Decentralized Tech Reviews

Reviews of Awesome Decentralized & Self-Hosted Technologies you can Start Using Today.

Low Bandwidth Github Mirror at https://decentricity.github.io

Hi there.

My name is Pandu Sastrowardoyo and I do Blockchain stuff.

I've been a decentralized technology fanatic for about a decade. I do have a soft spot in my heart for Blockchain simply because it allows decentralized* technologies to incentivize node runners. Also, due to hype and the profit incentive, Blockchain has been the main focus of a lot of conversations about decentralization.

However, that mechanism is not the only game in town. And thus, I'm planning to use this site to cover decentralization strategies that are a lot more general than Blockchain.

Decentri.city is a review and repository site for decentralized technology -- Blockchain and non-Blockchain -- that anyone can run in a self-hosted way. If you choose to follow me here (or on my Facebook or Linkedin), expect a lot more focus towards consumer-facing technology and enabling individuals and communities to thrive digitally without having to entrust their data, identity, and financials to Faceless MegaCorps (FMCs) or Overly Big Government Entities (OBGEs).

You may find ICO, IEO, STO, or DeFi reviews here but I don't think I have a lot to contribute to the topic. I might review technologies that are associated with certain cryptocurrency, but please do not consider these reviews investment advice. Token value, in my experience, has rarely been a direct function of technology value.

I believe that the evolution of computing will lead humans (and posthumans) towards one of two alternate paths:

  • A world with the illusion of freedom, packaged by FMCs and OBGEs working together, feeding you platitudes while censoring and shadowbanning voices of dissent, ending with a transhuman future when you don't own your own mind, let alone the servers running those minds, or

  • A world with true freedom & liberty, with individual data independence and systems working together, where your identity, data, and (digital) minds are your own.

Let's take the 2nd choice.


*PS: For more fun, take a shot whenever I say "decentralized".
____________________________________________________

Connect with me:

Linkedin | Github | Instagram | Facebook

_________________________________________


Click here to leave a P2P decentralized message for me with E2E encryption.

(no downloads, tracking, or login required)

"Contemporary technology allows decentralization. It also allows centralization. It all depends on how you use technology."

-- Noam Chomsky

"We're moving from a centralized understanding of the world to a decentralized understanding of the world."

-- Mike Cernovich

"The ability for an individual to select increasingly curated media would result in an electrical retribalization of the West.”

-- Marshall McLuhan (1969 Interview)


#DecentralizeThePlanet

Piratebox

Project Status: Inactive

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)

Community: ★☆☆☆☆ (1 out of 5)

Website: http://piratebox.cc & /r/piratebox

Personal Comments

My first install of PirateBox was about 5 years ago. Since then I've built 3 or 4 pirateboxes, mostly for fun, once for work. I've had a great time with my PirateBoxes and I felt an actual twinge of pain when they announced they were shutting down development.

What Exactly Is It?

It's a file-sharing / chat / forums server you can install on a wifi hotspot. You basically take one of those mini TP-Link hotspots (examples here, here, buy on Tokopedia here or on eBay here), plug a cheap USB dongle in, and flash an embedded Linux variant called OpenWRT onto it. The hotspot becomes a cute little Linux server that you can bring in your handbag or attach to the bottom of your skateboard.

Use Cases

  • A Personal Area Network that you can bring around so you can chat with your friends without an FMC-owned server. Just give your friends the hotspot's wifi password and you're set -- once a device is connected it is immediately redirected into the Piratebox's main page,

  • Your own personal Netflix. Download your entire collection of movies into the USB dongle and let your friends and family access the movies! If you have the latest version of VLC, you can even stream a movie without downloading it.

  • A digital library. Plug it into a wall socket in a public place, change the SSID to "Free_Book_ Library" or similar, and let anyone download books from the device. This is particularly useful in totalitarian countries such as China, where a lot of Western books are banned.

  • A public dropbox. Place it in a public location, give it a trickle of power (one of those solar powered chargers actually work really well -- I tried it and my Piratebox ran for days), and let anyone share anything to everyone. You'd be surprised what people upload.

  • (Evil HaXX0r use case) A phishing box. I'm not going to give any details on this one, but remember that you can set up a custom login page for your Piratebox, which means you can theme it to any login theme you want. Your building's wifi login, for example. Or even a Google login page.

