Zooko's triangle

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Zooko's triangle defines the three desirable traits of a network protocol identifier as Human-meaningful,, Decentralized and Secure.

Zooko's triangle is a diagram of three properties that are generally considered desirable for names of participants in a network protocol:[1]

  • Human-meaningful: Meaningful and memorable (low-entropy) names are provided to the users.
  • Secure: Any entity in the system can act maliciously, including the majority of the entities or the available computational power.
  • Decentralized: There is still only one, unique and specific entity to which a name resolves.


Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn conjectured that no single kind of name can achieve more than two. For example: DNSSec, offers a secure, human-meaningful naming scheme, but is not secure against compromise by the root; .onion addresses and bitcoin addresses, are secure and decentralized but not human-meaningful; and I2P, uses name translation services which are secure (as they run locally) and provide human-meaningful names - but fail to provide unique entities when used globally in a decentralised network without authorities.


Several systems which exhibit all three properties of Zooko's triangle have now been created, including:

  • Computer scientist Nick Szabo' s "Secure Property Titles with Owner Authority" paper illustrated that all three properties can be achieved up to the limits of Byzantine fault tolerance.[2]
  • Activist Aaron Swartz described a naming system based on Bitcoin employing Bitcoin's distributed blockchain as a proof-of-work to establish consensus of domain name ownership.[3] These systems remain vulnerable to sybil attacks,[4] but are secure under Byzantine assumptions. Namecoin now implements the concept.

Several platforms implement refutations of Zooko's conjecture, include: Twister (which use the later Aaron Swartz system with a bitcoin-like system), Blockstack (which can run on any blockchain and currently uses Bitcoin), Namecoin (separate blockchain), and Monero OpenAlias.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn. "Names: Decentralized, Secure, Human-Meaningful: Choose Two". Archived from the original on 2001-10-20. 
  2. ^ Nick Szabo, Secure Property Titles, 1998
  3. ^ Aaron Swartz, Squaring the Triangle: Secure, Decentralized, Human-Readable Names, Aaron Swartz, January 6, 2011
  4. ^ Dan Kaminsky, Spelunking the Triangle: Exploring Aaron Swartz’s Take On Zooko’s Triangle, January 13, 2011
  5. ^ Monero core team (2014-09-19). "OpenAlias". Retrieved 2015-02-03. 

External links[edit]