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GNU/consensus Whistle

Volume I, Number 1


Editorial: Internet End-to-End

Stuff I want to talk about for August... The P2P / cypherpunk side of socialnet (minus Bitcoin, which will come in an upcoming issue about p2p-economy). Make this issue more attractive to potential contributors to the projects...

You Broke the Internet. We're Making Ourselves a GNU One

Keywords: GNunet, SecuShare, Internet Censorship, and Free Software. ( from )

This is the video from the talks given by Christian Grothoff, Carlo von lynX, Jacob Appelbaum and Richard Stallman in Berlin on August 1st. The talks are in English, even though the welcoming words are in German.

Christian Grothoff's talk summarized the recent revelations about PRISM and their implications for non-American citizens, industries and governments. It then presented technical solutions towards a secure and fully decentralized future Internet, which would address key challenges for self-determined life created by the world-wide police state.

Interesting details on this:

  • A new cryptographic method for a privacy-capable DNS/DNSSEC replacement, called GNS.
  • A faster and smarter extensible messaging syntax than XML and JSON, called PSYC. (WIP--add link to tg's text before launch)
  • A strategy for distributed and liberated Internet search, called RegEx.

Carlo von lynX gave a presentation on how secushare intends to provide messaging and Faceboogle-like functionality on top of GNUnet. Keywords: Scalability by multicast; Social graph vs. Onion routing; Unsafety of your own server.

Richard Stallman and Jacob Appelbaum added closing notes of free software and free hardware and responded to questions.

   It's not about how much you want to make
   believe you got nothing to hide. It's about your
   civic duty to not be a predictable populace.
   -- lynX

Big thanks to the Pirate Party for providing the venue and the recording technology.

Failure to Synergize

by lynX

Eleanor asked for cooperation again, although we already concluded at last year's meeting that we should stop developing horizontally, each project its own complete new Internet stack, and rather work vertically: DHT hackers focus on the P2P backbone, others focus on the distributed messaging capabilities and ultimately all the GUI and usability hackers build on top of it. Thus, there should be only one core P2P engine and only one multicast implementation that allows for long-term scalability – or at least we should focus on having just one of each until we have at least one complete functional stack. Then we can always fork into all directions and improve on this or that.

The distributed routing core

The de-facto leading core is Tor. Hidden services are for the win. Issues with exit nodes or javascript-based traps are not relevant for our purposes, or if they are, then they will affect us on any routing core. Actual problems with Tor are the necessity of directory servers and, if I'm not mistaken, the unflexible number of hops - too low for some requirements, too high for real-time streaming. Not sure if it makes sense to work on Tor or any other routing engine as GNUnet seems to be conceptually way ahead. That's why I don't understand why projects like Briar, Retroshare and Tox are still spinning their own wheel - some of them not even offering onion routing. I thought we had sorted that out at the last meeting, but maybe somebody can explain to me what I am missing. Maybe we should all learn the tools first.

The message distribution layer

Since our application focus is social we have the most massive scalability problem there is, therefore if we don't want to do applications limited for small groups we must solve the multicast distribution issue. It's still rocket science, but it has been done before. Even Facebook and Google have multicast distribution strategies somewhere in their cloud backbone. We're not alone. Payload extensibility is also a plus. This is what secushare is currently working on and I don't see other projects providing this part of the puzzle in any form, yet. Consider that even if you think servers are okay and federation architectures aren't all bad, you still need a distribution strategy – and that just hasn't been dealt with. At least from my point of view. Not sure if yours is sufficiently different to not consider this the bottleneck of ten years of attempts to redo social networking in a free way.

The GUIs

This seems to be the area that has seen most work. Some like Retroshare have developed native GUIs while the majority has done web-based interfaces. As long as the address in the browser is something like localhost, even web-based can do, so there is plenty of possibility to try out different user interface approaches and application focuses on top of the same backbone.


The Briar Project

The Briar project is building secure communication tools to enable journalists, activists and civil society groups to communicate safely without fear of government interference. The project aims to bring secure communication to the masses through easy-to-use mobile and desktop apps that can operate with or without Internet access.


cjdns is a networking protocol and reference implementation, founded on the ideology that networks should be easy to set up, protocols should scale up smoothly, and security should be ubiquitous.

GNUnet + Secushare

Not just obfuscated P2P with a DHT, we also address scalability by use of stateful multicast subscription channels, addressability by a new cryptographic name resolution strategy called GNS, application flexibility by letting the app choose the number of hops for each message and extensibility by means of the PSYC syntax which performs almost as fast as binary protocols while providing comparable semantic richness to XML. and

See also

Tox Is Not Skype

Issue #58

<lynX> From what i gather in the roadmap they chose to redo yet another DHT backend instead of building upon existing ones. There is no sign of onion routing thus I presume Tox is trying to achieve what Retroshare already provides today: end-to-end encrypted chat, VoIP and more without meta-data obfuscation.

Update: Serious problems in the implementation reported by developer


Pond: Like Email But Not Quite

  • state: beta (do not use it says the author, but we are doing it anyway)
  • ephemeral email-like messaging with perfect-forward-secrecy


Powerful engine, but some pieces are missing as yet. See also

Production mode

I²P: Invisible Internet Project

I²P (Invisible Internet Project) is a computer network layer that allows applications to send messages to each other pseudonymously and securely. Uses include anonymous web surfing, chatting, blogging and file transfers.

Read Christian's paper on I2P:


<lynX> ... does the full show in features: messaging, web sites, forums, VoIP, social. The GUI even looks end-user compatible, although it terribly needs a usability revamp. Apparent weaknesses: "Pseudo" onion routing only on demand, social graph visible by direct links, no multicasting strategy, forward secrecy only on link-level. So it needs a hand to become something recommendable, but the effort that already went into it is impressive.

Tor Needs Relays

Relay the (permanent) call for relays...

<lynX> then again it is quite performant these days.. how is that possible? Hidden services show how to use Tor for real. torchat is just a simple example of how they perform, but really everyone should operate their personal crypto mailbox on a hidden service address..It's the first step in re-inventing the Internet, do your old-fashioned Internet services behind a .onion. We can gain some experience from this and work it into our new developments. Oh wait, that's exactly what Pond is about.. only it does so much smarter than regular e-mail.