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

  • The branding. "PirateBox" sounds scary and they used a skull-and-crossbones logo, which made it also *look* scary for the general public. The default install has a start page that says something like "Don't worry! You're not being hacked. Breathe. Relax." which probably wouldn't relax a ton of people. As a result interactions with public Pirateboxes usually end up *seeming* dodgy or negative, which didn't really help with adoption. The fact that you can use a Piratebox to do bad stuff (see "Evil HaXX0r use case", above) probably wasn't very good either.

  • Piratebox uses HTTP, not HTTPS, for obvious reasons. (It's a local server with no CA credentials and mostly no access to the internet.) This means that newer browsers would flag every page it loads with the dreaded "This page might be unsafe" icon next to the URL.

  • OpenWRT is getting harder and harder to flash on routers. The latest firmware updates aren't friendly to flashing, so if you're keen to try this out, don't let your router update before you flash it.

What's Next for Piratebox?

As you can see from the subheader text, the project itself is inactive (no more forum support, no active development schedule), but the repo is still online and there is an active subreddit. You can still install it and run it, although you do have to troubleshoot a few things yourself.

There is also a Piratebox application that you can install on a rooted Android. Note though that it has even less support and is very buggy unless your phone runs the Kali Nethunter ROM.

The future does not look very bright for Piratebox, to be brutally honest. However, it'll take you less than US$30 to try it out, and it's really not too late to do so. Think of it as your post-apocalypse server, keep it in your bag, back up your photos into it instead of Google Photos or Amazon Photos. Even if society crumbles, your photos will still be safe.


Back to Menu or Back to Top

Iris (Whatsapp Replacement)

Project Status: Active

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Community: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)

Website: http://iris.to

Personal Comments

There is no shortage of messenger applications these days, but I'm old enough to remember how many generations of these kinds of apps came and went. The trend started with mIRC, which was installed in every internet cafe and was the first piece of chat software everyone knew about. Then came the domination of Yahoo Messenger. Then came ICQ. Also, in some parts of the world, Blackberry Messenger.

The current battle of the chat applications -- Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger -- is just the most recent kerfuffle in a decades-long war.

Here's the problem: In my opinion, we're headed the wrong way. IRC was, and still is, a very open protocol you can host on your own PC. Yahoo and ICQ -- not so much. And now the two dominant chat apps, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, owned by a single company, which also happens to be the largest data company in the world.

Yes, all of these chat apps offer end-to-end encryption, ensuring that your data stays on your device. However, these apps still operate on proprietary code you can't audit, and they still get access to your phone number and contacts list. More to the point -- they're centralized, and have all the issues that come with centralization.

Iris Messenger is totally different. You'll see.

What Exactly Is It?

Iris is a fully open-source messenger with no phone number, or signup, or even app download required. The app is peer-to-peer and offline-first. This means you can actually use the app to communicate between devices in a local offline network. That's a huge deal, since once you've gotten a meshnet set up between you and your target, you can start a chat whether you have an internet connection or not.

Of course, Iris also works over a regular internet connection and works just like a regular chat app, with a couple of huge benefits: All your data is kept on your device, and you can start a chat with someone who doesn't even have the app, by just sending her an Iris.to link.

Walkthrough

When you open Iris.to on any browser, you'll find a prompt to enter your nickname. No logins required, no phone number needed, no access to your contacts requested. If you click "Already have an account?" you won't find a prompt to enter your phone, your email, or anything else to "recover your password". Instead, you get asked to fill your private key in, via textbox or QR scan.

The website works really well across browsers and devices. Once you're in, you can copy an iris.to link so people can privately chat with you, or create a group and generate a link for people to join that group. Or choose to create a QR code instead, which you can print out or show on your screen.

Here's a sample group link. Go ahead, try clicking it. It will take you directly to the prompt that asks for your name, and then directly into the Decentricity group I just created. Your browser generates your private keys behind the scenes, and every time you open the iris.to website you'll see all your groups and chats.

If you look around you'll find that with a bit of WebRTC setup, you can make video calls. You can also copy your private keys so you can always recover your account on any device. To enable local offline chats, you can set up P2P nodes of your own and federate them to existing nodes you're connected to. This little web-based app even gives you notifications when messages come in.

