Syndicate Protocol

Actors that share a local scope can communicate directly. To communicate further afield, scopes are connected using relay actors.1 Relays allow indirect communication: distant entities can be addressed as if they were local.

Relays exchange Syndicate Protocol messages across a transport. A transport is the underlying medium connecting one relay to its counterpart(s). For example, a TLS-on-TCP/IP socket may connect a pair of relays to one another, or a UDP multicast socket may connect an entire group of relays across an ethernet.2

Transport requirements

Transports must

  • be able to carry Preserves values back and forth,
  • be reliable and in-order,
  • have a well-defined session lifecycle (created → connected → disconnected), and
  • assure confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, and replay-resistance.

This document focuses primarily on point-to-point transports, discussing multicast and in-memory variations briefly toward the end.

Roles and session lifecycle

The protocol is completely symmetric, aside from certain conventions detailed below about the entities available for use immediately upon connection establishment. It is not a client/server protocol.

Session startup. To begin a session on a newly-established point-to-point link, a relay simply starts sending packets. Each peer starts the session with an empty entity reference map (see below) and making no assertions in either the outbound (on behalf of local entities) or inbound (on behalf of the remote peer) directions.

Session teardown. At the end of a session, terminated normally or abnormally, cleanly or through involuntary transport disconnection, all published assertions are retracted.3 This is in keeping with the essence of the Syndicated Actor Model (SAM).

Packet definitions

Packets exchanged by relays are Preserves values defined using Preserves schema.

Packet = Turn / Error / Extension .

A packet may be a turn, an error, or an extension.

Packets are neither commands nor responses; they are events.

Extension packets

Extension = <<rec> @label any @fields [any ...]> .

An extension packet must be a Preserves record, but is otherwise unconstrained.

Handling. Peers MUST ignore extensions that they do not understand.4

Error packets

Error = <error @message string @detail any>.

Handling. An error packet describes something that went wrong on the other end of the connection. Error packets are primarily intended for debugging.

Receipt of an error packet denotes that the sender has terminated (crashed) and will not respond further; the connection will usually be closed shortly thereafter.

Error packets are optional: connections may simply be closed without comment.

Turn packets

Turn      = [TurnEvent ...].
TurnEvent = [@oid Oid @event Event].
Event     = Assert / Retract / Message / Sync .

Assert = <assert @assertion Assertion @handle Handle>.
Retract = <retract @handle Handle>.
Message = <message @body Assertion>.
Sync = <sync @peer #!#t>.

Assertion = any .
Handle    = int .
Oid       = int .

A Turn is the most important packet variant. It directly reflects the SAM notion of a turn.

Handling. Each Turn carries events to be delivered to entities residing in the scope at the receiving end of the transport. Each event is either publication of an assertion, retraction of a previously-published assertion, delivery of a single message, or a synchronization event.

Upon receipt of a Turn, the sequence of TurnEvents is examined. The OID in each TurnEvent selects an entity known to the recipient. If a particular TurnEvent's OID is not mapped to an entity, the TurnEvent is silently ignored, and the remaining TurnEvents in the Turn are processed.

The assertion fields of Assert events and the body fields of Message events may contain any Preserves value, including embedded entity references. On the wire, these will always be formatted as described below. As each Assert or Message is processed, embedded references are mapped to internal references. Symmetrically, internal references are mapped to their external form prior to transmission. The mapping procedure to follow is detailed below.

Turn boundaries. In the case that the receiving party is structured internally using the SAM, it is important to preserve turn boundaries. Since turn boundaries are a per-actor concept, but a Turn mentions only entities, the receiver must map entities to actors, group TurnEvents into per-actor queues, and deliver those queues to each actor in a single SAM turn for each actor.

Uniqueness. The Handles used to refer to published assertions MUST be unique within the scope of the transport connection.

Capabilities on the wire

References embedded in Turn packets denote capabilities for interacting with some entity.

For example, assertion of a capability-bearing record could appear as the following Event:

<assert <please-reply-to #![0 555]>>

The #![0 555] is concrete Preserves text syntax for an embedded (#!) value ([0 555]).

In the Syndicate Protocol, these embedded values MUST conform to the WireRef schema:5

WireRef = @mine [0 @oid Oid] / @yours [1 @oid Oid @attenuation Caveat ...].
Oid = int .

