Internet DRAFT - draft-watson-dinrg-delmap


Network Working Group                                              S. Li
Internet-Draft                                                       EFF
Intended status: Experimental                                     C. Man
Expires: October 27, 2019                            Stanford University
                                                               J. Watson
                                                             UC Berkeley
                                                          April 25, 2019

                     Delegated Distributed Mappings


   Delegated namespaces underpin almost every Internet-scale system -
   domain name management, IP address allocation, Public Key
   Infrastructure, etc. - but are centrally managed by entities with
   unilateral revocation authority and no common interface.  This draft
   specifies a generalized scheme for delegation that supports explicit
   time-bound guarantees and limits misuse.  Mappings may be secured by
   any general purpose distributed consensus protocol that supports
   voting; clients can query the local state of any number of
   participants and receive the correct result, barring a compromise at
   the consensus layer.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on October 27, 2019.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2019 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
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   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.1.  Cells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Tables  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     2.3.  Prefix-based Delegation Correctness . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     2.4.  Root Key Listing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   3.  Interacting with a Consensus Node . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.1.  Storage Format  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.2.  Client Interface  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  Consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     4.1.  Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     4.2.  Validation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     4.3.  SCP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15

1.  Introduction

   Internet entities rely heavily on delegated namespaces to function
   properly.  Typical web services have been delegated a domain name
   (after negotitation with an appropriate registrar) under which they
   host the entirety of their public-facing content, or obtain a public
   IP range from their ISP, which itself has been delegated to
   intermediary registries by the Internet Numbers Registry [RFC7249].
   An enormous amount of economic value is therefore placed in these
   assignments (in this draft, _mappings_) yet they are dangerously
   ephemeral.  Delegating authorities, either maliciously or
   accidentally, may unilaterally revoke or replace mappings they've
   made, compromising infrastructure security.  Presented in this draft
   is a generalized mechanism for securely managing such mappings and
   their delegations.  Known entities identified by public key are
   assigned namespaces (e.g. domain prefixes) under which they are

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   authorized to create mapping records, or _cells_. Cells in a
   namespace are grouped into logical units we term _tables_.

   Alone, this structure does not ensure security, given that any
   hosting server could arbitrarily modify cells or serve bogus entries
   to unwitting clients.  We maintain security and consistency by
   relying on a distributed consensus algorithm.  While detailed
   descriptions of varying consensus protocols are out of scope for this
   draft, we provide for a general-purpose interface between the
   delegation structure and a consensus layer.  At a minimum, the
   consensus layer must apply mapping updates in a consistent order,
   prevent equivocation, disallow unauthorized modification, grant
   consensus nodes the ability to enforce high-level rules associated
   with the tables, and perform voting among nodes to decide top-level
   governance.  We find that federated protocols such as the Stellar
   Consensus Protocol [I-D.mazieres-dinrg-scp] are promising given their
   capability for open participation, broad diversity of interests among
   consensus participants, and providing accountability for malicious
   behavior.  Clients may query any number of trusted servers to
   retrieve a correct result, barring widespread collusion.

   The ability to impose consistency yields several useful properties.
   The foremost is enforcing delegation semantics: a table's authority
   may choose to recursively delegate a portion of its own namespace,
   but must document the specific range and delegee in one of its
   table's cells.  Since delegation forms a new table, for which a
   delegee is the sole authority, assigned namespace ranges must be
   unique.  Consensus is also used to enforce that the delegating
   authority not make modifications to any delegated table and thus need
   not be trusted by the delegee.

   In addition, we provide explicit support for commitments that enforce
   an explicit lower-bound on the duration of delegations.  Otherwise
   valid changes to cells that have a valid commitment are disallowed,
   including revoking delegations.  Upon expiration, however, the same
   namespace may be delegated to another party.

   Finally, decentralized infrastructure is highly visible and commonly
   misused.  As mappings are replicated among consensus nodes, of
   primary concern is resource exhaustion.  We limit undesired abuse of
   the structure by embedding recursive scale restrictions inside
   mappings, verified and ratified at consensus time.  Combined with
   time-bounded delegations, this ensures that the system is resistant
   to spam in the short-term and can remove misbehaving hierarchies in
   the long-term.

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   The remainder of this draft specifies the structure for authenticated
   mapping management as well as its interfaces to consensus protocol
   implementations and users.