Ready for the next step? Find the Download Link and choose your OS to download the desktop app. I've tried the app in Ubuntu and Windows, it runs like butter on both platforms. The best thing about this app, of course, is that it allows offline connectivity between users in the same local network.

Use Cases

  • I'd love to see a zombie movie that features this app. If society totally breaks down and we had to rebuild communications from scratch, Iris.to would be the way to do it.

  • Planning your next secret tryst? Spin up an Iris chat window and have your partner scan the QR code.

  • Want to deploy customer service for a website/event/venue , but not sure whether you should use Whatsapp, Telegram, or some other chat app? Use Iris QR codes instead, and chat with your customers without them having to go through lengthy download and login processes.

  • I mean, it's a chat app. The possibilities are endless.

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

I have no idea. Their Facebook page is 6 years old and only has 135 likes last time I checked. There's a paltry list of articles shared on the page, none of them on mainstream media, and trying to Google the project by its chosen name, "Iris Messenger" yields nothing on the first page of Google.

Fighting the huge social & tech giants can't be that easy or cheap, and looking around their sites, I think the only monetization model they have is through bitcoin donations. Judging from the amount of people on their Facebook page, I'm not sure they're getting a lot of those.

What Is Next For Iris Messenger?

Iris is high-quality software, in my opinion. The experience is well-designed, account creation is instantaneous, and the apps & websites run well. Sure, there are some rough spots -- spinning up new host nodes isn't as straightforward as it should be, and the Linux AppImage doesn't package-update -- but those are only tiny flaws in what is an absolute minimalistic gem of a chat app.

I think you should use it. I think you should tell your friends to use it. I think you should send your iris.to group invites in your Whatsapp groups and tell them to chat with you on Iris instead. I think you should use your iris.to link in event posters, Linkedin profile, and your Instagram bio. If we want a truly decentralized future, this decentralized chat app needs to go viral.


And if you have a few Satoshis laying around, you should donate to them. Here's their bitcoin address:

3GopC1ijpZktaGLXHb7atugPj9zPGyQeST


Back to Menu or Back to Top

Commotion Wireless

Project Status: Low Activity

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)

Community: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)

Website: https://commotionwireless.net

Personal Comments

If you've been on the internet for awhile, you've probably already heard of the concept of mesh networks. As such, Commotion Wireless is not a very unique concept, per-se. However, the way Commotion Wireless is envisioned is something I really like. Unlike other meshnet projects that are only aimed towards individual hobbyists or enterprises, these guys aim to enable and empower communities. The websites include complete guides, both technical and non-technical, for a community to implement a full-scale mesh network.

One unfortunate thing about Commotion Wireless is the fact that they haven't updated most of their packages in awhile. Their Android apk is signed 2012 and there is only one release. But I decided to choose this project for my page since their approach needs to be copied by other decentralized projects out there. Instead of just focusing on the developers and hobbyists, projects need to focus on the wider community. If you can get all your neighbors to install meshnet nodes, you'd have a network that is orders of magnitude more valuable than a network where only the "geeks" and hobbyists have nodes.

What Exactly Is It?

A mesh network is a network of nodes (consisting of routers, phones, or other computing devices) that communicate to each other using common wireless protocols to "blanket" an area with wireless connectivity. Wireless internet is broadcast out of every node in the meshnet, and provides connectivity for other devices in the network that aren't nodes. What's more, communication between the computing devices in the meshnet can be done "locally" -- without a public internet connection -- even if the two computing devices are very far away, as long as there is a route through the meshnet between the two devices.

Commotion Wireless is a meshnet implementation that aims to create community wireless networks from the outset. I like it because it's complete (mobile, PC, and router variants are available) and makes it very practical for communities to make a MeshNet.

It's NOT the only meshnet around, though. Check out this GitHub for a list of other awesome ones. Special mentions: FreeNetProject, IPFS, and Project Meshnet itself, now known as Hyperboria.

Use Case

Imagine having a meshnet envelop a whole neighborhood, a whole city, or even a whole country. Then imagine these mesh networks connecting to each other. You'd actually have a truly decentralized alternative to the current internet, with no ISPs, no centralized chat servers that steal your data, no tech giants observing your behavior. You wouldn't even need your telco company.

Meshnets like Commotion Wireless are game changers for countries where free speech is censored.

Walkthrough

When you open the Commotion Wireless main site, you''d be welcomed by a friendly menu asking you to choose between the approaches you'd prefer. The central approach is the CCK -- the Commotion Construction Kit -- but you can also go directly to Download & Documentation if you'd prefer.

