The Thawte Web of Trust FAQ

This list of Frequently Asked Questions has been compiled from the two Web of Trust discussion groups, and is intended to answer the most common queries asked by new Notaries and WoT members. For clarification or correction, please e-mail.

Go to Thawte's Web of Trust Page   1. Can I sign my PGP key with a Thawte Freemail certificate?
2. Help! I'm a 10-point Notary. What can I do?
3. Digital Signatures are reported as invalid on discussion lists. Why?
[Under Development] 4. I have a question about importing/exporting my Freemail certificate, or about cross-platform compatibility.
[Under Development] 5. I have a security-related question about my certificate and/or its use.

Help! I'm a 10-point Notary. What can I do?

A common problem new 10-point Notaries have is that they are rarely approached for identity assertion. People seeking notarisation are far more likely to contact three 35-point Notaries rather than ten 10-point Notaries, for obvious reasons. This means that 10-point Notaries find it very difficult to achieve the number of assertions necessary to increase their status.

Thawte recognise that this is a problem, and are in the process of reviewing the point allocation scheme. In the meantime, however, there are some things you could do to improve your situation, if you are willing to put in a little effort.

If you have other suggestions to add to this list, please contact me so that I can make this page even more useful to 10-point Notaries.

  1. 10-point Parties - the first possibility is that you and other 10-point Notaries in your area get together and hold a Notarisation Party. The Web of Trust point assertion system allows you to accumulate more than 100 points, so you can continue getting your identity asserted as long as you like. If a large enough number of 10-point Notaries get together and all assert each others identities, every one of you would quickly be on the way to increasing your status. If around 70 of you managed to get together at one time, you would then all be able to grant 35 points!
  2. Shadowing - if you have a popular, amenable 35-point Notary in your area (you must have contacted several to become a Notary yourself), they may be amenable to being 'shadowed'. Whenever the 35-point Notary is approached for identity assertion, they could ask the person concerned if they minded a 10-point Notary coming along too - you could then attend the same meeting and perform an 'extra' identity assertion. This will give you the opportunity to increase the number of assertions you do, and thus your status.

On the subject of charging for Notarisation services, it would obviously be inappropriate to charge a fee in either of the above situations, although you may find that people are willing to make goodwill donations to charity.

I hope this helps. In the meantime, don't forget to keep an eye on Thawte's Web of Trust pages for any change in the point allocation system.

Update: Success Story

Since writing the answer above, I have been informed, by Christian Barmala, that such a Notarisation Party took place, and was a very successful event. Christian's message to me reads:

On Halloween we had a Notarization Show with about 20 attendants some of which changed from "untrusted" to 20-point notaries. We successfully tried the "cross-notarization". It seems to work in a circular way (A->B, B->C, C->A). You only may not notarize each other (A->B, B->A). Maybe however this only worked due to the magic power of this special day. :-)

In organising the event, Christian put together some extremely comprehensive documentation, as well as a very useful matrix for working out the best approach to take. These are reproduced here with permission (edited slightly to make them more generic):

Please feel free to copy the pages above and re-use for your event.

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