My History With Meshnets
I’ll be as brief as I can.
My distaste for the Microsoft scheme got me interested in Linux, particularly for learning servers and building sites. That lead me to a love of open source. Then I de-Googled and that rabbit hole lead me to MeshNets. The human readable addresses (domain names, if you will) led me to blockchain solutions like NameCoin and Nxt. I spent a lot of time in all the different forums and chat services learning and networking. If you are here and reading this, I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.
A huge amount of time was spent researching, working on and shilling meshnets a few years back. Nobody seemed to care. Over the last few years, I have completely lost track of what was happening with meshnets and it looks like a lot of projects and communities have been abandoned during that time. I sort of gave up, lost interest and re-Googled (they really are great for SEO and analytics, lol). It looks like others did also.
Now I am regretting all of that. I didn’t give up my interest in open source and decentralization, but I did give up working so hard to stay away from big tech.
Looking at my research and the stuff that I still have on my computer, it looks like I was involved from around 2010 to around 2016. At the time there seemed to be steady, albeit slow growth.
State of the MeshNets
Maybe this extremely powerful and liberating technology can get some traction in today’s turmoil. I have suddenly started seeing a few of my geeky anarcho friends talking about them. These are the type of people with the skills and reach to actually get stuff done. This makes me feel a little rejuvenated so here I am spending a few days doing some research into the state of MeshNets and proposing some thoughts.
- What Are Mesh Nets? A meshnet is a group of people connecting their own hardware (routers) and sharing resources as well as owning a part of the system a variety of ways to create a decentralized networked communications system. These systems can be inter connected over long distance or within close neighborhoods. They can share internet access but it is not the internet.
- Why Do We Need Mesh Nets? Right this moment is a critical time in our ability to communicate freely. We do not currently own our means of communication. Big tech has really shown us exactly how true that is lately. We could use Meshnets to take ownership and make our networks more resilient and more robust through decentralization. This decentralization means that any damage or downed systems will just be automatically rerouted around.
- Recommended Technologies For Mesh Nets
- CJDNS: “An encrypted IPv6 network using public-key cryptography for address allocation and a distributed hash table for routing.” From what I can tell, this is by far the best tech available.
- Ubiquiti: There are all sorts of hardware options for different applications from extending access indoors, around the neighborhood or even over long distance, but everyone seems to really like the cost effective performance and ability to flash custom firmware on the Ubiquity line of wireless routers.
- Mesh Net Communities – I will be contacting as many as I can over the next week or so to attempt to get updates and see how I can learn more about what they are up to. I would be more than happy to get online and chat with any of these projects and communities or even load up with my awesome gear and go out to do some documentation and share it all with you.
- freifunk.net: “Freifunk is a non-commercial initiative for free wireless networks”
- NYC Mesh: Originally based on cjdns. Appear to be very active and expanding.
- Red Hook wifi:
- Toronto Mesh: Active community with many nodes.
- SudoRoom: Organizies SudoMesh, which is not online anymore. I will contact them for more information.
- SudoMesh: Created and managed by SudoRoom. They have a wiki.
- disaster.radio: “…off-grid, solar-powered, long-range mesh network built on free, open source software and affordable, open hardware.”
- Mechtastic: Can be used whenever SmartPhones have no connection or when they are dangerous to use.
- Santa Cruz Meshnet: Using PeoplesOpen.net and CJDNS.
- NoVA Mesh Network: “The NoVA Mesh network is a regional implementation of the AREDN project. Microwave infrastructure is built between Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun Counties in Northern Virginia.”
- /darknetplan: There is fresh interest shown here. Lets try to get them over here to #Hive.
- Guifi.net: “Commons Telecommunications Network Open Free and Neutral”
My initial thoughts
The same old problems:
The problem with this kind of project is the same as any other decentralized or open source emerging technology; it is completely up to each of us to develop, market, fund, test, re-iterate and sustain. Its a tough problem that really does plague on-boarding and long term sustainability of all free tech that I am aware of.
The price for such things is our own involvement and that is a very high price over time.
We really do have the tools right now.
Even though many projects and communities have been abandoned, we could very quickly resurrect things and surpass the threshold for adoption. We have the hardware, the software, the expertise, the open governance, the censorship proof blockchain dapps and even a whole lot more.
With blockchain options like Hive, LBRY and maybe a few others, we have crypto currencies that are excellent for native use as currency to drive a new data transmission economy.
Hive is a great place to cooperate and grow this endeavor as it is designed to fuel social action. This might be the answer to the open source, decentralized sustainability problem.
How I envision things could be.
Lets see if I can do a reasonable job articulating this…
I can imagine households having routers pointed at a neighbor or two and a few houses connected to super nodes connected to businesses that have long haul transmitters connected to other towns. Anyone is free to provide any connection they see fit.
Each house could have their own suite of software like Nextcloud (does all the Google like collaboration stuff), a Hive node for social media and whatever else they want running in their own server. This is no where near as complicated as it may sound and a few people could package these things up nice and neat to sell and maintain as a local business.
Phones like the Librem 5 or Pinephone running Linux (really any could do, but these are completely open to build on) could run as routers extending the network. We could end the cellular providers and replace them with our own infrastructure and technology. Honestly, I think we are already looking at the end of cell phones as we have traditionally known them anyway, but that is another article.
This could create an entirely new economy enabled by cryptocurrency (#Hive is fast with zero transaction fees) where each owner of a node at their home could potentially profit from the data they transmit.
If you have any interest of expertise, please join us. We could certainly use all the guidance, support and technical help we can get. It is up to us to do it all.
Join us on Discord: https://discord.gg/5fPatJx and more importantly on Hive.
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