Your community in one place

Online communities have been around since the beginning of the internet. A family chat on Telegram, a work Slack, a Subreddit about questionable investment advice… for many of us, our lives have become inseparable from both the information we communicate and the people we connect with through these platforms. Every morning, when we scroll through our emails and social networks, we are checking on communities we feel we belong to, whether it is with loved ones, workmates, or strangers we decided to follow. After all, why would we build a network of personal devices, if not for these persons to connect with one another?

At Aether, we think about communities a lot. For those of you who are new, we started as a peer-to-peer network of self-moderated communities, and we are deeply interested in many important aspects of online communities, which also make us keen observers of internet dramas 🤓 One hot topic is that of community governance and content …

The death and life of great online cities

Note: this is the second part of a series on moderation in online and decentralised communities. Previous part(s) here: I

Last week (shh, yes last week) we were talking about how the only long-term viable mode of operation for an online community of sufficient size is one that of a sovereign state where the users are citizens who consent to the actions of that state. This meant citizens withholding consent without being kicked out would be able to control how the platform works. This model we propose offers the user-citizens rights and responsibilities, such as habeas corpus (you cannot be banned off your Gmail, Facebook account for no reason), right to a trial (the process that bans you is a court of law, open to the public), to an appeal, with the ultimate goal being that the tech that we have come to depend on so much for our lives, tech that profits off of our use, does treat us like human beings in a civilised jurisdiction.

As to why this …

The fair moderator

Controlling what people can and can’t see is an act of governance, and legitimate governance requires user control over it.

In our biweekly series, we try to reveal some of the thinking behind Aether, what is beyond the immediate mechanics of the machinery that is the source code. The code is half of the deal, and it’s on Github, it’s the how. This blog is the other half: where we make an argument for the why.

Today, the argument I’d like to make relates to one of the two core tenets of Aether; moderation. Moderation is not just the control of content you see (i.e. the black box algorithm as other networks call it), but also the shape of the network as it is designed, what it assumes, what it avoids, what it prefers you do. It is a topic that appears deceptively small: ultimately, any social network can just pay for more moderators to solve it, they just don’t want to pay, right? Eh, maybe, but also not really.

I’m going to foreshadow it a little here: I …

Source, use, and contributions

The idea of Aether started off as Burak’s graduate thesis, and its current incarnation is launched in November of 2018, with its source code licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPLv3). As the peer-to-peer (P2P) network gained thousands of users, a hobby project has turned into a (more than) full-time job, leading to the familiar sustainability experimentation faced by most open source projects in this phase. In this post, we will discuss our takes on software licensing in relation to project sustainability and the relationships with communities that gather around the project, as well as what this means for Aether’s future.

Why AGPLv3?

The obvious starting point is to discuss why Aether launched with AGPLv3, a highly “viral” rather than permissive open source license, where many corporations hold a “don’t go near it” policy towards. At Aether, we believe that users have the right to know what …

New day, new folks, new beginnings

Hi all,

After taking some time off in the holidays following our December release, here’s a fresh batch of Aether news. We have major updates on this one.

More wood behind the arrows

We’ve raised a small second round of investment to grow the team a little, bringing on Benedict as a co-founder. I’ve been collaborating with Benedict in different projects over the years, including Aether, and having him join us full-time will allow us to do things that were not possible because of the small size of the team.

If you’ve been following the world of the decentralised web and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, you might have already heard of some of the things Benedict has worked on, such as Distributed Press, Toronto Mesh, and the Our Networks conference. He has also been one of the organisers of the DWeb Camp, held by the Internet Archive.

Considering that we’re both open-source hackers trying to create an honest, sustainable business to …

Aether P2P dev.15 released

Happy holidays everyone!

This new release of Aether P2P brings several new features, compatibility with Mac OS Big Sur, availability of different packaging formats on Linux, and many other small fixes.

Aether is now also available on the Snap Store for Linux. From almost any Linux distribution, you should be able to do sudo snap install aetherp2p and you’ll be good to go — and Snap will keep your app updated automatically too.

The links for Linux .deb, .rpm, tar.gz and AppImage binaries are available on the Download page.

