Blogger: Mike Neuenschwander
With all the interest in LLP last week, we’re getting a lot of questions about RCSL. For example, the blog team over at Emergent Chaos asks what work we have done on RCSL. I’ve also had several e-mails asking me how RCSL compares to various Internet standards.
So it seems as good a time as any to write up our latest thinking on RCSL. Here it goes.
What is RCSL?
RCSL is a protocol. It doesn’t exist yet; it’s something we’re proposing.
We’re not stuck on the name—think of it as a codename. Kim Cameron claims “the name makes it sound like scientists are still glueing [sic] body parts together in the basement.” Since it’s nearly Halloween, we’ll stick with RCSL at least through October 31st.
Some of RCSL’s characteristics are:
- It enables multiple parties to share a single session
- Sessions can be long-lived (days, weeks, months)
- It emits “claims” based on the outcome of the session, whether broken prematurely, altered, or completed successfully
Why is this interesting? RCSL is the basis for a reputation model for the Internet. It also provides a foundation for resilient, stable relationships and transactions online.
Here’s how it works:
- Participants are required to ante up collateral to start an RCSL session. How much and of what kind is worked out among the participants. We’re hoping that patterns emerge for common transaction types and that participants can simply point to a template—a.k.a. “game”—with pre-specified rules, roles, and outcomes.
- RCSL then creates a multi-party session. The RCSL session can be encrypted, but it doesn’t have to be—in some cases you may want others to observe the session. Either way, each participant receives a key to the session. The key also designates the participant’s role in the session.
- Participants remain in the RCSL session until all parties agree to end the session. The conditions for exit can be predefined, so the session ends automatically when conditions are met. Any changes in the RCSL configuration causes the protocol to generate claims about the change. For example, if someone drops out early or if the collaboration fails, RCSL sends a notification message (a claim—possibly through an RSS feed) to a predetermined aggregator.
- RCSL aggregators combine RCSL outcomes with other information to establish participants’ ratings.
- RCSL claims can be used to release escrowed collateral and grant merits of some kind.
Keys to RCSL sessions behave like real-life keys
With RCSL, each participant is given a key to the session. If anyone tampers with the session, the participants are aware of it immediately—it’s like someone budding into a conversation. If the participants welcome the newcomer, RCSL reissues keys to everyone in the session including the new participant. If the participants see the newcomer as an intruder, they can take measures to shut him/her out.
Participants can transfer their role in the session to another entity, but doing so also resets session keys so the new role holder receives a key and the exiting participant is locked out.
Another important feature about RCSL keys is that you know when you’re no longer in possession of one. If you lose an RCSL key or if one is stolen, it will be apparent to the owner. Just like in the real world, if you lose your wallet or cell phone, you usually realize it quickly.
My presentation at Catalyst North America offered a scenario for how RCSL works and I’m doing an encore in Barcelona next week – come check it out. For more background on why RCSL is important, see the Law of Relational Risk—specifically the principle of Relational Continuity.