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Like Namecoin is intended to replace / augment DNS, can the Bitcoin principles / protocol be extended to support a distributed "trust" mechanism, in a way that no central authority will need to be trusted in order to verify public key authenticity?

This post is inspired by the recent hack of a Certificate Authority.

Clarification - I don't mean for this technology to be integrated within the main client or blockchain, just for the underlying technology to be used.

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While it's certainly possible to implement a script to handle trust the way NameCoin handles DNS-like transactions there are a few possible "weak links" in such a system. First, since an individual can't usually be known the trust could only be tied to individual addresses, which would encourage the re-use of addresses and thus decrease the anonymity of the network as a whole since merchants would want to find ways to get around generating a new address for each transaction in order to maximize their trust rating. The only alternative is to implement a system of binding multiple addresses into one trusted "account" which would further compromise anonymity by making it known precisely who owns which addresses thereby tying at least one side of most Bitcoin transactions to a real person.

In short, it's possible but it kills the pseudonymous nature of the network and makes transactions far too traceable to real identities. It could be implemented, but given the private (and disruptive) nature of most Bitcoin proponents it's unlikely that it will be. An external "Web of Trust" type system carries adequate benefits without compromising Bitcoin itself and in fact, there has been a great deal of discussion on how to decentralize them.

  • I'm not suggesting this will ever be incorporated in the main bitcoin chain/client, but rather as an alternative network. Even though Bitcoin users value anonymity, there can be another set of users that values the properties provided by this alternative network. – ripper234 Sep 6 '11 at 17:44
  • Wasn't the question about building some standard trust system with Bitcoin technology? By “standard” I mean not liked in any way to bitcoin addresses used to store money (those are better be kept anonymous). The problem with SSL is that it is a centralized authentication mechanism. The problem with gpg is that you have do deal with lots of parameters by yourself. I think the question was about a simplified & decentralized system, but maybe I'm wrong. The last paragraph form the link you provided seems to mention this specific problem, but details for a possible solution are missing. – Stéphane Gimenez Sep 6 '11 at 17:47
  • @Stephane - See edit. The question is about the possibility of creating a new security standard that is based on the bitcoin technology, but not integrated in the main blockchain. The link is perhaps not optimal, just the last story I read today about that incident. – ripper234 Sep 6 '11 at 20:28
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I dont know how this could be built on top of the bitcoin protocol. Trust will be built by the community trading with each other because trust isnt needed with the bitcoin protocol itself amongst clients.

A great example of an external web of trust being built by the community is the bitcoin-otc database. The bitcoin police is another group attempting to build upon this and it has its own set of tools. Having competing entities rating each other is the best way to ensure these trust databases are effective.

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