The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Sneakernets

Also mesh nets and decentralised protocols

A.K.A. the internet over the the Honda protocol.

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Perhaps you live in a jurisdiction where political speech is censored from the internet, and you want communications that function without a single point of failure for the state to target.

Or maybe you just don’t want centralised surveillance of your friendships.

Ideally I’d like to find robust ways of participating in the internet bidirectionally, in non-real-time, without assuming the internet is plugged in and working.

For unidirectional stuff, see offline internet.

The Web as we know it is not especially well suited to this, so this might be a hard sell to Joe Suburbia, but I imagine not so bad for Indonesians with smartphones or others in the internet badlands, say, Reza Desakota.

Contents

Decentralised internets

TODO: mention the Indonesian IP piracy sneakernets’ approach to this.

Distributed version control can fix this sort of problem; but remote mountain villages rarely have distributed version control experts.

Amber Case argues for IPFS, which at a glance sounds great for reading content although I don’t understand how it generalises to writing content.

Actual offline sneakernets

Practical solutions are about bringing alternative bits of the internet into decentralised availability. Surprisingly, this is popular for social networks.

BitTorrent

The classic; not really great for live and updating documents though.

Beaker

Beaker is based on the dat protocol for data sharing:

Create and fork websites directly from your computer. You control your data. No blockchain required.

Create peer-to-peer websites

Create and share websites for free, with no advertising and no third-party services, directly from your device.

Visitors to your site rehost your files automatically on the peer-to-peer network, so you don’t have to pay hosting costs.

Fork websites and applications
Live creatively with open-source web applications. Any peer-to-peer website can be copied to your device to remix, remake, and reshare.
Share files secretly
Your recipient downloads your files directly from your computer. Only people who know the site’s URL can decrypt and download the files.

They also have pointed blockchain-mania snark:

We quickly ruled out the blockchain variants (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Namecoin) as the core network model of Beaker for the following reasons:

  • Proof-of-work and global ledger distribution are inefficient. So far, blockchain networks have struggled with throughput as they scale. Betting on a blockchain includes the risk that throughput may decrease over time, and/or that users will be forced to download large datasets to participate.
  • The requirement to use global consensus on all transactions results in a direct costs for operations in the form of transaction fees. We know that many network operations do not require global consensus, and therefore a blockchain makes a poor default for applications.
  • We believe Proof-of-work is wasteful, and we have ethical reservations about the expenditure of resources to sustain PoW. At this time, Proof-of-stake is still an unproven alternative, but we are interested in its potential.
  • We have concerns over governance models. By investing decision-making in miners, the blockchain networks have given power to the entities with the most mining resources. […]

Entertainment value aside, whilst I do find this model elegant, it, for now, works only for rich nerds with desktop computers and time to replace their nice corporatised internet with horrible ugly experimental broken DIY internet It doesn’t work on smartphones, so the people with the most tenuous internet will not use it and it will not take over the world. I don’t think the founders would claim otherwise; they are all about proof-of-concept. Perhaps some future iteration might change stuff?

Zeronet

Zeronet promises “Open, free and uncensorable websites, using Bitcoin cryptography and BitTorrent network”

How does it work?

  • After starting zeronet.py you will be able to visit zeronet sites using http://127.0.0.1:43110/{zeronet_address} (eg. http://127.0.0.1:43110/1HeLLo4uzjaLetFx6NH3PMwFP3qbRbTf3D).
  • When you visit a new zeronet site, it tries to find peers using the BitTorrent network so it can download the site files (html, css, js…) from them.
  • Each visited site is also served by you.
  • Every site contains a content.json file which holds all other files in a sha512 hash and a signature generated using the site’s private key.
  • If the site owner (who has the private key for the site address) modifies the site, then he/she signs the new content.json and publishes it to the peers. Afterwards, the peers verify the content.json integrity (using the signature), they download the modified files and publish the new content to other peers.

This bittorrent thing doesn’t sound as nice as Beaker’s dat-based one.

Retroshare

Retroshare is…

  • A Decentralized Social Sharing Network designed For the People with no dependencies on any corporate system or central servers.
  • Make strong crypto useable for the average computer user, have strong crypto in daily communication.
  • The right to have secrets. You decide who can receive information. Hide information from intelligence agencies and spying companies.
  • Freedom of speech, no censorship.
  • Independence from corporate systems and centralized servers. Central services might shut down or change their terms of services at any time. Do you remember Myspace? Or German Studivz? Remember when Facebook changed their terms of service? Skype being bought by Microsoft?
  • Free software. Only free software can provide free and secure communication. Developers can read Retroshare’s source code and verify the security.

Features Chat, Voice and Video, offline mail, file sharing, distributed search, forums and compatibility with TOR, and sneakernet everything.