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Version: 0.1

Status: Raw

Authors: Andrea Maria Piana [email protected]


Push notifications for iOS devices and some Android devices can only be implemented by relying on APN service for iOS or Firebase.

This is useful for Android devices that do not support foreground services or that often kill the foreground service.

iOS only allows certain kind of applications to keep a connection open when in the background, VoIP for example, which current status client does not qualify for.

Applications on iOS can also request execution time when they are in the background but it has a limited set of use cases, for example it won’t schedule any time if the application was force quit, and generally is not responsive enough to implement a push notification system.

Therefore Status provides a set of Push notification services that can be used to achieve this functionality.

Because this can’t be safely implemented in a privacy preserving manner, clients MUST be given an option to opt-in to receiving and sending push notifications. They are disabled by default.


The party releasing the app MUST possess a certificate for the Apple Push Notification service and its has to run a gorush publicly accessible server for sending the actual notification. The party releasing the app, Status in this case, needs to run its own gorush


Gorush instance

A gorush instance MUST be publicly available, this will be used only by push notification servers.

Push notification server

A push notification server used by clients to register for receiving and sending push notifications.

Registering client

A Status client that wants to receive push notifications

Sending client

A Status client that wants to send push notifications

Registering with the push notification service

A client MAY register with one or more Push Notification services of their choice.

A PNR message (Push Notification Registration) MUST be sent to the partitioned topic for the public key of the node, encrypted with this key.

The content of the message MUST contain the following protobuf record:

message PushNotificationFilterSettings {
  boolean enabled = 1;
  repeated string allowed_key_list = 2;
  repeated string blocked_chat_list = 3;

message PushNotificationDeviceToken {
  enum TokenType {
    APN_TOKEN = 1;
  TokenType token_type = 1;
  string token = 2;
  string installation_id = 3;
  PushNotificationFilterSettings filter_settings = 4;

message PushNotificationPreferences {
  repeated PushNotificationDeviceToken device_tokens = 1;
  uint version = 2;
  boolean unregister = 3;
  string access_token = 4;

message PushNotificationRegister {
  bytes payload = 1;
  bytes signature = 2;

A push notification server will handle the message according to the following rules:

  • it MUST verify that the signature matches the public key of the sender.
  • it MUST verify that token_type is supported
  • it MUST verify that token is non empty
  • it MUST verify that installation_id is non empty
  • it MUST verify that version is non-zero and greater than the currently stored version for the public key of the sender, if any
  • it MUST verify that device_tokens is non empty
  • it MUST verify that access_token is a valid uuid

If signature does not match the public key of the sender, the message MUST be discarded.

If token_type is not supported, a response MUST be sent with error set to UNSUPPORTED_TOKEN_TYPE.

If token,installation_id,device_tokens,version are empty, a response MUST be sent with error set to MALFORMED_MESSAGE.

If the version is equal or less than the currently stored version, a response MUST be sent with error set to VERSION_MISMATCH.

If any other error occurs the error should be set to INTERNAL_ERROR.

with success set to true.

Otherwise a response MUST be sent with success set to false.

request_id should be set to the SHA3-256 of the signature sent by the client.

The response MUST be sent on the [partitioned topic][./] of the sender.

The payload of the response is:

message PushNotificationRegistrationResponse {
  boolean success = 1;
  ErrorType error = 2;
  bytes request_id = 3;
  PushNotificationPreferences preferences = 4;

  enum ErrorType {

A client SHOULD listen for a response sent on their [partitioned topic][./].

If success is true the client has registered successfully.

If success is false:

  • If MALFORMED_MESSAGE is returned, the request SHOULD NOT be retried without ensuring that it is correctly formed.
  • If INTERNAL_ERROR is returned, the request MAY be retried, but the client MUST backoff exponentially
  • If VERSION_MISMATCH is returned, the client SHOULD ensure that the version is incremented to beyond the remote version returned in preferences and then the request MAY be sent again

A client MAY register with multiple Push Notification Servers in order to increase availability.

A client SHOULD make sure that all the notification services they registered with have the same information about their devices and tokens.

If no response is returned the request SHOULD be considered failed and MAY be retried with the same server or a different one, but clients MUST exponentially backoff after each trial.

If the request is successful the token SHOULD be advertised as described below if no public key filtering is necessary.

Re-registering with the push notification server

A client SHOULD re-register with the node if the APN or FIREBASE token changes.

When re-registering a client SHOULD ensure that it has the most up-to-date PushNotificationPreferences, update the part relative to their installation_id if necessary, increment version and send a PushNotificationRegister as described above.

