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RE: [GNUnet-developers] slocate

From: Igor Wronsky
Subject: RE: [GNUnet-developers] slocate
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2003 02:02:21 +0300 (EEST)

On Thu, 31 Jul 2003, jan marco alkema wrote:

> > This was a rather amusing reference to the nature of your posts, which
> has, as you'll recall, often been the subject of some discussion on the
> list.
> Maybe I have a different opinion about sharing things --)
> In my point of view: If you want to spread a system like gnunet with "end
> users" then you should use well known "drivers" for end-users in the Gnunet
> application like ftp, wget, locate, etc.

There seems to be slight communication problems here. To help,
I'll try to summarize the different viewpoints of this and past
discussions as I see them. This naturally is rather subjective
and may not reflect the true views of any person involved
or the goals of the gnunet project.

Basically, what Jan wants is a distributed global
database or filesystem that contains all the information
in the world. This database is built of nodes that
provide different sorts of information. In Jan's scenario,
the owner of the node should be able to specify how
his node is used, who uses it, perhaps ability to set
prices on different services or content provided,
and security/anonymity levels for content. Also, Jan
would want the system to incorporate existing protocols
such as ftp seamlessly, and choose transport mechanism
according to the level of anonymity required either by
the recipient, the content, or the provider, allowing
for maximum efficiency/security tradeoff with minimum
redundancy. Whatever information available should
be easily importable/exportable to/from Jan's system.

GNUnet, on the other hand, has at the moment slightly
more modest goals: it tries to achieve scalable
anonymous communication between parties in a network,
without the true identity of a participant leaking out
to any party involved in the message passing. The system
should be scalable w.r.t. the amount of participants (nodes
in the network) and the amount of overall traffic. All
communication (or distribution/retrieval of information)
should be resistant to censorship, tampery, different
sorts of attacks, freeloading, etc. There may be a more
complete or less erraneous agenda available somewhere
[not bothered to check]. The combination of these goals
is an open research issue: there is no known set of
techniques or a piece of software that has been empirically
shown to be capable of performing this task acceptably
in a large-scale real life environment with hundreds
of thousands of nodes involved.

In my opinion GNUnets primary function is both to act
as an empirical proof-of-concept or testbench for the
underlying mechanisms (such as microeconomy and routing)
and as a practically usable network for anonymous
exchange of information. Although GNUnet core is designed
to allow it to be used for arbitrary p2p tasks, I have
seen no empirical evidence of any third party even having
interest in developing some nonanonymous p2p-functionality
on top of GNUnet. The main interest has been for whatever
GNUnet can provide on the anonymous information exchange

Thus it seems that the GNUnet developers and enthuasists
serve both market interests and their own intellectual curiosity
best by simply sticking to the primary goals, that is,
trying to realize anonymous communication in a scalable
manner. Realizing this goal has very little or nothing to
do with most existing legacy protocols or applications,
such as slocate or ftp, and much more on the direction
of researching and developing of decentralized routing
algorithms, network topology maintaining, trust economy,
and so forth. [There is also a large unexplored area
of third party applications on top of GNUnet AFS that
might interest the public and thus gain more popularity
that is needed for evaluation of success on the primary
tasks. For examples of lacking third party software,
we do not have application for messaging or forums,
and gnunet-gtk is pretty plain and featureless compared
to most of the competition. Also, the forthcoming secure
publishing (SBlock) enhancement combined with GNUnet
directories opens up a possibility for a web-like
world of cross-references and content that is unlikely
to be realized without good enough tools for maintaining
and browsing such publications (or sites).]

Once the original goals are reasonably achieved should
the developers turn their cyclopean eye to integrating
The World to GNUnet, or dreaming about All Information
Under One Application.

This does not mean that Jan's more ambitious goals
couldn't be pursued elsewhere, though I don't know
many pointers to suggest. The only project that I
know of that is trying to unify different file
transfer protocols, is called "mldonkey" and might
be worth a look.


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