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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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Dante forwarded a link to

Wenjia Li: Coping with Node Misbehaviors in MANETs

which is ongoing research that will be interesting in connection with p2p networks: How to keep them functioning despite occasional misbehavior of some of the nodes in the network.
Another step in the right direction:

Miraveo: mobile networks as social networks

http://www.physorg.com/news163846177.html

Jorge García Vidal, lecturer at the UPC's Barcelona School of Informatics, is head of the project in Barcelona: "We have developed software that can be used with different applications, that is, a spontaneous proximity network that can be used to link different mobile devices using Wi-Fi technology."
I'm skeptical that it can be spam-free without also being commerce-free and money-free, which to me would be the ideal.
Be that as it may, I will welcome any kind of autonomous peernet (i prefer lowercase here) including ones with ancapistanian overtones.

Someone also mentioned (in response to Marco) about radio amateurs. They have had their own packet switching networks for many decades. The thing about radio amateurs is, they are not allowed to use any encryption, they are not allowed to do commerce, and of course they are licenced by the government.
Here is Opera, the browser maker, contributing another piece of the puzzle with a browser that can act as an easy-to-use web server: Opera Unite

Taking the Web into our own hands, one computer at a time

this blog post by Lawrence Eng, product analyst for Opera Software, goes into some detail on what Opera Unite is meant to be.

This technology is a radical first step towards addressing what I call “the Internet’s unfulfilled promise”, which is about our ability to connect with each other and participate meaningfully online—on our own terms, and without losing control of our data.

Opera Unite runs on three platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux/Unix.

The initial applications offered by Opera Unite are just simple demos (such as a “messenger” application and a media player) that replicate existing services and online functionality, showing them working in the context of Opera Unite. That’s just the tiniest tip of the iceberg—the potential for what can be done is much larger. The key to Opera Unite is that it enables a whole new class of social software on the Web, applications that benefit from two or more people being online at the same time. And, with Opera Unite, these people can all connect directly without needing middlemen who control third-party servers.

Social networking is important, but who owns it — the online real estate and all the content we share on it? How much control over our words, photos, and identities are we giving up by using someone else’s site for our personal information? How dependent have we become? I imagine that many of us would lose most of our personal contacts if our favorite Web mail services shut down without warning...

The promise of a server-independent peernet just moved a bit closer to reality.

Is anyone game to develop the ultimate social network mixing and mashing the best features of existing services with whatever else we would want to run on such a network?

http://unite.opera.com/
Some starting points (all are Freedom-respecting Software)

DavidKellogg.com/wiki >>POW is a fully-functional open source (GPL) webserver that works inside your browser. It uses Server Side Javascript (SJS), PHP, Perl, Python or Ruby to deliver dynamic content.

AjaxIM.com >>ajax im ("asynchronous javascript and xml instant messenger") is a browser-based instant messaging client. It uses AJAX to create a near real-time IM environment that can be used in conjunction with community, intranet, and social websites. No refreshing of the page is ever needed for this "web application" to work, as everything is updated in real-time via JavaScript.

About.PSYC.eu/PsycZilla >>PsycZilla is a new Open Source Communications Framework and Client which is being written in JavaScript. For Flash programmers, the PsycZilla framework is also available in ActionScript, though it is an incomplete port, lacking some of the advanced features in the main framework. The framework provides basic JavaScript implementation of the PSYC protocol for Instant Messaging, Chat and Social Networking.

SamePlace.cc >>Mozilla-based Instant Messaging. User-friendly, secure, extensible --- use it inside Firefox, Flock or Thunderbird.
Noticed through Platoniq's delicious links about a solution called "Miraveo",
and which offers distributed, ad hoc networking for local social networking :

http://www.miraveo.com/

Unfortunatly, they seem to have patented their software...

I look forward to be able to download such software which would be "free and open source", allow for the spread ad hoc information transfer meshe's

excerpt of Miraveo's description :

Miraveo develops ad-hoc, peer to peer networking technology to create and deploy robust and resilient Spontaneous Area Networks (SPANs), enabling location-based networking among users over conventional mobile devices.

Our patented technology uses the industry standard WiFi spectrum to connect any WiFi device to any other WiFi enabled device in it’s proximity, or in adjacent hops through a miraveo cloud.

