Tag Archives: decentralized

Tildeverse, Gopherspace and Geminispace

It’s been a while since my last article.
I know I said I would post an article everyday for the month of July, but hey – I had a headache for a few days and then went exploring through the internet. And guess what I found?! It’s been totally worth the wait.

Let’s start with Tildeverse.
dun dun dunnnnn… boom! boom! Fireworks everywhere!
Tildeverse is like the Fediverse but retro.
Tildeverse is what the Fediverse would’ve looked like if it had been invented in the late 90’s.
And I like it!
How would I define the Fediverse? Open source, decentralized, federated social networks hosting different services that are integrated together by one protocol – ActivityPub. Phew! Did I nail it or what?

Now the Tildeverse has some similarities with the Fediverse, and some differences.
First of all, there is no single unifying protocol; BUT, there is the Terminal! Oh yeah!
While exploring the Tildeverse, I discovered the use of SSH, SFTP, Gopher, Gemini, HTTP, IRC, Finger, SMTP, RSS, SIP, ActivityPub and even WebDAV! Is this cool or what?
I think it is!

Now, if I examine the Fediverse in a similar light, it also uses several different protocols, but the ActivityPub is the main unifying protocol.

So what is the tildeverse? It is a collection of communities just like the Fediverse. But they’re all centered around one thing – *nix. That is, Linux, Unix, and BSD.
Each community has a shared Linux system that users can log into via SSH and do various things like programming, creating web pages, play games, chat on IRC, read and send emails, browse and post on Bulletin Boards(Bulletin Butter & Jelly/BBJ), mailing lists, ttbp(tilde town blogging platform)/feels, ttrv(tilde town reddit viewer), use the finger protocol (for lack of better words), use git repositories and so on.
Each community offers a given number of services, so don’t expect a server to have all services.

Then there’s tilderadio, a really cool radio station.

I like it. Tildeverse is sort of like an underground network of communities free from corporate spying, marketing and advertising.

Okay. The Gopher protocol.
This is a protocol that preceded the www in the early 90’s when computer resources were still quite minimal. The approach is simple, minimalistic and very resource efficient.
Unfortunately due to corporate bureaucracy, the HTTP took off, and Gopher was slowly killed due to the lack of support by newer clients.

As a 90’s kid, I’d never heard of Gopher until I stumbled onto Tildeverse. Then I came across Tomasino’s YouTube video explaining the Gopher Protocol and a few minutes in, I had to go explore it myself and do my own research.

The Gopher protocol is mainly used for text based websites, though there are options for documents and images as well.

To my surprise, there are actually hundreds of Gopherspaces existing underground, with thousands of users scattered across the globe.

The Tildeverse refers to these sites as gopherholes while the rest of the Gopher community refer to them as gopherspaces. I like the sound of gopherspace. Gopherhole sounds like some garbage pit in the jungle.

If you want to search for gopher sites, there’s the Veronica search engine which has a HTTP proxy if you’re using a regular Browser. I checked it out and it works pretty well.

I spent two days setting up my own gopherspace.
And then I came across the Gemini protocol.

Now, the Gemini Protocol is a new protocol similar to the Gopher protocol that adds privacy and supports MIME and TLS.
Essentially, the Gemini Protocol brushes up the shortcomings of the Gopher Protocol.

Even though the protocol is new, there are already a few communities providing Gemini hosting. That’s nice.

If you want to search for gemini sites, there’s the Gus and Houston search engines, as well as aggregators that show recently updated sites.

I’ve yet to set up my own Geminispace, but I’m looking forward to it.

Okay. There’s a lot more that could be said that I can’t remember or have yet to discover.
But this article pretty much summarizes everything that I’ve learned so far.

Personally, this is my alternative to SSB. Ever since my terrible experience with Secure Scuttlebutt, I’ve constantly been on the lookout for a viable replacement.
This is it.

Gemini and Gopher are low-resource, minimalistic and quite private.
Anyway, as far as privacy is concerned, it’s quite a relative subject. How do you want your privacy to be implemented? Who do you want to access your information? Whom do you want to protect your information from?

Using Gopher, I don’t have to sync several Gigs of data in a span of a few weeks of casual usage. Neither do I have to worry about my slow CPU throttling and crapping itself because of one application.