2.  Structure

   Trust within the delegation structure is based on public key
   signatures.  Namespace authorities must sign mapping additions,
   modifications, delegations, and revocations to their table as proof
   to the consensus participants that such changes are legitimate.  For
   the sake of completeness, the public key and signature types are
   detailed below.  All types in this draft are described in XDR

    typedef publickey opaque<>; /* Typically a 256 byte RSA signature */

    struct signature {
        publickey pk;
        opaque data<>;

2.1.  Cells

   Cells are the basic unit of the delegation structure.  In general,
   they compose an authenticated record of a mapping that may be queried
   by clients.  We describe two types of cells:

       enum celltype {
           VALUE = 0,
           DELEGATE = 1

   Value cells store individual mapping values.  They resolve a lookup
   key to an arbitrary value, for example, an encryption key associated
   with an email address or the zone files associated with a particular
   domain.  The public key of the cell's owner (e.g. the email account
   holder, the domain owner) is also included, as well as a signature
   authenticating the current version of the cell.  Since the cell's
   contents are controlled by the owner, its "value_sig" must be made by
   the "owner_key".  The cell owner may rotate their public key at any
   time by signing the update with the old key.

       struct valuecell {
           opaque value<>;
           publickey owner_key;
           /* Owner signs contents */
           signature value_sig;

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   Delegate cells have a similar structure but different semantics.
   Rather than resolving to an individual mapping, they authorize the
   _delegee_ to create arbitrary value cells within a table mapped to
   the assigned namespace.  This namespace must be a subset of the
   _delegator_'s own namespace range.  Like the table authority, the
   delegee is uniquely identified by their public key.  Each delegate
   cell and subsequent updates to the cell are signed by the delegator -
   this ensures that the delegee cannot unilaterally modify its
   namespace, which limits the range of mappings they can create to
   those legitimately assigned to them.

       struct delegatecell {
           opaque namespace<>;
           publickey delegee;
           /* Table authority controls delegations, not delegee */
           signature delegation_sig;
           unsigned int allowance;

   Both cell types share a set of common data members, namely a set of
   UNIX timestamps recording the creation time and, if applicable, the
   time of last modification.  An additional commitment timestamp must
   be present in every cell.  Each commitment is an explicit guarantee
   on behalf of the table's authority that the mapping will remain valid
   until at least the time specified.  Therefore, while value cell
   owners may modify their cell's contents at any time (e.g. this scheme
   supports key rotation), the authority cannot change or remove the
   cell until its commitment expires, as enforced by the consensus
   nodes.  Similarly, delegated namespaces are guaranteed to be valid
   until the commitment timestamp expiration, although after expiration,
   they can be reassigned to other parties.  Likely, most long-term
   delegations will be renewed (with a new commitment timestamp) before
   the expiration of the current period.  The tradeoff between
   protecting delegees from arbitrary authority action and allowing
   quick delegation reconfiguration is customizable to the use case.
   Likely, widely-used services will see larger delegation periods for
   stability whereas small namespaces with relatively unknown delegees
   will experience shorter delegations.

   An _allowance_ must be provided, which limits the upper-bound size of
   a delegated table.  For value cells, the allowance value is ignored
   and set to 0.  Importantly, for delegate cells, an allowance with
   value 0 indicates no limit is placed on the size of the delegated
   table.  Given that the delegee has complete control over the contents
   of their table, it is emphatically not recommended to grant a
   delegatecell an unlimited allowance, in order to limit the storage
   burden on consensus nodes.  This limit is recursive along delegations
   - the total number of cells in a table plus the sum of allowances

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   among its "delegatecells" must be less than or equal to the table's
   allowance, if non-zero.  Futher, a table with a non-zero allowance
   may not grant a delegee an unlimited allowance.  These properties
   must be validated during consensus before adding new cells to a
   table, which can be performed at every consensus node because table
   entry counts are visible publicly.

   Finally, a valid table cell's timestamps and allowance is signed by
   the table authority and placed in "authority_sig".

       union innercell switch (celltype type) {
       case VALUE:
           valuecell vcell;
       case DELEGATE:
           delegatecell dcell;

       struct cell {
           /* 64-bit UNIX timestamps */
           unsigned hyper create_time;
           unsigned hyper *revision_time;
           unsigned hyper commitment_time;
           /* Ignored by value cells */
           unsigned int allowance;
           signature authority_sig;
           innercell c;

2.2.  Tables

   Every cell is stored in a table, which groups all the mappings
   created by a single authority public key for a specific namespace.
   Individual cells are referenced by an application-specific label in a
   lookup table. _The combination of a lookup key and a referenced cell
   value forms a mapping_.

       struct tableentry {
           opaque lookup_key<>;
           cell c;

   Delegating the whole or part of a namespace requires adding a new
   lookup key for the namespace and a matching delegate cell.  Each
   delegation must be validated in the context of the other table
   entries and the table itself.  For example, the owner of a table
   delegated an /8 IPv4 block must not to delegate the same /16 block to
   two different tables.