The technology provides a high bitrate, interactive and free service that can be used everywhere (street, campus, shopping mall, subway car, in building, beach, etc), without requiring any additional infrastructure, subscription to WiFi / broadband services, or even being in a coverage area.
On the physical connection side, I just came across WhiteFi - Wi-Fi Using Whitespaces

http://www.dailywireless.org/2009/08/18/microsofts-whitefi-wi-fi-us...

which, although definitely a mainstream development, might become an enabling technology for independent local networks to spring up.
found through p2pf research list : http://trac.alt-bit.org/wiki/projects/autonet

autonet - an autonomous internet


Autonet is a project to create a wireless, global internet that can provide more reliability than corporate phone companies by being community based and freely licensed.
http://www.wirelesscommons.org/

" We have formed the Wireless Commons because a global wireless network is within our grasp. We will work to define and achieve a wireless commons built using open spectrum, and able to connect people everywhere. We believe there is value to an independent and global network which is open to the public. We will break down commercial, technical, social and political barriers to the commons. The wireless commons bridges one of the few remaining gaps in universal communication without interference from middlemen and meddlers. " ...
This might turn out to be a very useful way of proceeding for maintaining a cloud of peers on the net, to pay for whatever service (plumbing) is needed.

POSS == Public Open Source Services
... or User Powered Self-sustaining Cloud-based Services of Open Source Software


http://poss.gliderlab.com/

How many useful bits of cool plumbing are made and abandoned on the web because people realize there's no true business case for it? And by business case, I mean make sense to be able to turn a profit or at least enough to pay the people involved. Even as a lifestyle business, it still has to pay for at least one person ... which is a lot! But forget abandoned ... how much cool tech isn't even attempted because there is an assumption that in order for it to survive and be worth the effort, there has to be a business? Somebody has to pay for hosting! Alternatively, what if people built cool stuff because it's just cool? Or useful (but not useful enough to get people to pay -- see Twitter)?

Well this is common in open source. A community driven by passion and wanting to build cool/useful stuff. A lot of great things have come from open source. But open source is just that ... source. It's not run. You have to run it. How do you get the equivalent of open source for services? This is a question I've been trying to figure out for years. But it's all coming together now ...
Found another link in the peernet chain ... Netsukuku

The Netsukuku project is based on the very simple idea of exploiting the great potentiality of the wifi connectivity, making the PCs of wireless communities act as routers and handle together an ad-hoc network even bigger than the Internet.

Netsukuku is an ad-hoc network system designed to handle massive numbers of nodes with minimal consumption of CPU and memory resources. It can be used to build a world-wide distributed, fault-tolerant, anonymous, and censorship-immune network, fully independent from the Internet. Netsukuku does not rely upon any form of backbone router, internet service provider network, or any centralized system, although it may take advantage of existing systems of this nature to augment unity and connectivity of the existing Netsukuku network.

A new Netsukuku user needs do little more than install an antenna within range of other local nodes, linking themselves into the network, and run the Netsukuku software on their computer to take advantage of it. The number of interconnected nodes can grow endlessly. If a node is out of the range of any wifi signals, a "virtual tunnel" over their Internet connection will supply the missing radio link.


More information here:

http://netsukuku.freaknet.org/?pag=faq

Interesting development - January 2011:

 

Douglas Rushkoff, in an article on Sharable, takes a dim view of our chances to turn the internet into a really useable commons. It's controlled by the corporations and the debate about "net neutrality" is just an indication of how bad things have become. In his article The Next Net Rushkoff outlines the situation and points to what we must do to build a free means of communication.

 

Rather than make a firm proposal, he throws some ideas out there:

 

So let's get on it. Shall we use telephony, ham radio, or some other part of the spectrum? Do we organize overlapping meshes of WiMax? Do we ask George Soros for some money? MacArthur Foundation? Do we even need or want them or money at all? How might the funding of our network by a central bank issued currency, or a private foundation, or a public university, bias the very architecture we are trying to build? Who gets the ability to govern or limit what may spread over our network, if anyone? Should there be ways for us to transact?

To make the sorts of choices that might actually yield our next and truly decentralized network, we must take a good look at the highly centralized real world in which we live - as well as how it got that way. Only by understanding its principles, reckoning with the forces at play, and accepting the battles we have already lost, might we begin to forge ahead to create new forms that exist beyond any authority's ability to grant them protection.

 

Full article here: The Next Net

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