The mine variant denotes capability references managed by the sender of a given packet; the yours variant, the receiver of the packet. A relay receiving a packet mentioning #![0 555] will use #![1 555] in later responses that refer to that same entity, and vice versa.

Attenuation of authority

A yours-variant capability may include a request6 to impose additional conditions on the receiver's use of its own capability, known as an attenuation of the capability's authority.

An attenuation is a chain of Caveats.7 A Caveat acts as a function that, given a Preserves value representing an assertion or message body, yields either a possibly-rewritten value, or no value at all.8 In the latter case, the value has been rejected. In the former case, the rewritten value is used as input to the next Caveat in the chain, or as the final assertion or message body for delivery to the entity backing the capability.

The chain of Caveats in an attenuation is written down in reverse order: newer Caveats are appended to the sequence, and each Caveat's output is fed into the input of the next leftward Caveat in the sequence. If no Caveats are present, the capability is unattenuated, and inputs are passed through to the backing capability unmodified.

Caveat = Rewrite / Alts .

Rewrite = <rewrite @pattern Pattern @template Template>.
Alts = <or @alternatives [Rewrite ...]>.

A Caveat can be either a single Rewrite or a sequence of alternative possible rewrites, tried in left-to-right order until one of them accepts the input or there are none left to try. (A single Rewrite R is equivalent to <or [R]>.)

A Rewrite applies its Pattern to the input to the Caveat. If it matches, the bindings captured by the pattern are gathered together and used in instantiation of the Rewrite's Template, yielding the output from the Caveat. If the pattern does not match, the Rewrite has rejected the input, and other alternatives are tried until none remain, at which point the whole Caveat has rejected the input and processing of the triggering event stops.

Patterns

A Pattern within a rewrite can be any of the following variants:

Pattern = PDiscard / PAtom / PEmbedded / PBind / PAnd / PNot / Lit / PCompound .

Wildcard. PDiscard matches any value:

PDiscard = <_>.

Atomic type. PAtom requires that a matched value be a boolean, a single- or double-precision float, an integer, a string, a binary blob, or a symbol, respectively:

PAtom = =Boolean / =Float / =Double / =SignedInteger / =String / =ByteString / =Symbol .

Embedded value. PEmbedded requires that a matched value be an embedded capability:

PEmbedded = =Embedded .

Binding. PBind first captures the matched value, adding it to the bindings vector, and then applies the nested pattern. If the subpattern matches, the PBind succeeds; otherwise, it fails:

PBind = <bind @pattern Pattern>.

Conjunction. PAnd is a conjunction of patterns; every pattern in patterns must match for the PAnd to match:

PAnd = <and @patterns [Pattern ...]>.

Negation. PNot is a pattern negation: if pattern matches, the PNot fails to match, and vice versa. It is an error for pattern to include any PBind subpatterns.

PNot = <not @pattern Pattern>.

Literal. Lit is an exact match pattern. If the matched value is exactly equal to value (according to Preserves' own built-in equivalence relation), the match succeeds; otherwise, it fails:

Lit = <lit @value any>.

Compound. Finally, PCompound patterns match compound data structures. The rec variant demands that a matched value be a record, with label exactly equal to label and fields one-for-one matching the Patterns in fields; the arr variant demands a sequence, with each element matching the corresponding element of items; and dict demands a dictionary having at least entries named by the keys of the entries dictionary, each matching the corresponding Pattern.

PCompound =
    / @rec <rec @label any @fields [Pattern ...]>
    / @arr <arr @items [Pattern ...]>
    / @dict <dict @entries { any: Pattern ...:... }> .

Bindings

Matching notionally produces a sequence of values, one for each PBind in the pattern.

When a PBind pattern is seen, the matcher first appends the matched value to the binding sequence and then recurses on the nested subpattern. This makes binding indexes appear in left-to-right order as a Pattern is read.

Example. Given the pattern <bind <arr [<bind <_>>, <bind <_>>]>> and the matched value ["a" "b"], the resulting captured values are, in order, ["a" "b"], "a", and "b"; the template <ref 0> will be instantiated to ["1" "2"], <ref 1> to "a", and <ref 2> to "b".

Templates

A Template within a rewrite produces a concrete Preserves value when instantiated with a vector of captured binding values. Template instantiation may fail, yielding no value.