Going into the CCK page, we see that it includes a "do it ourselves" guide to building a community wireless network. Everything is open source, printer friendly, and you can even download a zip file containing all the documents if you'd like to distribute them offline.

Taking a look at the Table of Contents, we see that the CCK is not just a technical guide -- it's an organizing and planning guide as well.

Going back into the main page and clicking "Download" would bring you to a page where you can try out one of the commotion wireless implementation models. You basically choose between whether you'd like to install Commotion Wireless on a router, a PC, or a mobile phone. Yes, your (rooted Android) phone can be a meshnet node.

You might have noticed that it says that Commotion Android is "to be released in early 2014", and alarm bells might be ringing in your head. Especially when you click through to "phones" and it shows that the last release was in 2012. Yes, this is hardly Enterprise-grade implementation.

But it works.

I've actually tried Commotion Wireless back in 2017 with two TP-Link routers and a rooted phone. Everything connects, everything was relatively easy to set up, and if I wanted to blanket my housing complex with Commotion intranet, I would have been able to.

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

My opinion:

  • Meshnets in general haven't caught on because the mainstream internet is so ubiquitous in the First World. Everyone is online, everywhere, and there is no need for an "alternate internet".

  • Meshnets also haven't caught on because of the lack of applications built for meshnets, and the ubiquitousness of applications or websites built for the regular internet (Facebook, Netflix, etc).

  • Meshnet implementation is seen as technologically challenging and are only done by networking geeks.

  • Commotion Wireless has actually caught on -- there were city-wide implementations back in 2013 -- but I don't think it has been maintained, because of the lack of incentives for people to work on these meshnet projects. I think Commotion caught on in the wrong area of the world: most Commotion implementations are in the US or Europe, where there is relatively little connectivity problems. There is no incentive for adoption or expansion in these communities. And thus, ironically, the Commotion Wireless communities dwindled in number.

What's Next for Commotion Wireless?

I'm going to deliberately conflate this with the question "what's next for meshnets?"

My answers:

  • Meshnets need to go plug-and-play, and it needs to use the Commotion Wireless strategy of being very community-focused. Make it as seamless as possible for a community to plan, purchase, and build everything they need to get a meshnet up and running.

  • These seamless, plug-and-play meshnets need to to be targeted to third-world countries or remote regions with connectivity problems.

  • Meshnets need a way to incentivize node runners. Here are some alternatives:

    • The thing that immediately comes to mind is the Blockchain route of treating each node runners as miners and basically allowing them to receive tokens. A bunch of projects online are trying to do this, including:

      • SmartMesh.io --> payment-focused meshnet with light blockchain nodes implemented in IoT devices.

      • Althea --> lets routers share internet connectivity and have these routers directly pay each other for the bandwidth. (I might actually review this one later since I think it sounds cool.)

    • You can get funding from an NGO / govt entity and have them donate these funds to volunteer node runners in a remote region. Check with the United Nations Broadband Commission, Electronic Frontier Foundation, or other NGOs. Or contact your local city government for a partnership.

    • A company can actually help deploy meshnet nodes for a region. "Wait," you might say, "How is this different from an ISP model of deployment?" The difference would be that these meshnet companies would only be selling the nodes, and maybe some troubleshooting services. The control of the nodes would still reside with the node holders -- i.e., the households and individuals in the community.

    • You can create a "killer app" for a meshnet platform that drives people to use it simply because they want to access the application's function or content. This could be anything from social media apps, chat apps, or media streaming apps. Package your app in the open source wrappers that Commotion Wireless has provided, and share them far and wide.


Back to Menu or Back to Top

OpenSimulator

Project Status: Active

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)

Community: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Website: opensimulator.org

Personal Comments

Opensimulator is an open-source fork of the Second Life server, and in my younger years I was addicted to both of these platforms. One of the highlights of my early digital life was creating the PicoVista Museum of Computing on Second Life back in 2012. The first time I bought bitcoin was actually in-world, around that time.

What Exactly Is It?

It's a Second Life server shard that you can run on your own. If you're not familiar with Second Life, it's a multiuser 3d world platform where avatars can edit their own world, sculpt objects, create primitives, textures, etc. 99% of the world would, in effect, be user-created. Protip: Neither Second Life or Opensimulator are games, per se, but they can be used to create games.

