# Protocol

Note: This protocol documentation is preliminary.

# Basics

The Polycentric protocol is based on Vector clocks, Asymmetric cryptography, and Conflict-free replicated data types. An understanding of these concepts is required. The core is as follows: A system is identified by a public key. A system is usually a user identity. A process is identified by a random string. A process usually represents a user device. Each event in a system is signed using the system public key, and published by a process. Messages are communicated via a set reconcillation protocol, and state constructed by a consumer of system events under an eventual consistency model.

There are two components: clients, and servers. A client chooses to publish it's systems on multiple servers. An system includes the necessary routing information to find it within a network. When a process is consumed a client will connect to the servers a process is available on and start synchronizing. The set of servers a user chooses to store their own processes on can be totally disjoint from those of the people they are following. The basic system synchronization places very limited trust in servers compared to most models. Should server operators provide unreliable service, or choose to deny service to users, the client automatically fetches systems from other sources.

Many features are very difficult to provide via a trustless methodology, or purely within a client. Examples of these features include recommendation engines, and search. Each Polycentric server provides search and recommendation, but has control over what data it chooses to present. A server could choose to return some results, and not others. To combine the best of both worlds Clients use multiple servers of their choosing to provide search and recommendations. Results are deduplicated and attributed to the server that provided them. This allows using high performance and state of the art solutions to these difficult problems, but limit the manipulation possible by a single actor.

# Core Message Format

Polycentric is a binary protocol based on Protocol Buffers Version 3.

# Event Message

message Event {
    PublicKey   system        = 1;
    Process     process       = 2;
    uint64      logical_clock = 3;
    uint64      content_type  = 4;
    bytes       content       = 5;
    VectorClock vector_clock  = 6;
    Indices     indices       = 7;

# Signed Event Message

A SignedEvent is an Event with a signature, and is the main message type sent over a network between devices. Signatures, and digests are computed over the raw bytes of the event field. The event field must be stored as is by clients to remedy lack of canonicalization among libraries. This also ensures fields may be added to Event in a non breaking way.

message SignedEvent {
    bytes signature = 1;
    bytes event     = 2;

# Public Key Message

The only supported key_type is 1 representing ed25519.

message PublicKey {
    uint64 key_type = 1;
    bytes  key      = 2;

# Digest Message

The only supported digest_type is 1 representing SHA256.

message Digest {
    uint64 digest_type = 1;
    bytes  digest      = 2;

# Vector Clock Message

A component of Event. This is contains the state of the logical clocks of each other process that a process is aware of in the order of the last SystemProcesses message. Should a process not be aware of other processes the VectorClock will be empty.

message VectorClock {
    repeated uint64 logical_clocks = 1;

# Index Message

A component of Indices.

message Index {
    uint64 index_type    = 1;
    uint64 logical_clock = 2;

# Indices Message

A component of Event. Indices is a map of back pointers to previous Event types or passed on. This may be used to point to the location of a more complex index type, or in the simple case used to establish a chain of particular values for safer partial set reconciliation.

message Indices {
    repeated Index indices = 1;

# Process Message

Process is a per process random 16 byte identifier.

message Process {
    bytes process = 1;

# Pointer Message

Used for addressing an Event. The event_digest is included such that subject of the pointer cannot be maliciously mutated. An example usage is referencing a post in a reply.

message Pointer {
    PublicKey system        = 1;
    Process   process       = 2;
    uint64    logical_clock = 3;
    Digest    event_digest  = 4;

# Last Writer Wins Element Set Message

See the Conflict-free replicated data type Wikipedia page for more information.

LWWElementSet is ADD biased, using unix_milliseconds as the conflict resolution timestamp.

message LWWElementSet {
    enum Operation {
        ADD    = 1;
        REMOVE = 2;
    Operation operation         = 1;
    bytes     value             = 2;
    uint64    unix_milliseconds = 4;

# Last Writer Wins Element Message

A CRDT representing a single value. The unix_milliseconds value is used for conflict resolution, or unix_milliseconds values conflict which Process identifier is larger.

message LWWElement {
    bytes  value             = 1;
    uint64 unix_milliseconds = 2;

# Reference Message

message Reference {
    uint64 reference_type = 1;
    bytes  reference      = 2;

The two referenence types are:

1: Pointer
2: System

# Event Content Types

Corresponding to content_type:

1: Delete
2: SystemProcesses
3: Post
4: Follow
5: Username
6: Description
7: BlobMeta
8: BlobSection
9: Avatar
10: Server
11: Vouch
12: Claim
13: Banner

# Delete Message

A Delete message instructs implementations to stop storing a message. The Delete message is then returned when requested as proof that the mutation was not malicious. A Delete message may not be the subject of another Delete. The field indices mirrors that of the subject message.

message Delete {
    Process process       = 1;
    uint64  logical_clock = 2;
    Indices indices       = 3;

# System Processes Message

This message represents the other processes of a system known by a given process. A process should not include itself in a SystemProcesses message. When a process becomes aware of another process it should publish a new SystemProcesses message with the new process included.

message SystemProcesses {
    repeated Process processes = 1;

# Server Message

Message type server uses an empty content field with a server address set for lww_element_set. This message is used to advertise servers that a storing a events for the system.

# Username Message

Message type username uses an empty content field with the value of lww_element set to a username.

# Description Message

Message type description uses an empty content field with the value of lww_element set to a description.

# Follow Message

Message type Follow uses an empty content field with a single reference value pointing to a System to be followed, and with the same value also used in lww_element_set.

# Avatar

Message type avatar uses an empty content field with the value of lww_element set to an image Pointer.

# Post Message

A freestanding message.

message Post {
    string           content = 1;
    optional Pointer image   = 2;
    optional Pointer boost   = 3;

# BlobMeta and BlobSection

Blobs are split into segments to ensure that events are not larger than one megabyte. A BlobMeta event is used to describe a blob. The meta_pointer field of BlobSection references the index of BlobMeta the BlobSection corresponds to.

message BlobMeta {
    uint64 section_count = 1;
    string mime          = 2;
message BlobSection {
    uint64 meta_pointer = 1;
    bytes  content      = 2;

# Vouch

Message type Vouch uses an empty content field with a single reference value pointing to a Claim.

# Claim

message Claim {
    string claim_type = 1;
    bytes  claim      = 2;

# Claim Types

HackerNews (ClaimIdentifier)
YouTube    (ClaimIdentifier)
Odysee     (ClaimIdentifier)
Rumble     (ClaimIdentifier)
Twitter    (ClaimIdentifier)
Bitcoin    (ClaimIdentifier)
Generic    (ClaimIdentifier)
URL        (ClaimIdentifier)
Patreon    (ClaimIdentifier)
Discord    (ClaimIdentifier)
Instagram  (ClaimIdentifier)
Twitch     (ClaimIdentifier)

# Claim Identifier

message ClaimIdentifier {
    string identifier = 1;

# Network

Binary query paramaters are Base64-URL encoded following RFC 4648.

There are a few types of querying. You can query an index chain, you can query specific events, you can query references. Only querying specific events is currently documented.

# Message Type Events

A simple list of events used in various contexts.

message Events {
    repeated Event events = 1;

# GET /head?system=...

The head endpoint returns the set of messages required to capture the entire known state of a system. If a single process has an accurate SystemProcesses state, only the latest message from that process is returned. If the server has a more complete view of a system than any given process then the latest message from multiple processes may be returned.

This endpoint is intended to be used to spot check servers cheaply. If a given server is being used for synchronization, a client may check that messages are not being hidden by asking other servers for the head.

This endpoint returns Events.

# POST /events

The POST events endpoint is used to submit events to a server. This endpoint accepts Events.

# GET /ranges?system=...

The ranges endpoint is used to determine messages a server currently has. The result type is RangesForSystem. A Range is inclusive.

message Range {
    uint64 low  = 1;
    uint64 high = 2;

message RangesForProcess {
             PublicKey process = 1;
    repeated Range     ranges  = 2;

message RangesForSystem {
    repeated RangesForProcesses = 1;

# GET /events?system=...&ranges_for_system=...

The GET events endpoint is used to request events in a range, returning an Events message.

# GET /resolve_claim?trust_root=...&claim=...

The GET resolve_claim end point is used to find a feed for an arbitrary claim, returning an Events message. Claim validity is a social not technical construct, as such a node (system in a trust graph) must be provided to use as a basis for claim resolution via trust_root. The claim query parameter is a base64 encoded claim.