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Re: [tor-talk] New Tor project idea for internet comments

On 03/04/2015 21:42:38 CET, Lee Malek <leemalek@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote :
>In fact I considered creating a normal browser plugin to accomplish
>this... but the need for a server to hold all of the comments would be
>a centralized attack target.
>So this would decentralize things.... and come to think of it this
>would have to include decentralization freenet style. So it would take
>some work, but it would be worth it. 

Ah ok, now I get it! I found your idea quite interesting but couldn't figure out why you insisted on reimplementing the Tor software. 

Indeed, what I would have suggested was to develop only a browser plug-in that would fetch content from a Hidden Service indexed by the URL of the page. (n.b. It would then be wise to send a hash of the URL to prevent information leakage through volume analysis and improve further on privacy server-side). 

Now, as for decentralizing... It is much more both complex and hard to accomplish. Complex because of the bolder programming task. And hard because you will imperatively need many users to make it even just work. 
Bitcoin is successful on this point because it offers in exchange many interesting features to users. Same for BitTorrent. 

I don't think a parallel commenting system will appeal enough to users for them to spend effort in running the infrastructure. 
One big reason is that there is no content yet. And I also think that the Tor community is too diverse to rapidly create enough content to make it interesting. (comments will initially be scattered around diverse websites.) 

But don't get me wrong, I think that this is a great idea. But even such, it's not appealing enough in my opinion to make it work in the way you envision. 

I would strongly recommend instead to start with a much simpler clients-server architecture :

- Effortless for the users. This is crucial because the more people participate, the more appealing it will get. 
- Developing will be much faster. Easier to find people with the corresponding skills. 
 - Then, nothing prevent to switch to a decentralized approach once there is a sufficient user base. 

Also, a centralized systems is not necessarily bad. Think about Wikipedia, their servers are centralized and yet the content's creation is completely decentralized. 

Finally and much importantly, the security features you want to get from a decentralized system, maybe you'd like to know that they are somewhat workable with a classical clients server approach. 

Anti-censorship, as an example, cannot be enforced as strongly but nevertheless, by implementing several layers of security it can do pretty damn well :
- a Hidden Server is considerably harder to shutdown. If carefully thought through, it can even be seriously tricky to compromise. 
- Redundancy of both data and servers can then vastly increase the chances for the system to survive the eventual lost of the initial server. 
- A couple of crypto tricks can make the comments tamper resistant. 

Definitely, I think that this classical approach is much more workable and suited to your project. 
If you deem this suggestion to be acceptable, I will be enthiousastic to bring my share of thinking about any subsequent issues. 
One of which would be how to properly design the plug-in so as not to screw up the standardized browser signature, an issue on which the Tor browser devs spent so much time to work on. 

- aw 

P.S. I was browsing (clear Web) some Wikileaks cables the other day and was astonished to find out that they used Disqus as a comments system provider... Had I not had No Script to block it, they would have received the identifier of every single cable I looked at. Furthermore, the tracking disqus cookie + cable ID were to be sent in clear HTTP... So now Disqus + everyone else know what I read... Unbelievable to find this on Wikileaks website... 

Comments are a big part of the Web and I entirely agree, we need to secure it. 
Create a parallel system to host free opinions from the Tor community is definitely a wonderful and promising project ;)
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