Why is it here?

Opensimulator is not actually purely decentralized. It runs on a regular client-server model, not P2P, and if you don't have your own server you'll need to find a server to join if you want to enter the world.

However, Opensimulator has a cool feature called Hypergrid, which allows your server to connect to other servers so that your player can move from one server to another seamlessly, creating one huge multi-server world. This basically shards the platform and allows multiple servers to collaborate, with no server being "better" than any other.

I also like the philosophy of the platform -- that in-world assets are not defined server-side, but rather defined by every participating player. No 3d modeling tools are required either: Each player just creates things using the in-world sculpting mechanic. You can also program assets in-world using the Linden Scripting language -- just right-click on a rock, edit its scripting, and have it follow your avatar around and bark like a dog.

Use Cases

  • Every single game you can imagine can be created on Opensimulator without your avatar actually leaving the simulation. This is a totally unique experience you won't find on any other platform: If you do an Opensimulator hackathon, it would look like a bunch of avatars making stuff appear, sculpting them, and making them fly around.

  • Real estate. A good friend of mine (who I actually met in Second Life) uses his creations to sell houses. He basically recreates the house he's selling, plus the neighborhood, in-world, and takes his customers on tours through the neighborhood and houses.

  • Meetings, presentations, meetups, seminars, etc. Opensimulator has voice chat out of the box, has custom surfaces you can project slides on, and has a ton of meeting rooms you can either choose from or create. You can even sculpt a prototype of the thing your presenting, in-world.

  • Art stuff: 3d art school or art competitions, musical performances, stage reenactments, interactive stories with bots, etc.

  • Psychotherapy. As simple as having a therapy session with your psychologist or simulating a phobia in VR. It's relatively easy to connect an Oculus Rift to an Opensimulator viewer, and simulate walking on the roof of a tall building to cure your fear of heights.

  • Make a working space for yourself. In combination with VR, you can create a virtual office in your Opensimulator world, with virtual screens connecting you to a VM console, email, etc. I've done so myself -- here are some of my old virtual offices circa 2012-2015:

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

It was far too ahead of its time. When I tell people I used to have a VR office running on a server I host myself back in 2013, I get disbelieving looks. Also, a lot of people thought it was a game and approached it as such, and get disappointed because it was never meant to be a game and had no actual gameplay. The graphics look basic -- not because the server engine is bad, but because not a lot of development goes into the "viewers" (the client-side apps). Meanwhile, the entire VR industry has been relegated to gaming use cases, ignoring implementations like the use cases I mentioned.

What's The Future of Opensimulator?

Opensimulator remains the best collection of open source code to start your own world simulation server. However, the newly-launched project Decentraland -- which has a similar premise, with the addition of a Blockchain framework that takes care of digital assets ownership and the running of the platform -- might be the one to dominate this space and bring it to the mainstream. I'll reserve judgement for now, and I'll post another review about Decentraland once I've explored it further.

For now, let us tip our hats to the original worldbuilders -- Opensimulator and Second Life.


Back to Menu or Back to Top

Nextcloud

Project Status: Active

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)

Community: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Website: http://nextcloud.com

Personal Comments

I've always liked self-hosted apps. Instead of letting a far-away server host all the functionalities of the app you're using, having *everything* in your own computing devices (desktops, stick PCs, Raspberry Pis, laptops, phones) means you have more control over your data and you wouldn't be left up a creek without a paddle when the server owners go bankrupt.

One of my favorite YouTube reviewers discovered this first-hand and made an amazing video when his Jibo (a social robot that becomes your friend) stopped working because the company that produced it couldn't pay server running costs. I urge you to watch this video. It's in no way related to Nextcloud, but it highlights the basic pain point that made many of us fall out of love with centralization.

If you want to stop your "centralization addiction", your first steps would be to find self-hosted alternatives to the apps you currently use. And there are plenty of those online (check out these Whatsapp replacements, Facebook replacements, and Spotify replacements) but if you want to get immediately up and running, you can use Nextcloud.

What Exactly Is It?

Nextcloud is a self-hosted server package that contains a bunch of apps you can immediately use. They have a good ecosystem of applications that are immediately installable, including online collaborative office suites, chat & videoconferencing apps, media servers, map servers, and even an app to solve ransomware attacks via entropy analysis. A Nextcloud server can federate with another, which means you can host your own chat app in your home PC and still be able to talk to another user that installed Nextcloud on his/her own home PC.

