[whatwg] <keygen> tag

Bruno Harbulot Bruno.Harbulot at manchester.ac.uk
Fri Jan 15 08:59:01 PST 2010


Apologies for the late participation on this topic. I've been working on 
FOAF+SSL with Henry Story (who advocated a few months ago the 
introduction of <keygen> in HTML 5 for this purpose).
I've only just found the time to investigate the certificate generation 
issue on Windows/Internet Explorer (using ActiveX, XEnroll and 
CertEnroll). I've updated this wiki page accordingly: 

Whilst I'm very supportive of having a key-generation mechanism in the 
browser, I'm now not entirely sure the <keygen> tag, at least as a 
legacy of the Netscape <keygen> tag, is the correct approach.
More specifically:

1. The more modern APIs (generateCRMFRequest [1] on Firefox or 
CertEnroll/XEnroll on Internet Explorer [2]) appear to offer more 
options in general, for example, where to store the private key, is it 
exportable, etc. (I haven't looked in details, but I suspect it could be 
envisaged to use some existing key material from a software store or 
smartcard too, for example.)
This raises the question as to whether a tag is sufficient or 
appropriate to express what's required for a CA, or if an API (and more 
programming) is required.

2. The SPKAC format seems to be a legacy format. It doesn't really allow 
to convey much information that CAs would expect, unlike other formats 
used by the more modern APIs [3][4]. Perhaps it would be better to use 
one of the newer formats instead. This might break the compatibility 
with the pre-HTML 5 use of <keygen> (maybe another name than <keygen> in 
HTML5 would be better?).

Of course, the other big question is whether it's worth trying to 
standardise this <keygen> tag if there's no intent of support from major 
browser vendors (I have IE in mind here).

Best wishes,


[1] https://developer.mozilla.org/en/GenerateCRMFRequest
[2] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa374863%28VS.85%29.aspx
[3] http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2986
[4] http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc4211

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