MashSSL Incubator Group Charter

The mission of the MashSSL Incubator Group, part of the Incubator Activity, is to create an open security protocol to solve a fundamental Internet security problem. Specifically, when two web applications communicate through a potentially untrusted user they do not have any standard way of mutually authenticating each other and establishing a trusted channel. This problem which has existed for a long time (e.g. an eCommerce site creating a link to Paypal), and is usually solved using proprietary cryptography and special purpose credentials. The problem is becoming much more widespread with the advent of various mashup technologies, for instance cross domain XHR. The W3C Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) Working Draft does address the issue of protecting an honest user visiting a malicious or compromised site, from malware that unobtrusively accesses other legitimate sites the user might be logged onto. However, that specification, was not intended to, nor does it in any way, protect legitimate sites from a malicious user. Other examples where the problem manifests is in federation protocols like SAML and OpenID where it Identity Providers and Relying Parties have to authenticate each other. The recent "session fixation" vulnerability discovered in the OAuth delegated authorization protocol is another example of exactly the same problem. In each case the problem tends to be "solved" with untested cryptography and requires a new credentialing trust infrastructure and still more credentials for an organization to manage.

The MashSSL Incubator Group aims to produce a recommendation for a common building-block standard that can be used in multiple use cases where this problem occurs. Further, it is our intent to develop a recommendation for a standard that leverages the proven SSL protocol, and allows organizations to use SSL certificates with which they are familiar, to solve the problem. Currently SSL is a two-party protocol operating at the transport level. MashSSL will be a multi-party version that inherits all of SSL's security attributes but runs within HTTP.

End date 30 June 2010
Confidentiality Proceedings are public
Initial Chairs Siddharth Bajaj, VeriSign, sbajaj@verisign.com
Initiating Members DigiCert, Venafi and VeriSign
Usual Meeting Schedule Teleconferences: Monthly
Face-to-face: No ftf meetings

Join the MashSSL Language Incubator Group.


When two web applications attempt to establish mutual authentication and encryption via user's browser, they face the challenge that the user might be malicious or that the user's browser is infected with malware. Being able to establish such mutual trust, assuming a malicious adversary at the user's browser, is a common problem faced in a number of varied situations ranging from cross domain XHR to payment protocols. Either the problem goes unaddressed, or else, proprietary, often unproven, cryptography is used, which means more crypto software for the web site, a new type of credential to provision, obtain and manage. The scope of our work is to create an open, secure standard standard for solving this problem.

A proprietary protocol based on SSL, called MashSSL, has been developed by SafeMashups Inc., which addresses the above problem. SafeMashups has agreed to donate the currently proprietary protocol towards becoming a standard that addresses the problem outlined above. Our goal is to refine and improve that protocol and make a recommendation for an open MashSSL protocol.

Success Criteria

The XG will be deemed successful if and when it produces the deliverables outlined below.


A report describing a specification that can be considered for entry into the W3C standardization process.
- Sample implementation(s) of the technology described in the above report.


It is envisioned that almost all collaboration will take place using a member-only mail list and a wiki. Occasional webinars and teleconferences will augment the process. Expected participation follows the W3C Process Document discussion of Good Standing


This group primarily conducts its work on the public mailing list public-xg-mashssl@w3.org (archive) . The group's Member-only list is member-xg-mashssl@w3.org (archive)

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the MashSSL Incubator Group home page.

Decision Policy

As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will seek to make decisions when there is consensus. When the Chair puts a question and observes dissent, after due consideration of different opinions, the Chair should record a decision (possibly after a formal vote) and any objections, and move on.

  • When deciding a substantive technical issue, the Chair may put a question before the group. The Chair must only do so during a group meeting, and at least two-thirds of participants in Good Standing must be in attendance. While multiple individuals from a single organization may be part of the group, each organization will have only one vote. When the Chair conducts a formal vote to reach a decision on a substantive technical issue, eligible voters may vote on a proposal one of three ways: for a proposal, against a proposal, or abstain. For the proposal to pass there must be more votes for the proposal than against. In case of a tie, the Chair will decide the outcome of the proposal.
  • This charter is written in accordance with Section 3.4, Votes of the W3C Process Document and includes no voting procedures beyond what the Process Document requires.

Patent Policy

This Incubator Group provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the topic addressed by this charter. W3C reminds Incubator Group participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy. While the Incubator Group does not produce Recommendation-track documents, when Incubator Group participants review Recommendation-track specifications from Working Groups, the patent disclosure obligations do apply.

Incubator Groups have as a goal to produce work that can be implemented on a Royalty Free basis, as defined in the W3C Patent Policy.

Participants agree to offer patent licenses according to the W3C Royalty-Free licensing requirements described in Section 5 of the W3C Patent Policy for any portions of the XG Reports produced by this XG that are subsequently incorporated into a W3C Recommendation produced by a Working Group which is chartered to take the XG Report as an input. This licensing commitment may not be revoked but may be modified through the Exclusion process defined in Section 4 of the Patent Policy.

Participants in this Incubator Group wishing to exclude essential patent claims from the licensing commitment must join the Working Group created to work on the XG Report and follow the normal exclusion procedures defined by the Patent Policy. The W3C Team is responsible for notifying all Participants in this Incubator Group in the event that a new Working Group is proposed to develop a Recommendation that takes the XG Report as an input.

For more information about disclosure obligations for this group, please see the W3C Patent Policy Implementation.

Additional Information

There will be a MashSSL Alliance web site maintained at mashssl.org which will list members provide a brief introduction and include pointers to the relevant W3C links.

About this Charter

This charter for the MashSSL Incubator Group has been created according to the Incubator Group Procedures documentation. In the event of a conflict between this document or the provisions of any charter and the W3C Process, the W3C Process shall take precedence.

Siddharth Bajaj, VeriSign, sbajaj@verisign.com

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