating what JWS Compact Serialization can do.

It won't affect us much because the default JSON parsing in our case is 
not 'stream-aware'. Probably not a big deal over all but I just wanted 
to support Fraser's comments


On 29/10/14 04:25, Mike Jones wrote:
> Thank you for your feedback, Fraser.  It would be useful to hear from others who have implemented the JSON Serializations whether they agree with Fraser or Richard.
> 				-- Mike
> P.S.  The list you sent it to reached the editors and chairs.  The list reaches the whole JOSE working group.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fraser Tweedale []
> Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:11 PM
> To:
> Subject: draft-ietf-jose-json-web-signature ; flattened serialization
> Hello,
> (I am not familiar with IETF WG processes so I hope I am communicating in a useful way and in the right place.)
> JWS draft 36 adds a "flattened JWS syntax" for the case where there is a single signature.  A similar change was made for JWE in the single recipient case.
> Richard Barnes proposed these changes on the following basis:
>      ``I've had several implementors trying to use JWS in the JSON
>      serialization ask why it was necessary to include a "signatures"
>      array in cases where there's only one signer.  It seems like this is
>      going to be a major barrier to deployment and re-use.''
> I am the author of a Haskell JOSE library
> ( and object to these changes on the following bases:
> - They add substantial complexity to the parsing of JWS and JWE
>    objects (which is already complex).
> - The nature of the "optimisation" for the single-signature case is
>    unclear.  If the optimisation is for compactness, this is obviated
>    by "7.2. JWE JSON Serialization" which states ``This
>    representation is neither optimized for compactness nor
>    URL-safe.''  If the optimisation is for simplicity, it is a false
>    economy.
> - The fact that implementors were asking about this part of the spec
>    does not imply an impediment to deployment and re-use.  (Perhaps
>    comments to this effect were in fact made, but as written the
>    justification is speculative.)
> The wish for a "simpler" serialization for a common use case is understandable, but this is a case of "be careful what you wish for".  Commentary to the effect of "the signatures array is used even when there is a single signature/recipient to keep parsing as simple as possible" would give implementors the answer to this question and relieve them of the additional complexity required to support the Flattened Serialization in addition to the General Serialization.
> Please consider reverting this recent change to the specification.
> Regards,
> Fraser Tweedale
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