There are alternatives to Nextcloud, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention them here: FreedomBox, SolidProject, Yunohost, and others. I prefer Nextcloud, but these other projects are awesome too. FreedomBox is a Debian implementation, so all Debian apps run well on it. Solidproject is backed by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Yunohost is ridiculously easy to install on your computer and probably has the best UI/UX design out of everything I've tried.

Use Cases

  • Small business implementations of Nextcloud would be a lot cheaper than a similar Google Suite implementation, because you don't really need to pay for any of these services. Nextcloud does have a paid tier (Nextcloud Enterprise) but what they provide there is basically just hosting, optimization & maintenance. Installing Nextcloud on your own office computers is 100% free.

  • Since we're all stuck at home (I'm writing here post-pandemic, 2020), a Nextcloud for the family might be an amazing idea. Use it to share movies, leave messages for your parents, create a joint shopping list, schedule chores.

  • Host a Nextcloud in your community and use it to coordinate activities. Do book drives, set up a gift exchange, plan a party.

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

It has caught on. It claims to be an "industry-leading" solution with over 250,000 servers online.

You probably haven't heard of it, though. That's because Nextcloud seems to be marketing itself mostly to businesses and enterprises, instead of to hobbyists and communities. There's nothing stopping you from installing your very own Nextcloud, though -- so give it a shot!

What Is The Future of Nextcloud?

Here's what's interesting about Nextcloud: It is an open-source, community-contributed offering with a decentralized model of implementation, and it is also an Enterprise offering with clear SLAs and pricing models. The Enterprise ecosystem effectively funds further development of the technology, and the open source community contributes directly to the creation of new technologies.

I am a lot more confident about Nextcloud's future than I am of many decentralized projects I've tried, simply because it already has a good monetization model. It's a tried-and-true one, too: It's exactly the same model RedHat, Hyperledger Fabric, and other open enterprise implementations use.



Meething (Zoom Replacement)

Project Status: Active

Concept: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

Execution: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

Community: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)

Website: http://meething.space && https://github.com/meething

Personal Comments

There is very little coverage about this light, speedy, high-performance Zoom replacement online, and that's crazy. This videoconferencing app is addressing a huge data & privacy problem. Everyone and their cats are using videoconferencing these days, while the security and privacy issues of the current leading app are in the news every day. (Yep, those are links to Zoom being hacked articles, just from this year. Check them out, they're horrifying)

Meething found a way to do videoconferencing in a much better way. A decentralized way.

What Exactly Is It?

It's a peer-to-peer, open source, browser based video conferencing system running on the GUN decentralized database. It is also browser-first, with no need for the user to download any app.

̶A̶n̶d̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶r̶u̶n̶s̶ ̶a̶m̶a̶z̶i̶n̶g̶l̶y̶.̶ ̶I̶'̶v̶e̶ ̶h̶a̶d̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶i̶s̶s̶u̶e̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶a̶f̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶ ̶w̶e̶e̶k̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶e̶s̶t̶i̶n̶g̶.̶ I have honestly had a very glaring connection issue right after that week ended. A couple of my friends and I created a Meething link and called in; we were able to see each other in the user list, but neither the video nor the sound came on. The problem resolved itself within an hour, so it might be due to the the GUN nodes getting maintained or other backend issues. It wasn't a persistent bug by any means.

As I will reveal at the end of this post, it's early days yet for Meething -- the app was built only 2 months ago, and development is active and ongoing. I'm absolutely still excited about the app and technology, since I still think the videoconferencing space desperately needs an alternative model.

Use Cases

  • Replace Zoom with this. If you want to make a private room, turn on the password. If you want to make an invite-only room, send the private room link via invite and communicate the passwords to your invitees. If you want to host a public event, broadcast your room link on Linkedin or Facebook.

  • Use it as a video F2F customer service app. Rather than forcing your customers to download an app just to talk to your representatives, send them a Meething link and they'll be connected as soon as they click the link.

  • Use it as an alternative to any other videoconference app. Only have the free Zoom and just hit the time limit? Move over to a Meething room. Got disconnected from Google Meet? Meething room. Got kicked out from Microsoft Teams? Meething.

