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Could 'Peernet' be separate from today's internet infrastructure?

Here are some musings I posted as a comment on the P2P Foundation blog, in response to a Post of Simon Edhouse - The Medium is the Mess... - which makes the point that we should not confuse the Web with the Internet by using these terms in a loosely interchangeable way. My thoughts are, that quite separate from both the Net and the Internet as defined by Edhouse, peer-to-peer could give rise to a different type of entity that links us up without being subject to controls except that we may wish to exercise ...

The comment

P2P may in time give rise to something entirely different from both the Internet and the Web as defined in this article. The Web and the entire Internet structure are corporation controlled and we are mere guests, much like the first people sending email and discussing on the usenet, timidly using some of the bandwidth that was there for entirely different reasons.

P2P needs to develop its own infrastructure quite independent of the hardware and even the connectivity that powers today’s internet. I see real peer-to-peer connectivity starting with consumer driven mesh networks based on WIFI or WIMax or a combination, and a gradual separation from today’s internet even for long range connectivity, which could in a first instance be driven by P2P radio bridges. Mobile device mesh networks could be part of this. As almost everyone has a mobile phone today, it would take little to hack the system these things run on to allow them to form networks among themselves, in addition to the standard connectivity into the mobile communication structure through repeater antennas.

At the same time as a real P2P communication infrastructure develops in parallel with the existing infrastructure of the net, we might also think of backing up the data that is on the internet today on a cloud of personal computers, possibly with a novel way of distributed and redundant data storage inspired by an algorithm that mimicks holographic storage of data. There is a huge potential in personal computer hard disks for hosting the parts of all-the-data-there-is and there is more than the necessary computing power on line at any given time for reconstructing that data residing everywhere and nowhere, on the cloud of networked computers.

Of course communications could be re-invented in a secure and spam-free manner. Much work has been done on identification, which may come in handy. Money could flow freely on such a network and it could be quite different from what we consider money today. There is an open money discussion hosted on this ning group which seeks to define the parameters of what we may consider money in the future.

Eventually, the P2PNet could grow so pervasive that it takes over most of the functions of today’s Internet while adding new things we never dreamed were possible.

Perhaps 'Peernet' would be an appropriate term to distinguish the future P2PNet from both the Internet and "the Net" as described by Simon Edhouse in his article.

Would 'Peernet' be desirable?

My first idea was that we might need such a net as a backup of the internet, so in case of a major catastrophe, we would not lose connectivity that today depends mostly on physical connections such as optical cables which are vulnerable and may go down in any major catastrophic event. The mainframe computers on which we depend to act as servers are not immune either. So a distributed architecture, that can re-construct its data and function regardless of the number of peers involved, seems ideal for guarding against catastrophic changes.

But not only that. With the experience we have gained from the Internet, Peernet could be designed to be spam-free and secure, and impervious to any outside interference.

It could also function as the monetary system of the future - see the open money discussions - and might have other advantages that are not yet obvious.

What do you think?

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Hi Simon,

thanks for summarzing that debate in such clear terms.

I agree with you that the ownership is an important issue, and the advances on owning the social graph are closely monitored through the tagging system and in the Standards section of our wiki. I'm only relatively optimistic on advances as I see only motivation of a rather small minority of open standards geeks. However important their work is, I think most users seem accepting of the Web 2.0 contract, under certain conditions, just as workers broadly accepted the industrial paradigm, under certain conditions. So I presume the struggles will be about those limits of acceptability.

This is why for me, technology is important, but at the same time a side issue. first of all, pure peer to peer is not always the most efficienct; second, pure peer to peer does not solve the social question of who has power in the network; third, even in an imperfect technology, social power can be achieved through non-technological means.

So my option is to watch very closely where emancipatory trends are happening, and to interconnect and strengthen them wherever they occur, and then we see how the new social forces strategize their condition and we can add our five cents to that.

I just point to Marcins site:


"Today, the internet and communication backbones are controlled by centralized interests. This does not favor a long-lasting democratic environment for human communication...."
Information on the web is controlled by a handful few aka corporations. I think a Peernet brings among other things freedom of speech and the concept of no central control. Which I find very attractive.

I call 'The internet' as the network backbone on top of which 'WWW' runs. If you see it that way I think PeerNet would run on top of the same internet without thinking much about infrastructure enhancements or needs which would come anyway.

The PeerNet would connect every computer on this planet with every other computer that it wants to on a private group/network. I think nothing needs to change on the hardware for PeerNet to become a reality. Its just in the software and that software could be written for Mobiles as easily as the Desktop.

Once a PeerNet is in place a distributed Hard Disk would come as a natural way to evolve. We are also working on similar things but I don't want to say anything more than that as of now.

Let me read through the open money discussions to figure out how that would work.
I went through the paper. Software only approaches would drop the connection on ip address change and create a new connection to the mesh. That gets avoided by separating the address with the identity.

So the problem of mobility would be addressed by the hardware instead of the softwares going down for a while when switching ip addresses and moving between ip networks.
Only if you reuse sucky hardware. Take a look at I2P's architecture, if a node goes awol then that is no problem because there are usally backup routes that are kept alive, and new routes can be established quickly.
The connection should be "abstracted away" to the degree were you won't notice when paths are changed or nodes go down. There's a risk that most existing hardware is incapable of that.
Problem number one is if the HW can handle multiple simultaneous connections AND make new connections seamlessly or not.
In the original post, I said:

...it would take little to hack the system these things run on to allow them to form networks among themselves, in addition to the standard connectivity into the mobile communication structure through repeater antennas.

