[Autocrypt] Autocrypt Level 1 gathering notes

holger krekel holger at merlinux.eu
Wed Jun 14 11:01:50 EDT 2017

The Autocrypt Level 1 Freiburg gathering just closed up ...
it was my great pleasure to have azul, bjoern, dkg, florian, neal, 
oliver, patrick and vincent here the last couple of days with a 
few people chiming in remotely or doing pull-requests from afar.  
I enjoyed the many loose and concentrated discussions which 
led to what i consider very significant outcomes:

- first, what about "Level 0" you say? "Level 0" is and always was 
  "Level 1" according to Autocrypt's history-rewriting committee.
  This must be true if you consider that releasing version 1 of the 
  spec clearly makes more sense because we are also talking about 
  "type=1" keys (there never was a "p" -- why should there have been?) 
  and, besides, counting from one is more user-friendly and less-programmer 
  oriented. So those claiming there was something like "level 0" are 
  off-by-one which fortunately happens a lot in programming.

- simplified "prefer-encrypt" attribute in Autocrypt headers which
  is a bi-state now: "nopreference" (the default) and "mutual".  
  The latter means that Autocrypt recommends encrypt-by-default only
  when both sides of a fresh mail-under-composition have


- much refined Autocrypt account setup process which is specified 
  in the "Setup Message" section.  A "Setup Code" is used to secure
  the secure the transmission of secret key material between user's
  devices.  The "Setup Code" has a specified format (9x4 numbers).
  And the setup message is done in such a way that a way that 
  apps can add custom data (e.g. crypto or other information about 
  contacts) without interferences.


  It's true that MUA implementors will need to spent some effort
  around this issue but luckily all present MUA developers at the
  gathering agreed it really makes sense considering the eco-system as 
  a whole (incompatible and conflicting autocrypt MUAs could
  prove otherwise a major annoyance for everyone, let alone
  the missing ability to update from one version to another). 

  Btw, please feel free to post questions to the mailing list
  and chats if you don't understand the spec or have questions:


- the new optional "key gossipping" helps to accelerate key 
  distribution when sending encrypted mail to multiple
  recipients and it also helps with encrypted replies aka
  "damn, i can't reply encrypted because i have a key missing"
  which is then hopefully gone, for how to use the new
  optional Autocrypt-Gossip header see  ... 


- clarify MUAs should use passphrase-less keys because of 
  usability and overall "secret keys at rest" considerations, see:

  which is based on older list thread:

- Autocrypt tuesdays continue and every other week we'll discuss
  on #autocrypt at 4pm berlin time -- next Autocrypt IRC
  is June 27th, aiming to release version "0.9" of the spec. 
  For preparing this step, please see milestone-1 planning: 


  The prospective "0.9" i guess is then already a good base for 
  new MUA implementors to chime in and implement Autocrypt.
  There are still some pending rewordings and restructurings
  which would improve readability and simplicity of the spec.  
  After "0.9" not much is to change then before the eventual 
  1.0rc1 and then 1.0 release ...  speaking of which ...

- ... end of september we are likely heading for a "Level 1" 
  release party by which we'll hopefully have some releases 
  in the wild.  It also then marks a potential start for
  further automating and simplifying multi-device pairing, 
  out-of-band verification and incorporating feedback from
  usability tests (azul aims to post more on this soon).
- As autocrypt-supporting apps are starting to appear
  (https://delta.chat deployed it in real-life already,
  currently still in this weird "level 0" version that 
  everybody knows doesn't exist) it becomes time we re-org 
  the autocrypt.org web page to help end users.  If anyone wants 
  to step in to drive redesigning the web page towards this goal, 
  and test it with unsuspecting users, that'd be much much much 
  much appreciated.  As you saw in separate mails Gero is finalizing
  the logo now (here the Freiburg gathering also helped to move on).

So much for now, see you all soon again some way or the
other (personal question: anybody at SHA2017, maybe even 
with children?)


on the side, Autocrypt's breakfast experts proved through scientific
experimenting that using cold water on boilt eggs ("deterring eggs"
or "abschrecken" in german) DOES NOT help with peeling.  It's clearly 
an urban myth and always has been fake news.  Through unrelenting 
self-critique we also came up with several improvements to further 
experiments which I hope dkg finds the time to post from his notes ...
because this is clearly much more significant on a world scale, 
compared to some messages being encrypted or not.

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