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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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I share your view Sepp. Have been dreaming further about it for some time , and am aware of a number of amateur groups building up such ad hoc multi hop networks such as http://freifunk.net in Germany , http://reseaucitoyen.be in Belgium and Northern France , and a few more all over the Globe , many of them in urban settings , although some in the country side , such as one covering a whole danish region http://djurslands.net/ ; http://freifunknet.dk/djurslandsnet.htm ;

and even one in the Himalayas / Dharamsala

I am interested in staying in ouch on this issue , and find out how to combine a ad hoc mesh network that is not dependent on the main internet ( but can be connected to it ) to a variety of solutions for local communities , including being an opportunity to open up a sense of local community.
Hi Dante,

it is great to see someone else with similar ideas (and ideals). Your dream of free networks may be coming closer from an unexpected angle. An article in Technology Review about Android (Android Calling), a standard for cellular devices promoted by Google, may bring us a good step closer.

Also check out Martien van Steenbergen's comment to another string Backing up the internet in a P2P 'cloud'. He links a post outlining the basic protocol for a software that could keep us all linked up properly. This goes beyone the physical link-up into how to deal with files and communications on the P2P net. Actually the background to what he calls the Wizard, the Rabbit and the Treasurer is his Armillaria project. Very interesting approach.

It is good to see how many freenet activities already exist. The Germans are great on linking up with radio hardware running IP protocols. The network seems to be growing already.

Definitely let's stay in touch on this issue.
Sorry, I messed up the link to the article about Android. Here it is

Android Calling
Thanks Sepp !

I m happy to be able to talk and share such understanding and interest.

do you also know about Open Moko - i ve added it to my delicious

Thanks a lot also for pointing to Martien's Armillaria project

I feel it has some things in common with a vision I would be happy to work further with others - I ll paste some links below.



in relation to the dynamic , collective , non linear mapping ( with networked data bases enabling further emergence from available objects ) ,

in a self-defining spatial post symbolic language ( emergence of " meaning dimensions " through mutual positioning according to relations )

The basic idea is expressed here
( its really not complicated - its just the verbal form that makes it look complicated to some people - perhaps through video conference , especially if you are intuitive and conceptual , you could understand it by seeing the movements of my hands while I explain it ) :


and can then be complemented with a process engine as to form a meta cortex ( inclusion of process " branes " as objects in the emergent networked data bases ) :


and more links to texts for a broader understanding and details about the process dimensions ( including consciousness process dimensions ) here :


I collect some links to references to projects , people , and knowledge that can be integrated for its development - or may relate to it in some way - here :

Regarding technical solutions for a more resilient meshed communication network,
I have been waiting for the following solution for many years ( 2004 archived brainstorming of mine ) :
keywords: rhizome, meshwork, structure-independent communication software, android
mission: mobile communications for those in need

article in french :
Yes, I did suggest that we concentrate discussions here, following a suggestion of Michael, but as it happened, the discussion anyway went on, now spanning 11 comments under your original article on the P2P Foundation blog.

You made a very important point there, one that many - including myself - are not at all clear about. In the latest clarifying comment, you said that the main point in your article was

to try and put “The Web” in perspective, by listing it as simply the dominant communication platform, (along with email) on the Internet. To make this point is to remind people that other communication platforms can also sit on the Internet’s connectivity protocols. A good example is Skype. It is a P2P application, and when people use it, they are not actually operating on the Web, but outside it.

Without trying to port the whole discussion here, let me simply provide a link to the article, for anyone interested to go and read.
Marco (mfioretti at nexaima dot net) is doubtful.

he says in an email message:

Due to technical problems on my side, right now I cannot post what follows as a comment at that URL, so I'm going with email. For the moment, I have a couple of questions. You said:

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.

At least for WIMAX, current regulations "largely relegate license-free providers to LOS coverage only" ( http://www.wimax.com/education/faq/faq48 ): how do you put together a (network of) real long radio bridge(s) without licenses? Not to mention availability of suitable sites, maintenance... Besides that, how do you guarantee or regulate that the radiated power in any given area never exceeds safety limits, if everybody and their dog start pointing WiFi / Wimax repeaters at each other?