I’ve downloaded and tested several gopher clients and all of them work flawlessly. Wish that could be said of the SSB clients.

The only drawback for Gopher and Gemini is that there are no mobile clients.
And I’m currently wondering if I could use a Terminal on Android to access gopher and gemini sites.
Well, that remains to be seen.
I’m not particularly worried about it though, as I’ve limited my use of phone to surf the web, browse 4chan, Reddit and HackerNews and set my alarm clock.

Crappy Privacy Alternatives: Secure Scuttlebutt

Secure Scuttlebutt was created in 2014. It advocates itself as a decentralized social network platform. Anyone who’s used the Fediverse would find it relatively easy to dive into SSB.

Unlike the Fediverse, however, SSB has a lot of design problems. First of all, in order to get started with SSB, you will need an invite code from an SSB Server. The SSB Server will connect a new user to other users who joined through the same server, and neighboring servers and users.

The SSB Server replicates all data from it’s users. And by design, the users also replicate data from the server and other users. Anyone you connect with will automatically download all your data and vice versa. Data in this context refers to user posts. A user can change how many peer circles he wants to interact with. If one chooses to see a peer of a peer of a peer, then it automatically increases the amount of data he will have to sync up. The more friends you make, the more data that will be synced and downloaded to your device. Hopefully you have tens of Gigabytes of storage lying free on your devices to store crap content from your SSB peers.

This kind of design would be suitable for extremely social and “stalkerish” people who like to know everything about their online friends.

For a hermit like me, who doesn’t give a crap about the constant chitchat nonsense on other people’s timelines, SSB is fundamentally useless.

My vision of social networking is this: I would like to be in control of what information I put on the internet, and who gets to see it. But I would also not like to have people download a bunch of apps, join some obscure p2p network and go hunting for my posts. My content should be readily available to my audience even if they’re not members of my social network. There shouldn’t be any paywall or signup forms barring eyes to my content. That being said, my content should be available to whoever is willing to look it up – simply; not hunt for it like a bunch of Easter eggs.

A user’s ID and related data is stored in some SSB hidden folder. One would have to manually backup the folder and store it elsewhere if they wanted to restore their profile. In case you forget to do that and wipe your drive or move to a different OS, then your ID and profile is gone forever. There is no means of restoring it because there is no centralized or decentralized method or system allocated to do that.

When I wiped my netbook and installed a new build of Krsnah Desktop OS, I installed Patchwork, and then realized I couldn’t get my profile back. I would’ve had to make a new one. When I wiped my phone and installed a new build of Krsnah Mobile OS, I installed Manyverse, restored my profile using recovery keys, but wasn’t connected to anyone at all. So I tried joining the SSB Server that I’d created my profile with, and it rejected the invite. By design, the SSB Server cannot re-invite a user, which means that a user cannot sync his data back from the original SSB Server. In this case, one would need to have real life friends, who actively used SSB, who could be peers that the user could get his old data back from. But that’s just my educated guess. I live in a country where there may be a dozen SSB users at most – none of them that I would personally know, and none that would still be using a crappy app like SSB. It would serve no purpose. In an event of censorship and evading government surveillance, even if somebody put a message on SSB, how many people could it really reach? One would need to have thousands of peers for it to be even a little effective.

Of the multiple SSB apps available, I could only get Patchwork to work on my netbook. Manyverse is currently the only Android app available and it’s terrible. The app doesn’t show any information whether it’s syncing or not, leaving the user to keep guessing and refreshing until he saw data being downloaded. This means that one could probably leave the app on for hours without seeing new posts from his peers. As a result, during my usage of Manyverse, I kept seeing posts that ranged from several hours old to several days old. Is that efficient design? I don’t think so. Imagine protestors in Hong Kong using Manyverse as their primary communication. By the time messages were received, several people would be dead, and many others in jail.

The reason I’m focusing on real world usage is because I saw posts from people advocating SSB to fight censorship and surveillance in third world countries. But how would that work out? If it can’t be decent for normal usage, how can be it useful in times of emergency?

I know I’m sounding awfully negative today. But this is the real world. I’m the practical daily user and I’m here to state the facts. If I’m not satisfied with it’s use case, how could the rest of the Facebook and Twitter crowd even be persuaded to try it out?