What follows is the changelog for the features shipped in this release.

Hope you all are staying safe, and here’s to a 2021 that won’t involve a civilisational collapse. 🙂

@b

Changelog

New features

Improved control over loading web content

  • You can now control which websites are allowed to auto-load content for inline viewing of linked images and videos. This option also manages the previews of many other non-media …

Introducing Aether Pro 🎉

It’s time to unroll the wraps on something we’ve been working on for a while: Aether Pro.

It’s a collaboration app for your team that creates a private space with channels. It’s similar to Slack or Discord in purpose, but it isn’t chat based, instead it offers something similar to Reddit for your team. It’s especially useful for remote teams as a searchable store of institutional memory.

It works well for long-running discussions, unlike chat, and since it’s structured information storage, not a flat chat log, it remains easy to understand and get the context well into the future.

You can check it out here.

We also have an article to help you figure out if this could work for you.

We don’t have this available yet to everyone, but we have been testing it privately for the past few months, and it’s come to a point where we’re excited to show it to the world and start testing it in public. But let’s …

A new funding model for open source software

tl;dr

I maintain a semi-popular open source project. This is a recollection of my attempts at various potential methods of getting paid so I could remain full time supporting it, and what happened when I tried them.

In the end, I decided that the most honest and respectful way of doing so is to build a business on top of it, as a separate product in an adjacent market that supports and pays for the development of the open-source one. I considered the common freemium and open-core models espoused elsewhere. Having been satisfied with neither, I've come up with a hybrid model that I think could be useful for others and might be a better fit for open-source in some cases, because it aims to keep the core open-souce product un-monetized. Details in the article below.

After our new release a few days ago, I had a little bit of time to go through the questions I’ve received over the past few days. Most of …

Aether Dev.13 released: up to 30x faster updates, live-updating ‘firehose’ feed

After a bit of quiet, a new release of Aether has been cut. Your app should update itself on Windows and Mac, and on Linux, you should download the new Snap after backing up your user profile to get this one.

This one does come with two major features, so I wanted to highlight them a little bit.

The new graph compiler

Context

As a quick recap, Aether is a P2P network that distributes a content graph. This distribution happens on a flood basis, so every node has every piece of content. (Upcoming feature: users can choose what to broadcast out)

We manage to keep the network at a manageable size because of two things: a) All content on the network is text, and b) Aether is an ephemeral network: too old content is deleted based on a deletion policy from all nodes. Even if the too-old content is kept available somewhere, the other nodes won’t ask for it, so the propagation is killed.

This is all raw data …

Aether Dev.12 released

Hey folks,

A new version of Aether (dev.12) is now released. You can download it here.

This release includes improvements like #hashtags, and code higlighting for 185 programming languages, making Aether more useful for programming discussions and collaboration.

There is a more in-depth blog post with commentary on each feature, as well as where they are planning to head in the future is available here on Patreon.

The changelog is available here.

Cheers!

Aether grows past 500 concurrent nodes

Feb 20th, 2019 2:08:54am

It’s been a pretty fun week so far.

After I posted Aether for Redditors, Aether ended up on the front page of Hacker News again. (Link)

The drill is familiar by now. Just keep everything working, and it’ll pass in a couple days. This time around, I’ve gotten about 6,600 unique visitors on the main site or so — which is normal, since the HN link was towards the blog, and not the main site.

There’s one more benefit in these things — it pushes the system to the next order of magnitude scaling, and it gives you a glimpse of where the next set of scaling issues are going to come from. This is indeed what happened when Aether broke through 500 concurrent nodes online. If you’ve been on the network for the past few days, you might have been having some trouble seeing new posts from other people. I’m writing to give a little bit of an educated guess on why, and what I’m doing to improve …

Aether for Redditors

Hey there!

Due to the recent news about Reddit, we’ve had a few redditors coming to check us out. Which is awesome, so I wanted to write a guide about how Aether compares to Reddit, and what it does similarly, and differently. Likely you’ll be fairly comfortable quick, but there are still a few interesting aspects of Aether you might want to keep in mind as you warm up.

