the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

i want to introduce a five-part plan for a different internet: a user-owned, decentralized and highly encrypted web built up of diverse hardware that can be deployed anywhere in the world. it is the precursor to the sort of internet you could take to the stars.

here are the five parts:

- mesh network: a distributed routing system where routers distribute packets across the mesh without knowing what those packets are or who they come from. (think: batman-adv)

- p2p network: a distributed data layer for applications to utilize, so that peers can route packets knowing what they are and who they come from, so that — for example — one can build complex moderation systems. see: hypercore, ipfs.

- social dns hub: an application that acts as a frontend to a p2p package manager that can download and install applications over the mesh. a user would use this hub to download a facebook clone, for example, which is itself a decentralized application that runs inside the hub. domain names are built up by spidering the link graph of your connections and their connections, out to some configurable distance, so that you retain domain names without a global domain name registry. a google clone could apply pagerank to this set of p2p addresses to give you a perspective-based search. (the beaker browser fulfills this requirement to some extent)

- hardware pipeline: a body of tutorials and purchase points that make it easy to build or acquire mesh nodes. it should be easy to flash an old laptop into a mesh node, or to buy a completed mesh node for $20-30. (freedombone has plenty of tutorials for PCs as well as SBCs, making it a good fit for this)

- guild: a trade union or co-op devoted to upholding technical and labor standards, and to supporting the labor producing the alternet and all its upstream dependencies. these are the folks on the other side of that “buy a mesh node now” button, who also materially support labor organizing throughout the industry. without organized labor girding the alternet, it is impossible to maintain.

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

ok, so let's take stock of where we are toward an alternet:

- mesh: i think freedombone is a solid solution on two fronts: being able to make nodes of commodity hardware (ex: junk laptops, salvaged routers) as well as having a solid hardware blueprint with the beaglebone.

- p2p network: hypercore and ipfs represent powerful models of content distribution. ipfs for commons content like software libraries or permanent datasets, hypercore for the social graph. the hypercore folks are delivering some important network blocking code atm that will permit an application to map a set of moderation actions onto the network graph itself -- disconnecting from blocked peers and distributing that action across private communities, for example. that creates a powerful story for social infra.

- social dns hub: i feel activitypub is a good standard for digital identity, and it maps to an append-only data layer well. once beaker delivers a hypercore interface, it will become possible to build an activitypub-based social network that runs in a browser. hypercore over webrtc makes it possible to build pub servers that allow traditional browsers to access the network. once you have that, you could go so far as to port the masto ui and it would work. of course that's not enough -- you need a new app to adapt to this new context. it can use attested protocols like activitypub to simplify http gateways, but it also bears new responsibilities such as mapping moderation actions onto the swarm in order to block peers or maintain an allow-list for private subnetworks. then, a plugin system allows an ecosystem of type plugins to expand the sorts of content peers can distribute through a UI, from shitposts to files to video streams.

- hardware pipeline: i am not this type of engineer but here is what i am thinking: a battery-powered beaglebone black flashed with freedombone. it runs a hypercore and ipfs daemon and peers a bundle of starting apps via links in a profile where the router identifies itself. the hypercore daemon replicates these apps but only sparsely replicates peer content, so that peers can find eachother through the mesh node but must exchange updates directly. i think i can prototype this sort of thing but it will take time and money.

- guild: union advocates and organizers are regularly sacked from the industry with impunity. the US is a failed state. organizing at work appears to be a dead-end. we must organize our labor outside of work, but that risks our livelihoods. it is a daunting task to organize a guild, fraught with all the perils of a devshop and then some. i would like to be up to the task but imo i am not. i am increasingly of the belief that the firmer path to a guild is to organize outside of price, to seize the means of survival by producing them yourself and organizing around them directly, such that a mesh guild is supported and driven by this structure.

Show thread

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

i am stuck in the US for the foreseeable future and things are Getting Bumpy so i want to focus my expertise where i think it can make a difference, and that is in producing this infrastructure. i have been working with the hypercore stack which i believe to be very promising, writing an activitypub plugin for pouchdb with which to construct a dweb-conscious AP server, and i am slowly acquiring the kit i require to operate an SBC-based production line. with that production line in place, one can begin guerilla deployment to build up a mesh over an arbitrary environment. this ensures coverage before and after a disaster.

i think that with hard work we are about five years out from this stack, so you might call this a five-year plan ;)

but i also feel time is much shorter than that. things are happening very quickly now and i worry for future. i feel that makes the task all the more critical.

Show thread

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

consider the future where this stack is deployed, and the guild organized.

every week a person from the guild travels to a bus stop where a mesh node has been attached to the underside of a bench. they open a laptop, use beaker to visit the hypercore where the node broadcasts telemetry, and ensure that it is working properly. then they swap the batteries for fresh ones, check the node again, and head home. people at the bus stop can connect to the node to access a social network, local maps, etc.

when disaster strikes, locals use the mesh network -- which survived because it routes around damage. survivors share details over a social network while first responders fill out a new map of the area, which mesh nodes distribute across the social network. people are able to rapidly organize responses, to organize for food and water and power independently using infrastructure that is cheap to deploy and simple to maintain.

Show thread

the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

@garbados we have so much work ahead of us undoing the decades of damage that centralization and consolidation has inflicted upon the commons

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

@technomancy the only way we can do that work is together ✊

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

@garbados This is cool!

Any way to do it without append-only bits? Because personally I want to stay the /heck/ away from anything append-only for privacy reasons.

re: the alternet: a roadmap for a different internet 

@IceWolf not that i know of, but you can clever your way to privacy even so.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!