Protocol/API/Library Introduction

The magic-wormhole (Python) distribution provides several things: an executable tool (”bin/wormhole”), an importable library (import wormhole), the URL of a publicly-available Mailbox Server, and the definition of a protocol used by all three.

The executable tool provides basic sending and receiving of files, directories, and short text strings. These all use wormhole send and wormhole receive (which can be abbreviated as wormhole tx and wormhole rx). It also has a mode to facilitate the transfer of SSH keys. This tool, while useful on its own, is just one possible use of the protocol.

The wormhole library provides an API to establish a bidirectional ordered encrypted record pipe to another instance (where each record is an arbitrary-sized bytestring). This does not provide file-transfer directly: the “bin/wormhole” tool speaks a simple protocol through this record pipe to negotiate and perform the file transfer.

wormhole/cli/ contains the URLs of a Mailbox Server and a Transit Relay which I provide to support the file-transfer tools, which other developers should feel free to use for their applications as well. I cannot make any guarantees about performance or uptime for these servers: if you want to use Magic Wormhole in a production environment, please consider running a server on your own infrastructure (just run wormhole-server start and modify the URLs in your application to point at it).

The Magic-Wormhole Protocol

There are several layers to the protocol.

At the bottom level, each client opens a WebSocket to the Mailbox Server, sending JSON-based commands to the server, and receiving similarly-encoded messages. Some of these commands are addressed to the server itself, while others are instructions to queue a message to other clients, or are indications of messages coming from other clients. All these messages are described in “”.

These inter-client messages are used to convey the PAKE protocol exchange, then a “VERSION” message (which doubles to verify the session key), then some number of encrypted application-level data messages. “” describes these wormhole-to-wormhole messages.

Each wormhole-using application is then free to interpret the data messages as it pleases. The file-transfer app sends an “offer” from the wormhole send side, to which the wormhole receive side sends a response, after which the Transit connection is negotiated (if necessary), and finally the data is sent through the Transit connection. “” describes this application’s use of the client messages.

The wormhole API

Application use the wormhole library to establish wormhole connections and exchange data through them. Please see for a complete description of this interface.