EVER FANCIED owning an internet domain with your own name? As in john.com, say? Well now you can, and not on the old leaky insecure internet but on a brand spanking new one - the SAFE Network.
You'll have to be quick, though, and if your name is John, David or Nick you may already be out of luck. So what's it all about? We spoke to David Irvine, CEO of MaidSafe, the Scottish firm behind SAFE, and COO Nick Lambert to find out.
So, a new internet, eh? What's wrong with the old one?
David: The problem is data is neither private nor secure. If you taught a computer engineering graduate all about IP networks and computers then said "here are a bunch of cables and routers now go away and design a network where we can all store data and communicate securely", the very last thing they'd do is design a server. The only reason we did it that way is because disk drives were invented before the internet.
So the server's the problem?
David: Yes. We should be focused on securing the data, not the server, and the only way you can really do that is to create some form of network where humans can't interfere, and where a piece of data is never stored on a single machine. By definition that has to be an autonomous network."
No servers? So where is my data stored?
David: When a user stores files on the SAFE Network, the operation appears as uploading, or saving a file to an existing storage provider, such as Dropbox. But SAFE splits the file into chunks and each chunk is then randomised and encrypted and stored at different locations on the network. Unlike the conventional internet, data is always encrypted on SAFE.
You describe yourself as the world's oldest start-up. After 10 years you've only just released a "pre-alpha" minimum viable product and an API. What's taken you so long?
Nick: Removing data centres and servers involves replacing several layers of the internet - transport, session and presentation. Working on such a big project with a small team ... you can start to understand why it has taken us 10 years to get to this point.
Fair enough, so what can I do on the SAFE Network right now using the test application?
Nick: Right now we are testing the SAFE Client on which it is possible for early adopters to create their own credentials and login to the test network to create their own webpage and/or upload a website. The Launcher API is a REST API, so it's language-agnostic and also does not impose any hard dependencies to the core libraries.
So I can develop apps for SAFE Network?
Nick: Yes. MaidSafe will release some example applications (such as messaging and storage) that will showcase network features to end users and serve as tutorials for developers. Longer term we will look to add network-wide computation and we will be looking to partner with companies to add features like search.
What about existing applications? Can they be ported across?
Nick: For typical applications where the functionality exists within the network, such as storage apps or, fairly soon, messaging apps, stored within existing PaaS suppliers like AWS or Google it will be trivial to port the app to SAFE. So you can have apps hosted on both the existing internet and SAFE.
Will I be paid for my app? How can I monetise it?
Nick: App developers will code their Safecoin wallet address into their application and based on how much their application is used they are automatically paid by the network in safecoin. Developers keep 100 per cent of the Safecoin they earn.
Whoa! Hang on a sec! Safecoin?
Nick: Safecoin is a network cryptocurrency that rewards and incentivises end users for providing their spare computing resources - called farming - while also providing a revenue stream for application developers. As the network becomes more fully featured and safecoin is incorporated into the network it will be required to use services - or apps. The cost of these apps will be down to each developer. Users will obtain Safecoin by farming or by purchasing them via an exchange.
So, finally, john.com?
Well, john.safenet anyway. Baggsied it. It's mine (see above - you'll need to spark up the Launcher to view it online though). To be honest there's not much more you can do on SAFE at the minute beyond cybersquatting domains, uploading simple websites (this is a template), storing files and checking out the API and maybe writing a bit of code, as it is still very much in test mode.
But, hey. After 10 years what's a few more months? µ
A more in-depth interview about the thinking behind SAFE is available on our sister site, V3.
Interested in Open Source? Sister title Computing is hosting the Enterprise Open Source Summit in July. Attendance is free for most delegates
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