A given Template may be any of the following variants:

Template = TAttenuate / TRef / Lit / TCompound .

TAttenuate first instantiates the sub-template. If it yields a value, and if that value is an embedded reference (i.e. a capability), the Caveats in attenuation are appended to the (possibly-empty) sequence of Caveats already present in the embedded capability. The resulting possibly-attenuated capability is the final result of instantiation of the TAttenuate.

TAttenuate = <attenuate @template Template @attenuation [Caveat ...]>.

TRef retrieves the bindingth (0-based) index into the bindings vector, yielding the associated captured value as the result of instantiation. It is an error if binding is less than zero, or greater than or equal to the number of bindings in the bindings vector.

TRef = <ref @binding int>.

Lit (the same definition as used in the grammar for Pattern above) instantiates to exactly its value argument:

Lit = <lit @value any>.

Finally, TCompound instantiates to compound data. The rec variant produces a record with the given label and fields; arr produces an array; and dict a dictionary:

TCompound =
    / @rec <rec @label any @fields [Template ...]>
    / @arr <arr @items [Template ...]>
    / @dict <dict @entries { any: Template ...:... }> .

Validity of Caveats

The above definitions imply some validity constraints on Caveats.

  • All TRefs must be bound: the index referred to must relate to the index associated with some PBind in the pattern corresponding to the template.

  • Binding under negation is forbidden: a pattern within a PNot may not include any PBind constructors.

  • The value produced by instantiation of template within a TAttenuate must be an embedded reference (a capability).

Implementations MUST enforce these constraints (either statically or dynamically).

Membranes

Every relay maintains two stateful objects called membranes. A membrane is a bidirectional mapping between OID and relay-internal entity pointer. Membranes connect embedded references on the wire to entity references local to the relay.

  • The import membrane connects OIDs managed by the remote peer to local relay entities which proxy access to an "imported" remote entity.

  • The export membrane connects OIDs managed by the local peer to any local "exported" entities accessible to the peer.

Entity "your 3" ID Pointer 0x1234 Import Membrane Export Membrane packets 0x462e Pointer ID "my 7" ... 0x462e Relay Entity 0x1234 ID "your 7" Entity 0xa043 Pointer 0x9abc 0xa043 Import Membrane Export Membrane 0x9abc ... "my 3" ID Relay Entity

Logically, a membrane's state can be represented as a set of WireSymbol structures: a WireSymbol is a triple of an OID, a local reference pointer (its ref), and a reference count. There is never more than one WireSymbol associated with an OID or a ref.

A WireSymbol exists only so long as some assertion mentioning its OID exists across the relay link. When the last assertion mentioning an OID is retracted, its WireSymbol is deleted. Assertions mentioning a particular OID can come from either side of the relay link: initially, a local reference is sent to the peer in an assertion, but then the peer may assert something back, either targeting or mentioning the same entity. Care must be taken not to release an OID entry prematurely in such situations.

For example, at least the following contribute to a WireSymbol's reference count:

  • The initial entry mapping a local entity ref to an well-known OID for use at session startup (see below) contributes a permanent reference.

  • Mention of an OID in a received or sent TurnEvent adds one to the OID's reference count for the duration of processing of the event. For Assert events in either direction, the duration of processing is until the assertion is later retracted. For received Message events, the duration of processing is until the incoming message has been forwarded on to the target ref.

"Transient" references. Embedded references in Message event bodies are special. Because messages, unlike assertions, have no notion of lifetime—they are forwarded and forgotten—it is not possible for a message to cause establishment of a long-lived entry in a membrane's WireSymbol set. Therefore, messages MUST NOT embed any reference not previously known to the peer (a "transient reference"). In other words, only after using an assertion to introduce a reference, associating a conversational context with its lifetime, is it permitted to discuss the reference using messages. A relay receiving a message bearing a transient reference MUST terminate the session with an error. A relay about to send such a message SHOULD preemptively refuse to do so.

Rewriting embedded references upon receipt

When processing a Value v in a received Assert or Message event, embedded references in v are decoded from their on-the-wire WireRef form to in-memory ref-pointer form.

The value is recursively traversed. As the relay comes across each embedded WireRef,

  • If it is of mine variant, it refers to an entity exported by the remote, sending peer. Its OID is looked up in the import membrane.

