🔍Review of Related EIPs

A review of existing EIPs that helped shape EIP-4361, Sign-In with Ethereum


Ethereum Improvement Proposals, or EIPs, are "standards specifying potential new features or processes for Ethereum" that include specifications for developers, and start typically with drafts that encourage a feedback cycle for the greater community. Part of the research in creating EIP-4361 necessitated an investigation into previous EIPs that sought to standardize the way decentralized identity is managed using Ethereum, as well as different ways of signing data.

Existing EIP Overview

  • EIP-191 is a specification about how to handle signed data in Ethereum contracts. It produces human-readable messages and is simple to implement by prefixing a custom message with an invariable prefix prior to presenting it to wallet users for interactive signing.

  • Originally, EIP-191 was a response to prevent pre-signed transactions originating from multisig wallets from being reused by multisig wallets with the same members.

  • It consists of the following format for signed_data:

  • 0x19 <1 byte version> <version specific data> <data to sign>

  • In practice, it is prefixed with: "\x19Ethereum Signed Message:\n" + len(message).

  • Additionally, signed_data could never be an Ethereum transaction, because it cannot be one RLP-structure, but a 1-byte RLP payload followed by something else.

  • EIP-712 is a standard for the hashing and signing of typed structured data as opposed to just bytestrings. At the core of EIP-712 is the need to sign more complex messages in order to have safer and deeper interactions with decentralized applications.

  • Another goal for EIP-712 was to improve the usability of off-chain message signing for use on-chain in order to save gas and reduce the number of on-chain transactions.

  • EIP-725 is an identity standard proposed in order to describe proxy smart contracts that can be controlled by multiple keys and other contracts. An associated EIP (735) enables the addition and removal of claims to an ERC-725 smart contract.

  • EIP-725 was an early attempt at enabling self-sovereign identity on Ethereum, which involved the deployment of a smart contract that enabled the association of multiple keys with an identity, included execute and approve methods that allowed it to be used as a proxy, and attempted to forge the building blocks for access control lists through those contracts.

  • EIP-735 is a standard for a claim holder interface to allow dapps and smart contracts to check claims about a claim holder (EIP-725). Claims must first be requested and issued by an issuer that signs a message containing the identity’s address, the claim topic, and additional data. The data is then stored on-chain in the identity owner’s smart contract.

  • EIP-780 defines an Ethereum Claims Registry to support decentralized identity on Ethereum and provides a central point of reference for on-chain claims. The Ethereum Claims Registry is a smart contract that can be commonly used by any account and provides an interface for adding, receiving, and removing claims. In this scenario, claims are issued from an issuer to a subject with a key.

  • Additionally, off-chain claims can be made when an issuer signs data, encodes it into a JWT, and the JWT can later be verified. These off-chain claims can eventually be anchored on-chain via a form of ‘badges’ system which differs from using traditional NFTs because they are non-transferable.

  • EIP-1056 is a specification for an identity system for Ethereum compliant with the decentralized identifiers standard (DID). It is meant to be paired with EIP-780, which defines an Ethereum Claims Registry to be used for the issuance and verification of claims.

  • EIP-1056 defines all existing Ethereum accounts as valid identities based solely on their existence as a public / private keypair. All identities can assign delegates that are valid for a specified amount of time and can be revocable or not. Additionally, delegates can be used on or off-chain to sign JWTs, Ethereum transactions, and arbitrary data.

  • This EIP was a response to EIP-725, due to EIP-725 requiring the creation of a smart contract and not being free for the end-user. The specification additionally accounts for key rotation without changing the primary identifier of the identity.

  • EIP-1102 proposes a more consentful and privacy-preserving way to expose metadata from an Ethereum user's wallet by prompting the user to accept the egressing data prior to its release. This strategy has already been implemented by MetaMask for user wallet connections.

  • EIP-1115 defines an authentication mechanism for dapps to authenticate users. In the specification, an HTTP server is set up by a user (called a DAuth server) and requires a password and public / private keypair. The user then registers a username on the smart contract that the specification defines by including the public key of the DAuth server and an address.

  • Logging into a dapp includes the user providing a random string (“Code”) to identify the current authentication session, a HashCode, and the username from the smart contract. The dapp will fetch both the public key and server address from the smart contract, and generate a secret string. After that, it will pass the “Code,” HashCode, username, and secret string to the DAuth server’s verification endpoint.

  • The DAuth server will fetch the hash of the password and private key from its database related to the username in the request. After validating the HashCode, and attempting to decrypt the cipher, the decrypted value will then be sent to the dapp.

  • EIP-1271 is a specification that demonstrates a way for contracts to verify if a provided signature is valid when an account in question is a smart contract. This could be in the case of a user using a smart contract-based wallet or a user being part of a multisig wallet.

  • Smart contracts cannot directly sign messages, so EIP-1271 serves as a guide to implement isValidSignature(hash, signature) on the signing contract that can be called to validate a signature. With the rise of smart contract wallets and DAOs controlled by multi-sigs, these parties require the means to use signed messages to demonstrate the right to move assets, vote, or for other purposes.

  • EIP-1484 provides a different attempt at creating a digital identity standard on Ethereum by proposing an identity management and aggregation framework. Entities in this specification can claim an identity via a singular identity registry smart contract. The goal of this additional specification was to keep it compliant with the EIP-725 and EIP-1056 specifications that already existed.

  • EIP-1484’s aim was to create a protocol layer between the Ethereum blockchain and individual applications that required some form of user identity (tackling identity management and interoperability challenges along the way). This implementation required a global ERC1848 implementation up and running on the network in order to handle and enforce the rules for a global namespace made up of “EINs” or Ethereum Identification Numbers.

  • EIP-1812 defines a method for off-chain verifiable claims built on EIP-712, which can be verified on-chain by smart contracts, state channel implementations, or off-chain libraries. By using ERC-735 and ERC-780 individuals can make claims that live on-chain, but sensitive information is best kept off-chain for GDPR and PII protection purposes.

  • Additionally, this EIP also recognizes EIP-1056 to provide a method for addresses to assign delete signers so an account can perform an action on behalf of a smart contract. Based on this specification, EIP-712 based state channels can include embeddable claims which are useful for exchanging private claims between parties for regulatory reasons and avoiding posting them on-chain.

  • EIP-2525 presented a new method of login to the Ethereum blockchain using metadata stored in ENS. EIP-2525’s workflow would include an ENS domain retrieval from the user, domain resolution, interpretation of a text entry, an evaluation of the content in the text entry, and lastly, the corresponding object would then be returned to the dapp.

  • At its core, EIP-2525 seeks to use ENS metadata to standardize across login mechanisms.

  • EIP-2844 makes JOSE-conformant DID resolution and verificationMethod requests part of ETH RPC (EIP-1474) and standardizes how Ethereum wallets can be queried for DID documents.

  • EIP-3361 introduces a standard for JSON-RPC calls across wallets and provides an upgrade path for all of today’s signing methods that are currently splintered. It mentions EIP-1474, eth_sign standardization with prefixed signatures, as where signing became fragmented due to some applications using it and some choosing to keep the older eth_sign behavior pre-EIP-1474.

  • It seeks to depreciate personal_sign in order to make sure both old and new applications are using the same method.

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