Blockstack: A global naming and storage system secured by blockchains

Muneeb Ali, Jude Nelson, Ryan Shea, Michael J. Freedman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

202 Scopus citations

Abstract

Blockchains like Bitcoin and Namecoin and their respective P2P networks have seen significant adoption in the past few years and show promise as naming systems with no trusted parties. Users can register human meaningful names and securely associate data with them, and only the owner of the particular private keys that registered them can write or update the name-value pair. In theory, many decentralized systems can be built using these blockchain networks, such as new, decentralized versions of DNS and PKI. As the technology is relatively new and evolving rapidly, however, little production data or experience is available to guide design tradeoffs. In this paper, we describe our experiences operating a large deployment of a decentralized PKI service built on top of the Namecoin blockchain. We present various challenges pertaining to network reliability, throughput, and security that we needed to overcome while registering and updating over 33,000 entries and 200,000 transactions on the Namecoin blockchain. Further, we discuss how our experience informed the design of a new blockchain-based naming and storage system called Blockstack. We detail why we switched from the Namecoin network to the Bitcoin network for the new system, and present operational lessons from this migration. Blockstack is released as open source software and currently powers a production PKI system for 55,000 users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2016 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, USENIX ATC 2016
PublisherUSENIX Association
Pages181-194
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781931971300
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Event2016 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, USENIX ATC 2016 - Denver, United States
Duration: Jun 22 2016Jun 24 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 2016 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, USENIX ATC 2016

Conference

Conference2016 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, USENIX ATC 2016
CountryUnited States
CityDenver
Period6/22/166/24/16

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science(all)

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