    • If no WireSymbol exists in the import membrane, one is created, mapping the OID to a fresh relay entity for the OID.

    • If a WireSymbol is already present, its associated ref is substituted into v.

  • If it is of yours variant, it refers to an entity previously exported by the local, receiving peer. Its OID is looked up in the export membrane.

    • If no WireSymbol exists for the OID, one is created, associating the OID with a dummy inert entity ref. The dummy ref is substituted into v. It will later be released once the reference count of the WireSymbol drops to zero.

    • If a WireSymbol exists for the OID, and the WireRef is not attenuated, the associated ref is substituted into v. If the WireRef is attenuated, the associated ref is wrapped with the Caveats from the WireRef before its substitution into v.

  • In each case, the WireSymbol associated with the OID has its reference count incremented (if an Assert is being processed).

Rewriting embedded references for transmission

When transmitting a Value v in an Assert or Message event, embedded references in v are encoded from their in-memory ref-pointer form to on-the-wire WireRef form.

The value is recursively traversed. As the relay comes across each embedded reference:

  • The reference is first looked up in the export membrane. If an associated WireSymbol is present in the export membrane, its OID is substituted as a mine-variant WireRef into v.

  • Otherwise, it is looked up in the import membrane. If no associated WireSymbol exists there, a fresh OID and WireSymbol are placed in the export membrane, and the new OID is substituted as a mine-variant WireRef into v. If a WireSymbol exists in the import membrane, however, the embedded reference must be a local relay entity referencing a previously-imported remote entity:

    • If the local entity reference has not been attenuated subsequent to its import, the OID it was imported under is substituted as a yours-variant WireRef into v with an empty attenuation.

    • If it has been attenuated, the relay may choose whether to trust the remote party to enforce an attenuation request. If it trusts the peer to honour attenuation requests, it substitutes a yours-variant WireRef with non-empty attenuation into v. Otherwise, a fresh OID and WireSymbol are placed in the export membrane, with ref denoting the attenuated local reference, and the new OID is substituted as a mine-variant WireRef into v.

Relay entities

A relay entity is a local proxy for an entity at the other side of a relay link. It forwards events delivered to it—assert, retract, message and sync—across the link to its counterpart at the other end. It holds two pieces of state: a pointer to the relay link, and the OID of the remote entity it represents. It packages all received events into TurnEvents which are then sent across the transport.

Turn boundaries. When the relay is structured internally using the SAM, it is important to preserve turn boundaries. When all the relay entities of a given relay instance are managed by a single actor, this will be natural: a single turn can deliver events to a group of entities in the actor, so if the relay entity enqueues its TurnEvents in a buffer which is flushed into a Turn packet sent across the transport at the conclusion of the turn, the correct turn boundaries will be preserved.

Client and server roles

While the protocol itself is symmetric, in many cases there will be one active ("client") and one passive ("server") party during the establishment of a transport connection.

As an optional convention, a "server" MAY have a single entity exposed as well-known OID 0 at the establishment of a connection, and a "client" MAY likewise expect OID 0 to resolve to some pre-arranged entity. It is frequently useful for the pre-arranged entity to be a gatekeeper service, but direct exposure of a dataspace or even some domain-specific object can also be useful. Either or both party to a connection may play one role, the other, neither, or both.

APIs for making use of relays in programs should permit programs to supply to a newly-constructed relay an (optional) initial ref, to be exposed as well-known OID 0; an (optional) initial OID, to denote a remote well-known OID and to be immediately proxied by a local relay entity; or both.

In the case of TCP/IP, the "client" role is often played by a connecting party, and the "server" by a listening party, but the opposite arrangement is also useful from time to time.

Security considerations

The security considerations for this protocol fall into two categories: those having to do with particular transports for relay instances, and those having to do with the protocol itself.

Transport security

The security of an instance of the protocol depends on the security characteristics of its transport.

Confidentiality. Parties outwith the communicating peers must not be able to deduce the contents of packets sent back and forth: some of the packets may contain secrets. For example, a Resolve message sent to a gatekeeper service contains a "bearer capability", which conveys authority to any holder able to present it to the gatekeeper.

Integrity. Packets delivered to peers must be proof from tampering or other in-flight damage.