Once re-registered, a client SHOULD advertise the changes.

Changing options

This is handled in exactly the same way as re-registering above.

Unregistering from push notifications

To unregister a client MUST send a PushNotificationRegister request as described above with unregister in PushNotificationPreferences set to true, or removing their device information.

The server MUST remove all data about this user if unregistering is true, apart from the hash of the public key and the version of the last options, in order to make sure that old messages are not processed.

A client MAY unregister from a server on explicit logout if multiple chat keys are used on a single device.

Advertising a push notification server

Each user registered with one or more push notification servers SHOULD advertise periodically the push notification services that they have registered with for each device they own.

message PushNotificationAdvertisementInfo {
  bytes public_key = 1;
  string access_token = 2;
  string installation_id = 3;

message ContactCodeAdvertisement {
  repeated PushNotificationAdvertisementInfo push_notification_info = 1;

If no filtering is done based on public keys, the access token SHOULD be included in the advertisement. Otherwise it SHOULD be left empty.

This SHOULD be advertised on the contact code topic and SHOULD be coupled with normal contact-code advertisement.

Every time a user register or re-register with a push notification service, their contact-code SHOULD be re-advertised.

Multiple servers MAY be advertised for the same installation_id for redundancy reasons.

Discovering a push notification server

bandwidth usage this is the most convenient for now.

To discover a push notification service for a given user, their contact code topic SHOULD be listened to. A mailserver can be queried for the specific topic to retrieve the most up-to-date contact code.

Querying the push notification server

If a token is not present in the latest advertisement for a user, the server SHOULD be queried directly.

To query a server a message:

message PushNotificationQuery {
  repeated bytes public_keys = 1;

MUST be sent to the server.

A response MUST be sent:

message PushNotificationQueryInfo {
  string access_token = 1;
  string installation_id = 2;
  bytes public_key = 3;
  repeated encrypted_access_tokens = 4;

message PushNotificationQueryResponse {
  repeated PushNotificationQueryInfo info = 1;


Otherwise a response MUST NOT be sent.

If allowed_key_list is not set access_token MUST be set and encrypted_access_tokens MUST NOT be set.

If allowed_key_list is set encrypted_access_tokens MUST be set and access_token MUST NOT be set.

If access_token is returned, the access_token SHOULD be used to send push notifications.

If encrypted_access_tokens are returned, the client SHOULD decrypt each token by generating an AES symmetric key from the Diffie–Hellman between the target client and itself If AES decryption succeeds it will return a valid uuid which is what is used for access_token. The token SHOULD be used to send push notifications.

When querying a notification server an ephemeral key-pair MAY be used.

Sending a push notification

When sending a push notification, only the installation_id for the devices targeted by the message SHOULD be used.

If a message is for all the user devices, all the installation_id known to the client MAY be used.

The number of devices MAY be capped in order to reduce resource consumption.

At least 3 devices SHOULD be targeted, ordered by last activity.

For any device that a token is available, or that a token is successfully queried, a push notification message SHOULD be sent to the corresponding push notification server.

message PushNotification {
  string access_token = 1;
  string chat_id = 2;

message PushNotificationRequest {
  repeated PushNotification requests = 1;
  bytes message = 2;
  string message_id = 3;
  string ack_key = 4;

Where message is the encrypted payload of the message and chat_id is the SHA3-256 of the chat_id. message_id is the id of the message (link)

If multiple server are available for a given push notification, only one notification MUST be sent. The sender SHOULD be listening on the topic derived from the first 4 bytes of SHA3-256(ack_key) and with a waku AES symmetric encryption key of ack_key.

If no response is received a client SHOULD wait at least 3 seconds, after which the request MAY be retried against a different server

This message SHOULD be sent using an ephemeral key or unsigned.

On receiving the message, the push notification server MUST validate the access token. If the access token is valid, a notification MUST be sent to the gorush instance with the following data:

  "notifications": [
      "tokens": ["token_a", "token_b"],
      "platform": 1,
      "message": "You have a new message",
      "data": {
        "chat_id": chat_id,
        "message": message,
        "installation_ids": [installation_id_1, installation_id_2]

Where platform is 1 for IOS and 2 for Firebase, according to the gorush documentation

A server MUST return a response message:

message PushNotificationAcknowledgement {
  string id = 1;
  bool success = 2;
  ErrorType error = 3;
  enum ErrorType {
    BAD_TOKEN = 1;

Where id is the ack_key sent by the client. The topic and encryption key used MUST be the same as described above.