  • (Coming soon) Generate an avatar on your device, have it follow your expressions, and have conversations anonymously while having your expressions represented by your avatar, without any server ever seeing your video feed. Great for whistleblowers or just, y'know, kids.

Why Hasn't It Caught On?

IMHO, it's mostly brand awareness:

  • The name kind of sucks. Trying to search for "Meething" is a pain because every search engine thinks I was trying to type "meeting". Even after telling search engines to explicitly search for "meething", I still mostly get results of websites where someone misspelled "meeting".

  • Still about the name: I told my friend about it and he thought I said "me-thing" or "mi-thing", and he thought it was a website about IoT devices. (Internet of Things, get it?)

  • Admittedly it does lack some features compared to Zoom: The room host can't mute people or remove them from the meeting, there is no calendar integration, and the default video quality seems to be non-HD. It is totally free and without time limit, though, so I think those are fair trade-offs.

  • All their sites -- from the main site to their Github, have nearly no documentation, which is not very friendly to users or developers.

  • There is only 2 articles online about them: The ZDNet article and the Globe News Wire press release. As a solution that relies on B2C adoption, their PR drive really leaves much to be desired.

What Is The Future of Meething?

I would say the future looks bright, actually, if they manage to work out the kinks. The Globe News Wire press release I mentioned says they just received funding from the Mozilla foundation, in June 2020. This could be huge for them: they'd be able to develop this into a tiered Enterprise offering much like Nextcloud above, where they are still fully open-source but companies hire them to deploy and manage private nodes.

BTW check out this post by Mark Nadal, the creator of Meething. The team built the app in seven weeks, and that was only two months ago. This is early days yet for the future of video communications.

Tools For Making Your Own Decentralized Solutions

Personal Comments

I added this section since I realized that a lot of these decentralized tools aren't commonly known -- not even among blockchain developers. Sure, a lot of people have heard about Ethereum & Corda, but what about OpenWRT & GUN?

Since I'm not much of a developer nowadays (these days I only use no-code or low-code tools and consume cool APIs), I'm just going to give a quick comment on each of these tools. I'm hoping this section could be used by people who are smarter than me to make even cooler decentralized solutions. Send me an Ethereum fraction if the page helped you make something, though!

( 0x81f52b4d411a0be41e7c52a05f315d99dcd9e22d )

GUN

Type: It's the self-proclaimed "Database for Freedom Fighters". Gun is a fully decentralized graph database protocol.

Github: https://github.com/amark/gun

IPFS

Type: Distributed Object Storage

Website: http://ipfs.io

Github: https://github.com/ipfs/ipfs

OpenWRT

Type: Linux OS for Embedded Devices (Routers etc) -- Basis of a lot of meshnet tech

Website: http://openwrt.org

Repositories: http://download.openwrt.org/releases/ (Stable) & http://downloads.openwrt.org/snapshots/targets/ (Bleeding Edge Dev Build)

Libremesh

Type: Modular framework for modifying OpenWRT.

Website: http://libremesh.org

Github: http://github.com/libremesh

KadNode

Type: P2P DNS protocol -- similar to DynDNS but uses the BitTorrent network to seek IPs.

Github: https://github.com/mwarning/KadNode

Sovereign

Type: Ansible playbooks you can deploy to set up your self-hosted private cloud with a couple of commands. Includes IRC, VPN, calendar, contacts, webmail, firewall management, private file server, web server, mobile push notifications, two-factor authentication (compatible with Google Authenticator), IMAP, POP3, SMTP, security, and monitoring.

Github: https://github.com/sovereign/sovereign

Stuff To Read

What is it: A cool presentation that gives an overview of why #distributedsystemsmatter. Goes deep into the philosophies of internode conflict resolution and touches upon physics and graph math.

What is it: A start-from-basics guide to creating serverless web applications with no back end. "Serverless" here does not mean "the backend is managed on the cloud, you don't need to deploy anything" like how it's defined by enterprise players like Amazon (Lambda & S3). Instead, "serverless" here means that the web app does not send any data to the server. A true serverless app does everything in your browser, and even when it needs to connect to another app, it does so using a p2p connection.



Saving Society with a Bunch of Nodes

Just a fun presentation I did for a recent webinar. The presentation actually gave me the idea for this website!

Saving Society With A Bunch Of Nodes