📆 February 14, 2023 | ⏱️ 2 minutes read | 🏷️ computing

[Article] The Internet Is Broken

The internet stack is broken beyond repair. It needs to be thrown out and replaced with a GNU network!

There’s lots of software projects out there that address some of the pitfalls of the network stack and I want to pay tribute to them before evangelizing GNUnet. I don’t have the time to give all these projects their due, so I apologize ahead of time for skipping some.

To give one example though, Tor helps millions of people every day (including me) access the internet anonymously. It has been an invaluable tool for protecting journalists and human rights defenders for years. I even use it to host this journal’s hidden service gemini capsule and hidden service website. To contribute back to the project, I’ve hosted a number of relays over the past few years.

For anonymity, there’s also The Invisible Internet Project and Freenet. There’s IPFS and ZeroNet, which aim to decentralize the web. Yggdrasil enables end-to-end encrypted IPv6 routing between all network participants. There have been several attempts to secure DNS such as NameCoin, DNSSEC, and others. And although cryptocurrency is a disaster, it has enabled various decentralized applications, Session Private Messenger being an example.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of these efforts nor the progress they’ve achieved. However, their successes are isolated. The specific problems they do solve are somewhat undermined by the insecure layers below them. A full, proper solution to these pitfalls can only come from taking a wholistic approach, replacing every layer of the broken stack.

GNUnet aims to do just that. It has been in development for over two decades and is based heavily on academic research. Besides replacing every layer of the network stack with a secure, decentralized, free alternative, it also features a replacement for DNS, a decentralized identity service, distributed anonymous file sharing, a private electronic payment system that’s not a cryptocurrency, a decentralized social networking application, a convergent private messaging application, and more. The scope of GNUnet is enormous by necessity. It needs as many contributors as it can get.

So here’s my plea: To everyone involved in isolated projects to improve one aspect of the internet, don’t you think it’s time for a wholistic solution to network privacy, decentralization, censorship-resistance, and software freedom? If you agree, why not use your knowledge, skills, and time on GNUnet instead?