We are a small, friendly community, consider this a welcome pack. 🙂

As I hear more and more questions from redditors in the community, this might be updated occasionally.

Aether is a peer-to-peer network

This is the most major, obvious difference. Aether has no servers. It exists … nowhere, really. As a result, Aether is an app, not a website. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and mobile apps are (eventually) coming.

This has a few implications. When you post on Aether, what happens is that your computer starts to share the content you posted. Other computers will …

Aether now available for Windows, Mac and Linux: Free, P2P, privacy-sensitive public communities

For no particular reason other than having run out of things that I can test in a private beta, here’s the first public version of Aether 2.

(Recap: What’s Aether?)

This is a soft ‘launch’ — I want to make sure that everything works, and the network load ramps up at a pace that gives me breathing room to fix if something goes wrong.

That said, I’ve fixed everything I know of so far from the private beta. I’ve did some QA on Windows and Mac, everything, so far, works. (Knock wood.)

When you join the network, your first bootstrap will take 2-3 minutes. Beyond that, I honestly can’t think of something going weird at this point in time. Which is the why for the public version: it needs to be broken in more creative ways. :)

Please do give it a spin, and let me know if something breaks.

Download it here.

Aether News & Updates - July / August 2018

Hey folks - this is the Aether monthly. This one is pretty exciting with screenshots, and it is probably going to be the last pre-launch update, because it’s about around one week to some semblance of code complete. The app is running fine on my machine now, with all features built for the backend and frontend, and most for the client (user interface) side. There’s a few screenshots of the current state below. None of those are design mocks, it’s the real thing, pulling data from real other nodes. (The data within them is auto-generated for load testing, so there are no users on the system right now.)

Recap: I’m new. What’s this thing?

Hey there - welcome in! There was a write-up on that last month, do check it out here.

July updates

Javascript

July, it was mostly about going deep into the Javascript rabbit hole to build the client user interface. (Quick recap: Aether has three parts, client, frontend and …

Aether News & Updates - June 2018

Hey folks - this is your monthly update, as usual, with your friendly developer hard at work full time on getting this thing to be something that we can all actually use.

There is a short (ha) description of what Aether is below for folks just tuning in. It also includes a bunch of things that are recently implemented, so if you’re interested in how it works, it might be interesting to check out. Otherwise, feel free to skip to the June 2018 updates section.

Index

For newcomers - what is this thing you’re building?

It’s a privacy-rooted, anonymous and ephemeral Reddit-like platform with features that allow for the users to control moderation. It’s also decentralised, and based on proof-of-work systems, but without a blockchain involved (it has its own …

Aether News & Updates - April / May 2018

Time for another update! I’ve been busy working on Aether for a few months now. This means a lot of changes, and the codebase has grown quite a bit. The good news is the backend is close to complete, which means I can move into the frontend in the next few weeks and start showing actual UI and start collecting critique.

As always, the code is pushed weekly here, and this is the list of commits.

Launch timeline

The idea is that we would be able to launch in July or August. This means there’s a few months left for the frontend, and I want to be able to be completely done (well, 95% done) with the backend by the end of May.

Currently working on…

The main thing I’m working on right now is to interpret the results from petri-dish testing to the point that the network is stable as possible at the outset. Petri dish testing is a framework that we’ve built that runs multiple Aether nodes in the same machine under an …

Aether News & Updates - March 2018

Hey folks! Since the past month we’ve been working on Aether full time. Here’s what happened, what’s coming and what our tentative release date will be for Aether 2. But first, an intermission of sorts…

What the heck is Aether?

If you haven’t been following it yet, Aether is an app that gives you community moderated, community governed[1] public spaces, similar to subreddits. You subscribe to the topics you’re interested in, and it gives you back interesting links and discussion around those. Major difference compared to Reddit, though, is that Aether is transparent, auditable and extremely privacy-oriented[2], all the while it attemps to be a more pleasant place hospitable for civilised discussion amongst peers. Aether’s boards are owned by nobody, and they live in nowhere,[3] thus they cannot be censored (but can be reversibly hidden). It also gives you ability to host free websites in this distributed network.

It is not a social network, …