Authenticity. Each packet delivered to a peer must have genuinely originated with another party, and must have genuinely originated in the same session. Forgery of packets must be prevented.

Replay-resistance. Each packet delivered to a peer must be delivered exactly once within the context of the transport session. That is, replay of otherwise-authentic packets must not be possible from outside the session.

Protocol security

The protocol builds on, and directly reflects, the object-capability security model of the SAM. Entities are accessed via unforgeable references (OIDs). OIDs are meaningful only within the context of their transport session; in this way, they are analogous to Unix file descriptors, which are small integers that meaningfully denote objects only within the context of a single Unix process. If the transport is secure, so is the reference.

Entities can only obtain references to other entities by the standard methods by which "connectivity begets connectivity"; namely:

  • By initial conditions. The relevant initial conditions here are the state of the relays at the moment a transport session is established, including any mappings from well-known OIDs to their underlying refs.

  • By parenthood and by endowment. No direct provision is made for creation of new entities in this protocol, so these do not apply.

  • By introduction. Transmission of OIDs in Turn packets, and the associated rules for managing the mappings between OIDs and references, are the normal method by which references pass from one entity to another.

While transport confidentiality is important for preserving secrecy of secrets such as bearer capabilities, OIDs do not need this kind of protection. An attacker able to observe OIDs communicated via a transport does not gain authority to deliver events to the denoted entity. At most, the attacker may glean information on patterns of interconnectivity among entities communicating across a transport link.

Relation to CapTP

This protocol is strikingly similar to a family of protocols known as CapTP (see, for example, here, here and here). This is no accident: the Syndicated Actor Model draws heavily on the actor model, and has over the years been incrementally evolving to be closer and closer to the actor model as it appears in the E programming language. However, the Syndicate protocol described in this document was developed based on the needs of the Syndicated Actor Model, without particular reference to CapTP. This makes it all the more striking that the similarities should be so strong. No doubt I have been subconsciously as well as consciously influenced by E's design, but perhaps there might also be a Platonic form awaiting discovery somewhere nearby.

For example:

  • CapTP has the notion of a "c-list [capability list] index", cognate with our OID. A c-list index is meaningful only within the context of a transport connection, just like an OID is. A given c-list index maps to a "live-ref", an in-memory pointer to an object, in the same way that an OID maps to a ref via a WireSymbol.

  • CapTP has "the four tables" at each end of a connection; each of our relays has two membranes, each having two unidirectional mapping tables.

  • Syndicate gatekeeper services borrow the concept of a SturdyRef directly from CapTP. However, the notion of a gatekeeper entity at well-known OID 0 is an example of convergent evolution in action: in the CapTP world, the analogous service happens also to be available at c-list index 0, by convention.

A notable difference is that this protocol completely lacks support for the promises/futures of CapTP. CapTP c-list indices are just one part of a framework of descriptors (descs) denoting various kinds of remote object and eventual remote-procedure-call (RPC) result. The SAM handles RPC in a different, more low-level way.

Specific transport mappings

For now, this document focuses on SOCK_STREAM-like transports: reliable, in-order, bidirectional, connection-oriented, fully-duplex byte streams. While these transports naturally have a certain level of integrity assurance and replay-resistance associated with them, special care should be taken in the case of non-cryptographic transport protocols like plain TCP/IP.

To use such a transport for this protocol, establish a connection and begin transmitting Packets encoded as Preserves values using either the Preserves text syntax or the Preserves binary syntax. The session starts with the first packet and ends with transport disconnection. If either peer in a connection detects a syntax error, it MUST disconnect the transport. A responding server MUST support the binary syntax, and MAY also support the text syntax. It can autodetect the syntax variant by following the rules in the specification: the first byte of a valid binary-syntax Preserves document is guaranteed not to be interpretable as the start of a valid UTF-8 sequence.

Packets encoded in either binary or text syntax are self-delimiting. However, peers using text syntax MAY choose to insert whitespace (e.g. newline) after each transmitted packet.

Some domain-specific details are also relevant:

  • Unix-domain sockets. An additional layer of authentication checks can be made based on process-ID and user-ID credentials associated with each Unix-domain socket.

  • TCP/IP sockets. Plain TCP/IP sockets offer only weak message integrity and replay-resistance guarantees, and offer no authenticity or confidentiality guarantees at all. Plain TCP/IP sockets SHOULD NOT be used; consider using TLS sockets instead.