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       struct table {
           tableentry entries<>;

2.3.  Prefix-based Delegation Correctness

   To generalize correctness, each table must conform with a prefix-
   based rule: for every cell with value or delegation subset "c" in a
   table controlling namespace "n", "n" must (1) be a prefix of "c" and
   (2) there cannot exist another cell with value or delegation subset
   "c2" such that "c" is a prefix of "c2".

   While there exist many more hierarchical naming schemes, many can be
   simply represented in a prefix scheme.  For example, suffix-based
   delegations, including domain name hierarchies, can use reversed keys
   internally and perform a swap in the application layer before
   displaying any results to clients.  Likewise, 'flat' delegation
   schemes where there is no explicit restriction can use an empty

2.4.  Root Key Listing

   Each linked group of delegation tables for a particular namespace is
   rooted by a public key stored in a flat root key listing, which is
   the entry point for lookup operations.  Well-known application
   identifier strings denote the namespace they control.  We describe
   below how lookups can be accomplished on the mappings.

       struct rootentry {
           publickey namespace_root_key;
           string application_identifier<>;
           signature listing_sig;
           unsigned int allowance;

       struct rootlisting {
           rootentry roots<>;

   A significant question is how to properly administer entries in this
   listing, since a strong authority, such as a single root key, can
   easily protect the listing from spam and malicious changes, but
   raises important concerns about misuse.  Concurrent work on IP
   address allocation [IP-blockchain] explores using a Decentralized
   Autonomous Organization built on the Ethereum blockchain to manage
   all delegations where proper behavior is economically motivated.  We
   identify similar challenges: controlling spam and misuse, while
   operating in a decentralized manner.

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   In this draft, however, we focus on enabling governance through
   consensus operations.  For that reason, potential root entries are
   nominated with a proposed allowance, which will restrict the total
   number of cells currently supported by an application.  For large
   systems such as IP delegation or well-known entities like the IETF,
   the limit can be disabled as discussed earlier in this draft.  It is
   important that decisions regarding root listing membership be made by
   the consensus nodes themselves, since they bear the largest burden to
   store tables, communicate with other nodes, and service client
   queries.  This structure further allows table authorities to focus on
   content-specific administration of their own namespaces, which is not
   provided for in the generic delmap semantics.  If an application
   begins to run out of allowance (too many cells or large delegations),
   it can sign and nominate a new "rootentry" for the same application
   identifier with a larger value, at which point the other nodes can
   (given global knowledge of table sizes and growth rates, along with
   additional real-world information, if applicable) determine whether
   or not to accept the change.

   Thus, this draft explicitly requires prospective consensus algorithms
   to provide a mechanism for inter-node voting on governance issues.
   This is already common in protocols that provide for periodic
   updates: quorums in slice infrastructures like Stellar, Bitcoin-style
   percentage- and time-based agreement windows, or hard forks.
   Finally, although the possibility of fundemental disagreement in
   governance between different sets of consensus nodes is real, in
   realistic settings, in the worst case such groups should not
   necessarily continue to trust each other in consensus relationships
   and may indicate a (valid) need to split.

3.  Interacting with a Consensus Node

3.1.  Storage Format

   Delegation tables are stored in a Merkle hash tree, described in
   detail in [RFC6962].  In particular, it enables efficient lookups and
   logarithmic proofs of existence in the tree, and prevents
   equivocation between different participants.  Among others, we can
   leverage Google's [Trillian] Merkle tree implementation which
   generalizes the datastructures used in Certificate Transparency.  In
   map mode, the tree can manage arbitrary key-value pairs at scale, but
   critically, this requires flattening the delegation links such that
   each table may be queried, while ensuring that a full lookup from the
   application root is made for each mapping.

   Given a "rootentry", the corresponding table in the Merkle tree can
   be queried at the following key (where || indicates concatenation):

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       root_table_name = app_id || namespace_root_key

   It follows that tables for delegated namespaces are found at:

       table = root_table_name || delegee_key_1 || ... || delegee_key_n

   And finally, individual entries are identified by the namespace
   lookup key:

       cell = table || desired_lookup_key

   Once an entry is found in the tree, a logarithmic proof can be
   constructed with the hashes of the siblings of each node in the
   tree's path to the entry.

       struct merkleproof {
           opaque sibling_hashes[32]<>;
           cell entry_cell;
           signature tree_sig;

   The entry is hashed together with each "sibling_hash" - if the total
   matches the known tree root hash, then the entry must have been in
   the tree.

