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Friday, September 16, 2005

FreeNet is converting to a darknet model. Not sure I like that idea, but we'll see how well they interconnect.

It has been quite some time since I last sent a status update to the announcement mailing list.

This is an exciting time for the project, we are essentially rewriting Freenet from the ground up, embracing that which has worked, and throwing out that which hasn't. Furthermore, we are fundamentally improving Freenet's security, functionality, and usability.

Version 0.7 of Freenet aims to create a scalable "darknet", where users only connect directly to other users they know and trust. The purpose of this change is to protect users who may be placed at risk simply by using the software, irrespective of what they are using it for.

In this new approach, only people you choose to connect to will know that you are running the software. Previous attempts at "dark" P2P networks, such as WASTE, have been limited to relatively small disconnected networks, allowing you to exchange information with a few of your friends, not beyond that.

The core innovation in Freenet 0.7 will be to allow a globally scalable darknet, capable of supporting millions of users, nobody has ever achieved anything like this before. This is made possible by the observation that human relationships tend to form small-world networks, a property that can be exploited to find short paths between any two people. The work is based on a talk given at DEFCON 13 in July by Oskar Sandberg and myself [1].

Other modifications include switching from TCP to UDP, which allows UDP hole punching along with faster transmission of messages between peers in the network. This will greatly simplify the task of getting a Freenet node up and running, our goal is that you run the software, and it "just works", with no mucking around with firewalls or complicated configuration files.

We have learned much over the past few years. One of those things is that it is difficult to simultaneously do experimental research, while at the same time deploying a working usable piece of software. As a result, 0.7 will in may ways be a simplification of Freenet, sticking more closely to that which we know works, and for which there is a strong mathematical basis, and leaving the more "far out" ideas to the academic community.

Having said that, from the user's perspective 0.7 will have significant new functionality. While previously Freenet only supported the insertion and retrieval of information, Freenet 0.7 will support new modes of usage including the real-time broadcast of messages. Applications of this range from real-time anonymous chat (perhaps through the IRC protocol) to RSS-feeds.

The work on all of this is well underway, with experimental code already being tested by a small group of volunteers (you can often find them in the #freenet-alphatest channel on We anticipate the public release of Freenet 0.7 before Christmas this year."

~Ian Clarke


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