  • TLS atop TCP/IP. An additional layer of authentication checks can be made based on the signatures and certificates exchanged during TLS setup.

    TODO: concretely develop some recommendations for ordinary use of TLS certificates, including referencing a domain name in a SturdyRef, checking the presented certificate, and requiring SNI at the server end.

  • WebSockets atop HTTP 1.x. These suffer similar flaws to plain TCP/IP sockets and SHOULD NOT be used.

  • WebSockets atop HTTPS 1.x. Similar considerations to the use of TLS sockets apply regarding authentication checks. WebSocket messages are self-delimiting; peers MUST place exactly one Packet in each WebSocket message. Since (a) WebSockets are established after a standard HTTP(S) message header exchange, (b) every HTTP(S) request header starts with an ASCII letter, and (c) every Packet in text syntax begins with the ASCII "<" character, it is possible to autodetect use of a WebSocket protocol multiplexed on a server socket that is also able to handle plain Preserves binary and/or text syntax for Packets: any ASCII character between "A" and "Z" or "a" and "z" must be HTTP, an ASCII "<" must be Preserves text syntax, and any byte with the high bit set must be Preserves binary syntax.

Appendix: Complete schema of the protocol

The following is a consolidated form of the definitions from the text above.

Protocol packets

The authoritative version of this schema is [syndicate-protocols]/schemas/protocol.prs.

version 1 .

Packet = Turn / Error / Extension .

Extension = <<rec> @label any @fields [any ...]> .

Error = <error @message string @detail any>.

Assertion = any .
Handle    = int .
Event     = Assert / Retract / Message / Sync .
Oid       = int .
Turn      = [TurnEvent ...].
TurnEvent = [@oid Oid @event Event].

Assert = <assert @assertion Assertion @handle Handle>.
Retract = <retract @handle Handle>.
Message = <message @body Assertion>.
Sync = <sync @peer #!#t>.

Capabilities, WireRefs, and attenuations

The authoritative version of this schema is [syndicate-protocols]/schemas/sturdy.prs.

version 1 .

Attenuation = [Caveat ...].

Caveat = Rewrite / Alts .
Rewrite = <rewrite @pattern Pattern @template Template>.
Alts = <or @alternatives [Rewrite ...]>.

Oid = int .
WireRef = @mine [0 @oid Oid] / @yours [1 @oid Oid @attenuation Caveat ...].

Lit = <lit @value any>.

Pattern = PDiscard / PAtom / PEmbedded / PBind / PAnd / PNot / Lit / PCompound .
PDiscard = <_>.
PAtom = =Boolean / =Float / =Double / =SignedInteger / =String / =ByteString / =Symbol .
PEmbedded = =Embedded .
PBind = <bind @pattern Pattern>.
PAnd = <and @patterns [Pattern ...]>.
PNot = <not @pattern Pattern>.
PCompound =
    / @rec <rec @label any @fields [Pattern ...]>
    / @arr <arr @items [Pattern ...]>
    / @dict <dict @entries { any: Pattern ...:... }> .

Template = TAttenuate / TRef / Lit / TCompound .
TAttenuate = <attenuate @template Template @attenuation Attenuation>.
TRef = <ref @binding int>.
TCompound =
    / @rec <rec @label any @fields [Template ...]>
    / @arr <arr @items [Template ...]>
    / @dict <dict @entries { any: Template ...:... }> .

Appendix: Pseudocode for attenuation, pattern matching, and template instantiation

Attenuation

def attenuate(attenuation, value):
    for caveat in reversed(attenuation):
        value = applyCaveat(caveat, value)
        if value is None:
            return None
    return value

def applyCaveat(caveat, value):
    if caveat is 'Alts' variant:
        for rewrite in caveat.alternatives:
            possibleResult = tryRewrite(rewrite, value);
            if possibleResult is not None:
                return possibleResult
        return None
    if caveat is 'Rewrite' variant:
        return tryRewrite(caveat, value)

def tryRewrite(rewrite, value):
    bindings = applyPattern(rewrite.pattern, value)
    if bindings is None:
        return None
    else:
        return instantiateTemplate(rewrite.template, bindings)