When I first heard of SSB sometime around 2016, I looked it up and couldn’t figure the butt from the head. It’s 2020 now. Given the amount of time the devs would’ve had to iron things out, I’m not pleased with the experience. So I quit SSB not because I gave up on it, but because it gave up on me. I lost my profiles on Patchwork and Manyverse, and couldn’t be arsed to create new ones given the problems I had.

After all these years, SSB is still not quite user-ready. I will be willing to give it another shot, maybe, after 10 years, that is, if it manages to stay alive till 2030. But I have a feeling that the devs will come to the same realization that I had – the crappy design was doomed right from the start.

Crappy Privacy Alternatives: Blockchain, Blockstack and DApps

I haven’t posted in a few days. I was procrastinating and got distracted by other things. But now that I’m here, I’m feeling angry. And so I’m going to expose crappy technology in the privacy world.

Blockchain was developed by some anonymous Japanese dude to serve as a public transaction ledger for bitcoin. The dude invented the cryptocurrency and it’s ledger – bitcoin and blockchain.

How does blockchain work? As a ledger. I suppose it keeps a public and permanent record of stuff. It could be centralized or decentralized.

I’m not a blockchain or cryptocurrency fan. As a result, my understanding of the technology is pretty vague.

Blockchain may serve it’s purpose well for it’s “banking services”. But other than that, it’s crap.

Take any other services based on blockchain – they’re crap.

What is Blockstack? How does it work? I don’t know and I don’t care! Their website is inaccessible using Tor – You have to solve some crappy captcha. I HATE CAPTCHA.

When you go through the Blockstack website, it promotes a bunch of crappy apps with no text that summarizes how the technology works.

Okay. I had to give their whitepaper a brief glance to see if I could find anything useful. Here’s what I see: “business logic and data processing runs on the client.” No wonder blockstack apps are so slow. That’s the main reason why blockstack apps are crappy – they’re too damn slow.

What is DApps? DApps – an acronym for decentralized applications, is the official name for applications that use blockchain technology to provide some services. Are blockstack apps DApps? Yes. But I don’t see that mentioned anywhere on their crappy website.

Now I tried to look for some dApps which privacy advocates may have heard of: Ethereum Name Service, DTube, Minds.com, beta.cent.co, SpringRole.com, LBRY, Steemit, Hive Blog, Sense Chat, BitTube etc. And these are just apps which have managed to have a usable interface with simple user interactions. The rest of the dApps that I’ve come across have multiple steps to sign up and log into individual apps. It’s a headache that nobody wants to deal with. Regular apps and websites have simple sign up and login methods. dApps have methods from hell. Did I mention how painfully slow they are?

When I was looking for an alternative to YouTube a few years ago, I gave LBRY a shot. I searched for videos to watch and found a bunch of crappy ones. I never opened that app again.

LBRY, Steemit, BitTube, Minds.com probably have the simplest blockchain implementation that I’ve seen. Yet they still manage to suck so bad, it’s not even worth trying them again.

And this brings me to my conclusion. Any technology that involves money will become crappy so fast, it will make your stupid head spin. Especially, when the currency involved is in crypto. Now why am I saying this? Because it’s true. The incentive to monetize everything on the internet has destroyed some really good projects. Everyone who gets involved in such projects has one goal in mind – earn some crypto. Right from the developers down to the users. Everybody’s thinking about making some bitcoins and it drives the entire network down the drain.

What’s the future of these technologies? Unless someone implements it for a Free and Open Source Software cause, there is no future. These projects will gain no traction unless they’re separated from the cryptocurrency side. I know the devs need to make a living. But rubbing the crypto crap on everything will doom them right from the start.

I never liked advent of cryptocurrency. Just like real-world money, the greed it brought alongside destroyed everything. If money is the motive, what’s the difference between blockchain apps and real world banking services? Privacy? Security? Gimme a break!

So there is no difference between commercialized premium web services and blockchain crypto-based dApps. It’s like one arm picking food directly from the plate and shoving it into the mouth while the other wraps around the head and slings it sideways while the mouth tries to catch it. How would you prefer to eat your meal?