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Exploring the decentralised web.

Lance Wicks
Judoka, Developer, Kiwi
Originally published at lancewicks.com on ・3 min read

Recently I have been exploring the re-decentralisation of the internet. This is the growing movement to move back towards an internet that is not controlled by centralised servers.

So rather than a Facebook, there is Scuttlebutt; rather than twitter there is Fritter. SSB, IPFS and DAT are the three technologies that are really catching my interest; specifically SSB and DAT.

Scuttlebutt

Scuttlebutt is a project to build a person based decentralised internet network. Specifically, it focuses on what people do and has started with the idea of building a social network akin to Facebook.

However, it is far more than that. It basically is a simple diary of entries, you share your diary with people and they share their diary with you. You also share the diaries of your friends with other friends. This is all done peer to peer rather than via centralised servers. So it works over wifi without internet just as well as when you are connected to the internet.

Because it is just a diary of things that I have done, it can be used to create a wide variety of people-centred applications. To date there is a correspondence chess game, github clone, IRC style chat client, secret sharing tool, calendaring and poll systems

DAT and the Beaker Browser

DAT by comparison to SSB is data centric, everything is a hash pointing to data; if you have the hash you can access the data. That data can be anywhere, on any users machine and you get the data itself from peers that have that data.

So to share a video file (for example a talk I gave on Scuttlebutt recently at the European Perl Conference) I add it locally and then just share the DAT hash:

dat://9a67fbcb4418c3a70cfd625c3c68f6e51db8c1ded2f36b4c85672d81ebd42437/ScuttleButtt.mp4

Anyone can then grab the file direct from your machine via that hash using the command line tool, or most likely with the Beaker Browser, which is the main client for DAT. This is a direct connection, so if I turn off my computer you can’t get the file. However, retrieving the file makes you a peer and you start sharing the file also so the more it gets shared the more robust the access to the file.

Exciting future

The internet for many people (like me) has been sliding downhill for some time as corporations have taken our cyberspace and subverted it to be walled gardens and monopolies.

I am immensely optimistic that technologies like SSB and DAT can break that downward spiral and give us back the ability to have a peer to peer network that is for me and my friends.

Both SSB and DAT provide that ability to basically have an internet of internets, where my network is not your network.

The SSB-chat project for me opened my eyes. It is a simple text chat with no walls. Which sounds like I’ll get flooded by spammers and haters. But it does not happen as the chat is limited to people I know and people they know. So it stays small and interesting despite theoretically being accessible to billions.

Because it is not centralised it is cleaner, spammers only spam a small group; and quickly get turned off at the source. My friends block a spammer and they don’t give me the spammers “diary”. So I am protected by my friends and I protect them

My “community” is my network. I am not part of some corporate network. I like it a lot!

The thing I really like most about Scuttlebutt is the people inside the network, those creating it. It is full of interesting people interested in creating something better than today.

Discussion (6)

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skybondsor profile image
Jordyn Bonds

I had not heard of Fritter! What do you think Mastodon (another Twitter replacement)?

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lancew profile image
Lance Wicks Author

Hi Jordyn, yeah I probably should have mentioned mastodon. I am on that as well and broadly in favour.

The issue I see with it, is that it's centralised-ish. It is federated, but not local. So it's a bunch of federated centralised services, I don't hold my own data quite the same way.

I should probably expand on the way that with DAT and SSB your data is first and foremost on your machine, that local (and offline) are priorities. If a server goes away, things just keep working (on the whole)

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skybondsor profile image
Jordyn Bonds

Ah, I see. Federated vs. local is a helpful frame for me. The app I work on is local-first (or local-only, if you want it to be) but not yet federated. We're laying the groundwork for federation now, but since there's currently no way for users to share data, it's not that applicable yet. But it will be!

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lancew profile image
Lance Wicks Author

Maybe you could consider using data or ssb for the federation?
Would love to know own what you are working on.

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skybondsor profile image
Jordyn Bonds

We're using IPFS for now. I will defs check out DAT and SSB!

The app is an end-to-end encrypted, peer-to-peer PWA for capturing and analyzing data about any and everything. HIPAA and GDPR compliant out of the box. Check it out if you have a sec: tallylab.com We just went into open beta and are trying to get as much feedback as we can.

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gaffen profile image
Gaffen

I'm really glad to see other people talking about this issue! With regard to federation; I'm still pretty ok with this - as whilst it does rely on centralisation, the centralisation happens as a collection of small communities, rather than a massive dragon's lair of data hoarded by a tech supergiant. In light of that I probably should make the jump from mastodon.social to a smaller instance...