Pattern matching

def match(pattern, value, bindings):
    if pattern is 'PDiscard' variant:
        return True
    if pattern is 'PAtom' variant:
        return True if value is of the appropriate atomic class else False
    if pattern is 'PEmbedded' variant:
        return True if value is a capability else False
    if pattern is 'PBind' variant:
        append value to bindings
        return match(pattern.pattern, value, bindings)
    if pattern is 'PAnd' variant:
        for p in pattern.patterns:
            if not match(p, value, bindings):
                return False
        return True
    if pattern is 'PNot' variant:
        return False if match(pattern.pattern, value, bindings) else True
    if pattern is 'Lit' variant:
        return (pattern.value == value)
    if pattern is 'PCompound' variant:
        if pattern is 'rec' variant:
            if value is not a record: return False
            if value.label is not equal to pattern.label: return False
            if value.fields.length is not equal to pattern.fields.length: return False
            for i in [0 .. pattern.fields.length):
                if not match(pattern.fields[i], value.fields[i], bindings):
                    return False
            return True
        if pattern is 'arr' variant:
            if value is not a sequence: return False
            if value.length is not equal to pattern.items.length: return False
            for i in [0 .. pattern.items.length):
                if not match(pattern.items[i], value[i], bindings):
                    return False
            return True
        if pattern is 'dict' variant:
            if value is not a dictionary: return False
            for k in keys of pattern.entries:
                if k not in keys of value: return False
                if not match(pattern.entries[k], value[k], bindings):
                    return False
            return True

Template instantiation

def instantiate(template, bindings):
    if template is 'TAttenuate' variant:
        c = instantiate(template.template, bindings)
        if c is not a capability: raise an exception
        c′ = c with the caveats in template.attenuation appended to the existing
             attenuation in c
        return c′
    if template is 'TRef' variant:
        if 0 ≤ template.binding < bindings.length:
            return bindings[template.binding]
        else:
            raise an exception
    if template is 'Lit' variant:
        return template.value
    if template is 'TCompound' variant:
        if template is 'rec' variant:
            return Record(label=template.label,
                          fields=[instantiate(t, bindings) for t in template.fields])
        if template is 'arr' variant:
            return [instantiate(t, bindings) for t in template.items]
        if template is 'dict' variant:
            result = {}
            for k in keys of template.entries:
                result[k] = instantiate(template.entries[k], bindings)
            return result

Notes

1

Strictly speaking, scope subnets are connected by relay actors. The situation is directly analogous to IP subnets being connected by IP routers.

2

In fact, it makes perfect sense to run the relay protocol between actors that are already connected in some scope: this is like running a VPN, tunnelling IP over IP. A variation of the Syndicate Protocol like this gives federated dataspaces.

3

This process of assertion-retraction on termination is largely automatic when relay actors are structured internally using the SAM: simply terminating a SAM actor automatically retracts its published assertions.

4

This specification does not define any extensions, but future revisions could, for example, use extensions to perform version-negotiation. Another potential future use could be to propagate provenance information for tracing/debugging.

5

The syntax for WireRefs is slightly silly, using tuples as quasi-records with 0 and 1 acting as quasi-labels. It would probably be better to use real records, like <my @oid Oid> and <yours @oid Oid @attenuation [Caveat ...]>. Pros: less cryptic. Cons: slightly more verbose on the wire. TODO: should we revise the spec in this regard?

6

Such conditions can only ever be requests: after all, every yours-capability is already completely accessible to the recipient of the packet. Similarly, it does not make sense to include an attenuation description on a my-capability. However, in every case, if a party wishes to enforce an attenuation on a my- or yours-capability, it may record the attenuation against the underlying capability internally, issuing to its peers a fresh my-capability denoting the attenuated capability.

7

This terminology, "caveat", is lifted from the excellent paper on Macaroons, where it is used to describe a more general mechanism. Future versions of this specification may opt to include some of this generality.

8

TODO: It might be better to have a Caveat yield zero or more values? That way they can act as filters. I've sometimes wanted the multiple-value case, though I've so far been able to work around its lack. TODO: Perhaps it would also make sense to have a Caveat map an event to zero or more events, rather than to values? Tricky corners there include ensuring that carried authority isn't misused; macaroons are a very elegant solution to this problem, of course, so maybe the macaroon design idea could be adapted to this. For now, ValueOption<Value> is probably OK.