If the request is accepted success MUST be set to true. Otherwise success MUST be set to false.

If error is BAD_TOKEN the client MAY query again the server for the token and retry the request.

If error is INTERNAL_ERROR the client MAY retry the request.


Registration process

  • A client will generate a notification token through APN or Firebase.
  • The client will register with one or more push notification server of their choosing.
  • The server should process the response and respond according to the success of the operation
  • If the request is not successful it might be retried, and adjusted according to the response. A different server can be also used.
  • Once the request is successful the client should advertise the new coordinates

Sending a notification

  • A client should prepare a message and extract the targeted installation-ids
  • It should retrieve the most up to date information for a given user, either by querying a mailserver if not listening already to the given topic, or checking the database locally
  • It should then send a push notification according to the rules described
  • The server should then send a request to the gorush server including all the required information

Receiving a push notification

  • On receiving the notification, a client can open the right account by checking the installation_id included. The chat_id MAY be used to open the chat if present.
  • message can be decrypted and presented to the user. Otherwise messages can be pulled from the mailserver if the message_id is no already present.

Protobuf description


A PushNotificationRegister is used to register with a Push Notification server.

payload: the protobuf encoded PushNotificationPreferences.

signature: the signature of the payload concatenated with the compressed Secp256k key of the Push Notification server. Sig(PrivateKeyClient, payload + CompressedPublicKeyNode)

Data disclosed

  • Chat key of the author


A push notification preferences message describes the push notification options and tokens for all the devices associated with PublicKeyClient.

device_tokens: a list of PushNotificationDeviceToken, one for each device owned by the user. version: a monotonically increasing number identifying the current PushNotificationPreferences. Any time anything is changed in the record it MUST be increased by the client, otherwise the request will not be accepted. unregister: whether the account should be unregistered access_token: the access token that will be given to clients to send push notifications

Data disclosed

  • Number of devices with push notifications enabled for a given chat key
  • The times a push notification record has been modified by the user


PushNotificationDeviceToken represent the token and preferences for a given device.

token_type: the type of token. Currently supported is APN_TOKEN for Apple Push Notification service and FIREBASE_TOKEN for Firebase. token: the actual push notification token sent by Firebase or APN installation_id: the installation_id of the device filter_setttings: the push notification filters for this device.

Data disclosed

  • Type of device owned by a given user
  • The FIREBASE or APN push notification token


enabled: whether the device wants to be sent push notifications allowed_key_list: a list of access_token encrypted with the AES key generated by Diffie–Hellman between the publisher and the allowed contact. blocked_chat_list: a list of SHA2-256 hashes of chat ids. Any chat id in this list will not trigger a notification.

Data disclosed

  • Hash of the chat_id a user is not interested in for notifications


success: whether the registration was successful error: the error type, if any request_id: the SHA3-256 hash of the signature of the request preferences: the server stored preferences in case of an error


push_notification_info: the information for each device advertised

Data disclosed

  • The chat key of the sender


public_key: the public key of the server where this device is registered access_token: the access token used by the server, only if the allow/block list is non-empty installation_id: the installation id of the device

Data disclosed

  • The public key of the server the client has registered with
  • Whether the user has any restriction on the public keys that are allowed to send notifications
  • The installation_id of the device


public_keys: the SHA3-256 of the public keys the client is interested in

Data disclosed

  • The hash of the public keys the user is interested in


access_token: the access token used to send a push notification installation_id: the installation_id of the device associated with the access_token public_key: the SHA3-256 of the public key associated with this access_token and installation_id encrypted_access_tokens: a list of encrypted access tokens to be returned to the client in case there’s any filtering on public keys in place.


info: a list of PushNotificationQueryInfo


access_token: the access token used to send a push notification chat_id: the SHA3-256 of the chat_id

Data disclosed

  • The SHA3-256 of the chat_id the notification is to be sent for


requests: a list of PushNotification message: the encrypted message that we want to notify on message_id: the status message id ack_key: a 32 bytes long AES key

Data disclosed

  • The status message id for which the notification is for
  • the cypher text of the message


id: the ack_key string passed by the client

Partitioned topic

This is a modification of the partitioned topic used by clients

var partitionsNum *big.Int = big.NewInt(5000)
var partition *big.Int = big.NewInt(0).Mod(publicKey.X, partitionsNum)

partitionTopic := "push-notifications-" + strconv.FormatInt(partition.Int64(), 10)

var hash []byte = keccak256(partitionTopic)
var topicLen int = 4

if len(hash) < topicLen {
    topicLen = len(hash)

var topic [4]byte
for i = 0; i < topicLen; i++ {
    topic[i] = hash[i]

Anonymous mode of operations

An anonymous mode of operations MAY be provided by the client, where the responsibility of propagating information about the user is left to the client, in order to preserve privacy.

