Keyrings file format

David Shaw dshaw at
Wed Jan 7 06:12:45 CET 2009

On Tue, Jan 06, 2009 at 10:18:56AM -0500, Robert J. Hansen wrote:
> Werner Koch wrote:
> > And actually this future is not that far away.  For various reasons
> > (e.g. meta data) we will for sure see a different format used this year.
> Is there any possibility of the new GnuPG keyring format being something
> easier to parse?  Not necessarily XML (although I think that would be a
> good idea), but something less opaque than it currently is?

I would hope that people don't use the new keyring format outside of
GPG.  It is opaque, and that is a feature, not a bug, as if it was
used by other programs, then GnuPG could not change the format when
and if it needs to.  The OpenPGP spec guarantees that the
*interchange* format is specified, and intentionally does not get
involved in private storage questions for this very reason.

If people want an XML (or whatever) format, that should be a project
that stands on its own.  Not arguing for or against it - just that I
think it should be distinct from private internal formats.

If I was designing a new keyring format, I don't think I'd use either
XML or a concatenated format.  Rather, I'd likely take a page from the
Maildir format, and use a keyring directory full of files.  It makes
locking dead easy (see the Maildir algorithm over NFS, for example)
but keeps the keys themselves in RFC-4880 "transferable" format, which
can be handy.


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