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

Let's ignore for the moment how quickly the battery would dry if your phone were to spend all the energy bridging other people communications: what do you mean exactly by "it would take little to hack the system" and who should do it? The cell phone owners? And, above all, in which way? How can you transform a cell phone into something that communicates directly with other cell phones like WiFi devices could (without, again, draining the battery real quick, of course)?

Thanks for any feedback, Marco

- - -

My reply to Marco:

what I posted should be seen as an idea put out there to see if we can develop a real P2P connectivity. I have not figured out the technical details nor am I able to give much advice on this. Others with more technical knowledge will have to pick up that ball and run with it if they feel like doing so.

There are now three links where this story is developing with interesting comments and links by different people:

The Medium is the Mess... (on P2PFoundation blog)

Backing up the internet in a P2P 'cloud' (on ning.com P2P group)

Could 'Peernet' be separate from today's internet infrastructure? (also on the ning.com P2P group)

But to answer your questions, as much as I am able to:

With WiFi and WiMax, we will have to see how the technology develops. I am sure there will be ways to use a combination of these technologies for forming a mesh of interconnected nodes. Even if limited to line-of-sight connection, if there are enough of them, they will be sufficient to form that net. Talking about line of sight, optical tech has been demonstrated to be able to establish rooftop to rooftop connections, which have good data transfer rates and would have no problems of overloading us with RF radiation. Real long range radio bridges would be another layer based on a different spectrum with - alas - less bandwidth but longer reach. Lots of radio amateurs out there who might decide to chip in.

As for the use of mobile handsets to establish direct link-up networks, I think we are evolving in that direction. See the recent article in Technology Review about Android, an emerging standard for handsets that would definitely make such connections more easy.

On the physical side, access providers always seem to have trouble with that "last mile" they can't quite bridge, to bring broadband access to consumers. For sure there could be synergy between a consumer driven mesh network and a reduced number of high traffic access points to the pipes. I think everyone could win on that one. We get the connectivity and the providers anyway keep - and perhaps greatly expand - their business.

On the application side, you give the example of skype for a P2P application and say that there is plenty of potential to do some very good things using different strands of P2P technology.

What would be, in your view, some of the other P2P applications that we can look forward to in the not too distant future?
That is fine Simon,

whenever the opportunity arises, we'll talk.
Hey guys,

Just a couple days ago I was reading "Nishanth Sastry, Karen Sollins, Jon Crowcroft: Architecting Citywide Ubiquitous Wi-Fi Access. The Sixth Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks (HotNets-VI)." http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~nrs32/pubs/hotnets6.pdf which claims the costs would be near zero if we just use the regular consumer WI-FI boxes that so many people already have. We could also offer "at cost" 802.11[g or n] devices to people in dead-spot areas
similar to what the http://fon.com kids do.

Sam Rose and Marcin Jakubowski are also working on
http://openfarmtech.org/index.php?title=Point_To_Peer which I thought they would have mentioned by now.

I want to side with Simon in this debate.

The internet is not a perfect p2p infrastructure, yet it has enabled point to point communication on a global scale, the web is client-server but has been instrumental in launching an unprecedented wave of social sharing; the key issue is: is participation being enabled, or disabled, and on whose terms. Thus the web 2.0 proprietary platforms create a field of tension in which user communities can learn to be aware of their own interests, and this will drive literacy and awareness of peer production.

But as long as this works 'on the whole', I suspect that alternative infrastructures will only get marginal support, as most people are simply busy sharing and creating common knowledge and enabling all kinds of direct social production that they see emerging from their own interests.

This being said, I'm of course in favour of supporting p2p technology projects that can enhance participatory structures.

In case this contact could be useful :

I remember , at least 6 or 7 years back , when "Jean-Charles de Longueville" was mentioning this non-perfect , controlled ( routing ? ) internet issue.

Jean-Charles is one of the initiators of the Belgian hobbyist "ad hoc multi hop wireless network" http://reseaucitoyen.be , and at that time ( did not meet him in the last years ) a researcher working for the ULB university.
He also runs hes own engineering company http://www.hellea.be/

He also worked on the development of a routing protocol - called " zone routing protocol " :


other projects done through hellea :


hes email : jch - at - reseaucitoyen.be

or : jch - at - hellea.be




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