A client in anonymous mode can register with the server using a key different from their chat key. This will hide their real chat key.

This public key is effectively a secret and SHOULD only be disclosed to clients that you the user wants to be notified by.

A client MAY advertise the access token on the contact-code topic of the key generated. A client MAY share their public key through contact updates

A client receiving a push notification public key SHOULD listen to the contact code topic of the push notification public key for updates.

The method described above effectively does not share the identity of the sender nor the receiver to the server, but MAY result in missing push notifications as the propagation of the secret is left to the client.

This can be mitigated by device syncing, but not completely addressed.

Security considerations

If no anonymous mode is used, when registering with a push notification service a client discloses:

  • The chat key
  • The devices that will receive notifications

A client MAY disclose:

  • The hash of the chat_ids they want to filter out

When running in anonymous mode, the client’s chat key is not disclosed.

When querying a push notification server a client will disclose:

  • That it is interested in sending push notification to another client, but the querying client’s chat key is not disclosed

When sending a push notification a client discloses:

  • The SHA3-256 of the chat id

review process. Point can be integrated, suggestion welcome.


Why having ACL done at the server side and not the client?

We looked into silent notification for IOS (android has no equivalent) but can’t be used as it’s expected to receive maximum 2/3 per hour, so not our use case. There are also issue when the user force quit the app.

Why using an access token?

The access token is used to decouple the requesting information from the user from actually sending the push notification.

Some ACL is necessary otherwise it would be too easy to spam users (it’s still fairly trivial, but with this method you could allow only contacts to send you push notifications).

Therefore your identity must be revealed to the server either when sending or querying.

By using an access token we increase deniability, as the server would know who requested the token but not necessarily who sent a push notification. Correlation between the two can be trivial in some cases.

This also allows a mode of use as we had before, where the server does not propagate info at all, and it’s left to the user to propagate the token, through contact requests for example.

Why so many different protobuf messages?

Many are just wrappers, I have not re-used any for now for clarity.

Why advertise with the bundle?

Advertising with the bundle allows us to piggy-back on an already implemented behavior and save some bandwidth in cases where is not filtering by public keys

What’s the bandwidth impact for this?

Generally speaking, for each 1-to-1 message and group chat message you will sending 1 and number of participants push notifications. This can be optimized if multiple users are using the same push notification server. Queries have also a bandwidth impact but they are made only when actually needed

What’s the information disclosed?

The data disclosed with each message sent by the client is above, but for a summary:

When you register with a push notification service you may disclose:

1) Your chat key 2) Which devices you have 3) The hash of the chat_ids you want to filter out 4) The hash of the public keys you are interested/not interested in

When you query a notification service you may disclose:

1) Your chat key 2) The fact that you are interested in sending push notification to a given user

Effectively this is fairly revealing if the user has a whitelist implemented. Therefore sending notification should be optional.

What prevents a user from generating a random key and getting an access token and spamming?

Nothing really, that’s the same as the status app as a whole. the only mechanism that prevents this is using a white-list as described above, but that implies disclosing your true identity to the push notification server.

Why not 0-knowledge proofs/quantum computing

We start simple, we can iterate

How to handle backward/forward compatibility

Most of the request have a target, so protocol negotiation can happen. We cannot negotiated the advertisement as that’s effectively a broadcast, but those info should not change and we can always accrete the message.

Why ack_key?

That’s necessary to avoid duplicated push notifications and allow for the retry in case the notification is not successful.

Deduplication of the push notification is done on the client side, to reduce a bit of centralization and also in order not to have to modify gorush.

Can I run my own node?

Sure, the methods allow that

Can I register with multiple nodes for redundancy


What does my node disclose?

Your node will disclose the IP address is running from, as it makes an HTTP post to gorush. A waku adapter could be used, but please not now.

Does this have high-reliability requirements?

The gorush server yes, no way around it.

The rest, kind of, at least one node having your token needs to be up for you to receive notifications. But you can register with multiple servers (desktop, status, etc) if that’s a concern.

Can someone else (i.e not status) run this?

Push notification servers can be run by anyone. Gorush can be run by anyone I take, but we are in charge of the certificate, so they would not be able to notify status-clients.


Version 0.1


  • Initial version

Copyright and related rights waived via CC0.