Well, it seems no hack will be necessary. Things are coming together all by themselves. Here is a recent development that lets mobile phones act as WiFi hot spots:

WalkingHotSpot: Cellphone as Access Point

"WalkingHotSpot transforms 3G/Wi-Fi smartphones into hotspots. It enables multiple client devices (laptops, MP3 players, gaming devices, etc.) to connect to the Internet anywhere there is mobile network coverage. The application is said to be designed to be power-efficient, robust and end-user friendly."
Hmm , yes , I guess it could be useful to use 3G/Wifi as access to the internet , although in many places 3G internet access is still expensive , and I doubt that one would want to share it with the people around through a network of relay mobile phones , unless one has a unlimited data transfer subscription from the 3G operator.

But it certainly shows that mobile phones are ready to become " relays " between each other , and that , especially in cities where the number of ( wifi enabled ? ) phones is dense enough ,
they could perhaps replace the telecom relays ,
untill they reach a shared internet hotspot ( whether a fixed or 3G one ) to eventually reach someone at the other side of the earth.
( very old brainstorming of mine about this topic here : http://oikoumene.coforum.net/MeshDreams )

The question I ask myself is , as more and more of us might end up with wifi enabled mobile phones , what does it take to transform it into a ad-hoc relay // its easy enough on laptop computers , although perhaps not easy enough for people that are not used to configuring their network connectivity.

Some commercial softwares seem to be distributed ( for example http://www.wmwifirouter.com/ )

in case I m not repeating what has been said earlier on this thread ...

more by googling :


but I could imagine that easy solutions can be developed , through open source softwares ,
and that , hopefully , by the time that ALL new mobile phones will be wifi enabled ,
we will all choose to have it running under some linux version - i like to dream of some Ubuntu style distribution for SmartPhones. ;-p


also see :

Open Moko

Android :


From there on , I feel not even the sky will be the limit , as all kinds of applications might be developped and made available , in a easy way ( as it is with Ubuntu Linux , when using a Synaptic Package Manager - unless you would prefer using the Terminal ... apt-get ... :-) )

oups - correcting my last post -

there is still a difference between ad-hoc and multi-hop ad-hoc.

I mentionned ad-hoc , and realize I should be talking about multi hop ad hoc meshes...


( also notice a reference from Reingold down there on that page )

I know some of these existing networks using OLSR or AODV as protocol , although I do not know such mobile networks.

more in this mail :

just some thought for later :

if alternative societies , living in parallel to each other in the same geographical space , are dependent on available communication channels to ( self) organize themselves ,
use their alternative financial systems and currencies , ...

and if some of the current communication channels are being controlled by certain " actors " ( such as corporations ? or political parties ? or bureaucracies ? ) that rather promote a certain type of governance and power structure ,

what kind of alternative communication structures will evolve ?

We discussed ad hoc multi hop wireless networks in this thread ,
and I believe in such an approach ,

and when reading an article on the bcc in relation to the British army deploying a " secure high bandwidth " satellite to further open up opportunities for worldwide and secured communication between its various branches , and between all " peers " in the military ,


I feel that perhaps soon , in a not so distant future ,

when alternative forms of parallel governance in one geographical space further emancipate ,
we might imagine such kind of infrastructure / communication solutions being sent into space for each of these " societies ". ( communities converging some of their resources to invest in a satellite ? )

Corporations , Governments , and Military forces might use their " secured " satellites to coordinate their agents and sustain their power ,

and alternative groups of decentralized individuals might self organize themselves by using their own satellites , who would not be controlled and eventually censored by centralized powers such as governments or corporations ...
Satellite may be a possibility at a later date.

For now, I believe, we should look towards wifi and its variations. Modified (re-flashed) wireless routers will not only distribute an incoming connection to various computers in one household and a bit of the surrounding space. By linking up among themselves and making a network, these wireless routers not only provide the (normal) wireless access to the larger internet, but they also construct living neighborhood networks.

These neighborhood networks would be functional quite independent of the internet. All we need is to figure out what use to put them to.
Absolutely agree Sepp -

might be repeating a bit what has been said up to now :

in the " old days " , I remember interacting / getting acquainted with hobbyist groups that have been setting up such networks in brussels. back then , they used old computers , on which they installed linux with a olsr or aodv package for ad-hoc multiple hop routing , and they would often build their own little antennas from recycled cans , wires , etc and put it up on their roof - to have longer distance routing between each others roofs , trying , hop by hop , to join all nodes.
It also seems to be common to hack a router ( some models even seem to be designed "to support third party firmware" , such as linksys wrt54g ... ) , ... set it into a ad hoc router mode, and perhaps in the near future , as we discussed earlier on this thread , we could vision that all mobile phones with wifi capability could hopefully be tweaked and , when there would be a high enough density of devices become such MANET http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_ad-hoc_network

I also remember , although it does not seem to be on this thread - perhaps it was on the lists - , that one of us mentioned some commercial solutions that sell all in one hardware solutions , for about 50 us dollars - such as


although I am not sure what protocols they use , if they are open , etc

They ( meraki ) seem to have a steady growth of users in the SF area ( several thousand nodes that can see each other ? )
Yes, there was another post or two on the p2pfoundation blog. Here are the links:

Peernet: Constructing the Open Mesh

Peernet: Infrastructure and software for a million networks

In any case, Meraki seems a big high priced. Open Mesh


is about 1 third the price, although I have no comparison on how they function. But clearly, there is a lot of development going on right now.

A Linux based open source open mesh network firmware which can be used to re-flash either a Meraki or a FON router, has been developed by an Italian programmer and it's called ROBIN which stands for for ROuting Batman INside.






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