3.2.  Client Interface

   The presence of a natural mapping structure motivates an external
   client interface similar to a key-value store.

       struct MerkleRootOperation { }

       struct MerkleRootReturn {
           opaque root_hash[32];
           signature tree_sig;

   It is important to note that the client should not rely on a root
   hash that has been provided by a single server to verify a
   "merkleproof", instead querying multiple consensus nodes using this
   interface.  Upon discovering that different servers are advertising
   non-matching hashes, the signed proof should be used to prove to
   other clients/nodes that one or more malicious trees are

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       enum ReturnCode {
           CELL = 0,
           TABLE = 1,
           ERROR = 2

       struct GetOperation {
           string application_identifier;
           opaque full_lookup_key<>;

       union GetReturn switch (ReturnCode ret) {
       case CELL:
           cell value;
           merkleproof p;
       case TABLE:
           table t;
           merkleproof p;
       case ERROR:
           string reason;

   Given an application identifier and the fully-qualified lookup key,
   the map described in the previous section can be searched
   recursively.  At each table, we find the cell whose name matches a
   prefix of the desired lookup key.  If the cell contains a
   "valuecell", it is returned if the cell's key matches the lookup key
   exactly, else an "ERROR" is returned.  If the cell contains a
   "delegatecell", it must contain the key for the next table, on which
   the process is repeated.  If no cell is found by prefix-matching, the
   node should return "ERROR" if the key has not been fully found, else
   the table itself (containing all of the current cells) is provided to
   the client.  As in every interaction with the delegated mapping
   structure, users should verify the attached proof.  Verifying
   existence of an entry follows from the same method.

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       struct SetOperation {
           string application_identifier;
           opaque full_lookup_key<>;
           cell c;

       struct SetRootOperation {
           rootentry e;
           bool remove;

       union SetReturn switch (ReturnCode ret) {
       case SUCCESS:
           opaque empty;
       case ERROR:
           string reason;

   Creating or updating a cell at a specified path requires once again
   the full lookup key, as well as the new version of the cell to place.
   The new cell must be well-formed under the validation checks
   described in the previous section, else an "ERROR" is returned.  For
   example, updating a cell's owner without a signature by the previous
   owning key should not succeed.  Both value cells and new/updated
   delegations may be created through this method.  Removing cells from
   tables (after their commitment timestamps have expired) can be
   accomplished by replacing the value or delegated namespace with an
   empty value and setting the owner's key to that of the table
   authority.  Asking the consensus layer to approve a new root entry
   follows a similar process, although the application identifier and
   lookup key is unnecessary (see "SetRootOperation").  Nodes can also
   trigger votes to remove entries from the root key listing to redress
   misbehaving applications.

4.  Consensus

   Safety is ensured by reaching distributed consensus on the state of
   the tree.  The general nature of a Merkle tree as discussed in the
   previous section enables almost any consensus protocol to support
   delegated mappings, with varying guarantees on the conditions under
   which safety is maintained and different trust implications.  For
   example, a deployment on a cluster of nodes running a classic
   Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus protocol such as [PBFT] requires a
   limited, static membership and can tolerate compromises in up to a
   third of its nodes.  In comparison, proof-of-work schemes including
   many cryptocurrencies have open membership but rely on economic
   incentives and distributed control of hashing power to provide
   safety, and federated consensus algorithms like the Stellar Consensus

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   Protocol (SCP) [I-D.mazieres-dinrg-scp] combine dynamic members with
   real-world trust relationships but require careful configuration.
   Determining which scheme, if any, is the "correct" protocol to
   support authenticated delegation is an open question.

4.1.  Interface

   Explicit requirement for voting HERE

   At a minimum, the consensus layer is expected to provide mechanisms
   for nodes to

   1.  Submit new values (commonly cell, but also root listing, updates)
       for consensus

   2.  Receive externalized values to which the protocol has committed

   3.  Validate values received from other nodes for each iteration of
       the protocol, as specified below

   4.  Voting mechanism for making root listing governance decisions

   Specific protocols may require additional functionality from the
   delegated mapping layer, which should be implemented to ensure that
   valid updates are eventually applied (assuming a working consensus

4.2.  Validation

   Incorrect (potentially malicious) updates to the Merkle tree should
   be rejected by nodes participating in consensus.  Given the known
   prefix-delegation scheme, each node can apply the same validation
   procedure without requiring table-specific or application-specific
   knowledge.  Validation also provides a simple mechanism for rate-
   limiting actors attempting to perform DoS attacks, as only the most
   recent change to a particular cell need be retained, and the total
   number of updates to any particular table or overall can be capped.
   Upon any modification to the delegation tables, a "SetOperation" or
   "SetRootOperation" as defined in the previous section, the submitted
   change to the consensus layer should:

   1.  Reference an existing application identifier in the root key
       listing and a valid table if applicable.

   2.  For updates to all cells:

       *  contain an unmodified "create_time" or a current timestamp if
          a new cell

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       *  contain a current "revision_time" in the case of an update

       *  set a "commitment_time" greater than or equal to the previous

       *  not grant unlimited allowance (value 0) to delegate cells
          unless the delegating table also has an unlimited allowance

       *  result in a total table size ("valuecell" count +
          "delegatecell" allowances) less than or equal to the table
          allowance, if not unlimited

       *  contain a valid signature of the overall cell data by the
          table authority

   3.  For updates to value cells:

       *  be signed only by the current "owner_key" if the cell
          commitment has not yet expired, or by a new owner upon

       *  have a lookup key in the table that belongs to the authority's

       *  not conflict with other cells in its table, breaking the
          prefix-delegation property

   4.  For updates to delegate cells:

       *  be signed by the table authority's public key for new
          delegations or updates

       *  retain the same "namespace" and "delegee" value unless the
          "commitment_time" is expired

       *  contain a valid namespace owned by the authority delegating
          the cell

       *  not conflict with other values or delegations in the same
          table, breaking the prefix-delegation property

   Only after a round of the consensus protocol is successful are the
   changes exposed to client lookups.

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4.3.  SCP

   While consensus can be reached with many protocols, this section
   describes how the interface described above can be satisfied by SCP.

   Updates to the delegation tables consist of the table change itself
   (the new version of the cell).  Since SCP does not need specific
   knowledge of the format of these proofs, they directly form consensus
   on the opaque values submitted to the consensus layer.  Once a
   combination of proofs are agreed to as outputs for a given slot, they
   are externalized to the mapping layer and applied to the local node's
   table states.  [I-D.mazieres-dinrg-scp] requires this layer to
   provide a _validity_ function that is applied to each input value,
   allowing nodes to detect misformed cells that violate the delgation
   semantics as defined by the previous subsection.

   SCP asks the higher-level protocol to define a _combining_ function
   to compose multiple candidate values.  In this application, we can
   take the union of valid updates proposed by the consensus nodes,
   rejecting duplicate updates to the same cell in favor of the most up-
   to-date timestamp.

   Finally, SCP by specification uses federated voting to confirm
   values, which can be used directly to propose and validate
   modifications to the root key listing.

5.  Security Considerations

   The security of the delegation tables is primarily tied to the safety
   properties of the underlying consensus layer.  Further, incorrect use
   of the public key infrastructure authenticating each mapping or
   compromise of a namespace root key can endanger mappings delegated by
   the key after their commitments expire.

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

   [RFC4506]  Eisler, M., Ed., "XDR: External Data Representation
              Standard", STD 67, RFC 4506, DOI 10.17487/RFC4506, May
              2006, <>.

              Google, "Trillian: General Transparency", n.d.,

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6.2.  Informative References

              Barry, N., Losa, G., Mazieres, D., McCaleb, J., and S.
              Polu, "The Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP)", draft-
              mazieres-dinrg-scp-05 (work in progress), November 2018.

              Angieri, S., Garcia-Martinez, A., Liu, B., Yan, Z., Wang,
              C., and M. Bagnulo, "An experiment in distributed Internet
              address management using blockchains", 2018,

   [PBFT]     Castro, M. and B. Liskov, "Practical Byzantine Fault
              Tolerance", 1999,

   [RFC6962]  Laurie, B., Langley, A., and E. Kasper, "Certificate
              Transparency", RFC 6962, DOI 10.17487/RFC6962, June 2013,

   [RFC7249]  Housley, R., "Internet Numbers Registries", RFC 7249,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7249, May 2014,


   We are grateful for the contributions and feedback on design and
   applicability by David Mazieres, as well as help and feedback from
   many members of the IRTF DIN research group, including Dirk Kutscher
   and Melinda Shore.

   This work was supported by The Stanford Center For Blockchain

Authors' Addresses

   Sydney Li
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   815 Eddy Street
   San Francisco, CA 94109


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Internet-Draft             Delegated Mappings                 April 2019

   Colin Man
   Stanford University
   353 Serra Mall
   Stanford, CA 94305


   Jean-Luc Watson
   UC Berkeley
   Cory Hall, 545W
   Berkeley, CA 94720


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