Clone this repo:


  1. ff965ba TBR: chat: Make all versions 'v23-0.1'. by Nicolas Lacasse · 8 years ago master
  2. 0c5e75e use test.V23Init instead of v23.Init in test code by Bogdan Caprita · 8 years ago
  3. 76bc8a4 chat: Remove server.Stop. by Suharsh Sivakumar · 8 years ago
  4. dc96e8d Merge "chat: Update vdl for 2 pass gen" by Benjamin Prosnitz · 8 years ago
  5. b0ff785 TBR: Call node npm rather than npm directly. by Nicolas Lacasse · 8 years ago

Vanadium Chat

Vanadium Chat is a peer-to-peer chat application that demonstrates common usage patterns for the Vanadium libraries.

There are currently two clients: a web client and a shell client.

Please file bugs and feature requests in our issue tracker.

Running a chat client

Running the web client

  1. Install the Vanadium Chrome Extension.

  2. Visit the chat webpage:

Running the shell client

These instructions assume you have an up-to-date Vanadium development environment inside $JIRI_ROOT.

In order to run the shell client:

cd $JIRI_ROOT/release/projects/chat
make run-shell

This will generate Vanadium credentials (a new principal and a blessing) the first time it is run, which may prompt you for your Google Account password and caveats on the blessing in your web browser. You will also be prompted to select a password for encrypting the credentials on local disk. This is optional.

If you'd only like to build the binary, not run it:

cd $JIRI_ROOT/release/projects/chat
make build-shell

Chat architecture

Vanadium Chat is a peer-to-peer chat application. That means that clients connect directly to each-other when sending messages.

A side effect of its peer-to-peer nature is that messages are not guaranteed to arrive in the same order at all clients.

There is currently no storage of chat history. Aside from tracking the list of chat room peers, the application is stateless.

The chat application relies on servers for three things:

  1. Chat clients mount themselves on a mounttable server, so that peers can find them.

  2. All RPCs are routed through a Vanadium proxy, which allows connections to peers who might be behing a NAT.

  3. A web server is used to serve web assets to chat clients.

Client discoverability

A particular directory in the namespace -- users/ -- has been created with permissions that allow anybody to mount and glob inside that directory.

The following command sets the Resolve permission on users/ to allow anybody to resolve names inside that directory.

namespace permissions set users/ - << EOF

The next command sets the Read and Create permissions for users/, to allow anybody to list the names inside that directory, and create a new name in that directory.

namespace permissions set users/ - << EOF

When a client joins the chat room, it generates a random string and attempts to mount itself in the public mounttable server under the name users/<random_string>. If that name is already taken, the client will pick a new random string and try again.

The client sets permissions on that name which prevent peers from mounting on the same name, but allow them to resolve that name to the client's endpoint. The client essentially “owns” that particular name in the mounttable.

To find other peers, the client sends a Glob RPC to the mounttable, asking for all names matching users/*. The results of this Glob correspond to peers in the chat room. Each result contains the peer's endpoint and its blessing pattern. The blessing pattern is used to identify the peer in the chat UI, and to ensure that messages are only sent to intended recipients.

Chat currently only supports a single chat room called public, but eventually it will support multiple rooms, including private rooms visible to only certain clients.

Sending messages

Each chat client implements a Chat interface defined in the VDL file clients/shell/src/chat/vdl/chat.vdl.

This interface has a single method, called SendMessage, which takes a string argument (the message) and returns an error, which can be nil.

type Chat interface {
  // SendMessage sends a message to a user.
  SendMessage(text string) error {}

When a client Alice wants to send a message to her peer Bob, she finds Bob‘s entry in the results of the mounttable Glob. She invokes a Vanadium RPC on that name, calling the SendMessage method with her message. She passes in Bob’s expected remote blessings to the RPC to ensure that the message will only be sent to Bob, and not to some other malicious client who might have somehow mounted under Bob's name. Any returned error indicates an error in transmission.

Developing Vanadium Chat

This section describes how to set up a local environment to run the chat clients, and how to build and test the clients.

Running mounttabled and proxyd locally

To get the chat environment running locally, you will need to run the mounttable and proxyd servers with a valid identity. The following script will request an identity from the identity service and run mounttabled and proxyd with that identity.


You will be prompted to log in with your Google account in order to get an identity. You will also be asked to select a blessing. Leave the values at their default setting and click “Bless”.

Once the identity is in place, the script runs mounttabled on port 8101, and proxyd on port 8100. The proxy mounts itself in the mounttable under the name “proxy”.

Generating VDL dependencies

The chat.vdl file defines the server interface implemented by each chat client. That file can be found in clients/shell/src/chat/vdl/chat.vdl.

Running make gen-vdl will build the generated JavaScript and Go files in clients/web/js/chat/vdl/index.js and clients/shell/src/vdl/chat.vdl.go which are included by the web and shell clients, respectively.

Developing the web client

The web client is a single page application written with React. All code is inside clients/web. The Vanadium-specific code is in clients/web/js/channel.js.

A web server is used to serve the js, html, and css to the browser. You will need the Vanadium extension to run the app.

You can build the web assets and run the web server with the following command:

NOMINIFY=1 make serve-web

This will run the web server on port 4000. The NOMINIFY environment variable prevents the code from being minified, making debugging easier.

Once the web server is running, visit the chat app page, and pass the names of the mountable and proxyd in query params:


There is a simple suite of web client tests in clients/web/test. You can run the web client tests with make test-web.

Developing the shell client

The shell client is written in Go with the Gocui UI library. All the chat code is in clients/shell/src/chat. The entry-point is in clients/shell/src/chat/main.go. The Vanadium-specific code is in clients/shell/src/chat/channel.go.

The chat binary is built into clients/shell/bin/chat. You can build it with:

make build-shell

In order for the chat client to talk to the mounttable and proxy servers, you will need to get an identity from the identity server:

export V23_CREDENTIALS=/tmp/vanadium-credentials
$JIRI_ROOT/release/go/bin/principal seekblessings

Then run the binary and pass in the v23.namespace.root and v23.proxy flags.

./clients/shell/bin/chat --mounttable=/localhost:8101 --proxy=proxy

There is a simple suite of tests for the shell client in clients/shell/src/channel_test.go. You can run these tests with make test-shell.