Open Libernet is a Mesh Networking protocol that promises to be a viable alternative to the current internet. It’s built with scalability and ease of deployment in mind. It is built and maintained by the users themselves therefore eliminating the dependence on ISPs and large corporations that monopolize the internet service industry. It also comes with the benefit of making internet access ubiquitous, cheap and much more robust.
Many things actually. First of all, it is important to remember that the internet didn’t just come to be in its current form. It started out as a military experiment, and went through a series of updates and changes adding layers of complexity and hacks, backwards compatibility being the main hindrance towards doing things perfectly right and overcoming some of the limitations of the aging network. One such limitation is the IPv4 protocol. With a 32 bit IP Address, it is only inevitable that the address pool will be exhausted (as it almost has) as the internet keeps on expanding. Another problem lies in the way IP Addresses and Domain Names are distributed, by means of a centralized authority (IANA, ICANN), and the potential for abuse that comes with any centralized system.
The concept of mesh networking is simple. Instead of relying on backbones installed and maintained by large ISPs and governments, Mesh networks rely on small off-the-shelf routers to establish a network of interconnected nodes that can communicate together in ad-hoc. Each node (or peer) relies on its neighbors, and their neighbors all the way to the destination, to get its messages across. In an honest network, a node expects its neighbors to cooperate by routing its traffic, by returning the favor and routing their traffic. The key here is complete decentralization. As such, mesh networks are usually built and maintained by communities and technology enthusiasts, who are motivated only by their love for the community.
While the internet today may seem as the most robust communication network on the planet, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. The average user gets access to the internet through their ISPs, who themselves purchase their bandwidth and IP Addresses from higher authorities, such as governments or large corporations assigned by the government. This brings forth all the problems associated with centralization. Would Egypt, Syria and Iran be able to shut down internet access for their people during riots were there not a single point of access? Could China and Saudi Arabia be able to install firewalls and cherry-pick access to sites and services without complete control over internet access? The censorship problem seems so distant to most of the first world that few even consider it. It is always someone else’s problem until it hits home. And as history has shown, if there is potential for abuse, it is only a matter of time.
Simply by being decentralized, there is no single point of failure. Even if a large subset of the network was to go down due to a terrorist attack or a nuclear holocaust, the remaining nodes will simply reorganize and communication will go on. Since the network was never relying on a stable infrastructure, packets will always find their way around broken links, dead nodes or malicious peers. And with the advent of reliable and cheap Wireless Technology, the deployment of Mesh Networks is ever so simple. All one needs to do to join the network is install a small router and mount an antenna on the roof. If there are any peers in range, the node has joined the network.
There are many inter-dependant problems that need to be overcome first. Some of them are technical, like the choice of a mesh routing protocol that can scale well. Some are political and economical, governments and large corporations which are usually the driving force behind large-scale adoption of any new technology, have no invested interest in such community initiatives and will simply withhold their support or publicity. But the most debilitating hindrances come from the community itself. Sure there are lots of motivated enthusiasts, who would put in time, effort and money into building and maintaining wireless mesh networks, but the average user still has very little incentive to join in the effort and contribute to such projects. It’s always someone else’s problem. There’s also the vicious cycle of usability that pushes early-adopters away and stifles network growth: it makes little sense to join a communication network if there’s no one to communicate with. This forces WMN communities to provide incentive, by making their network compatible with the current internet and encouraging people to share in their hard-earned internet bandwidth with their neighbors. This leads to slow internet speeds and place restrictions on the routing protocol in use, to ensure backward-compatibility with the internet.
We’re not. We have studied many existing mesh routing protocols and were actually inspired by many of them, however we find that most of the problems that those protocols try to address and have to make compromises for, are automatically eliminated by the mere existence of the incentive system. For instance, the PLN nodes that we propose do not belong in any of the existing protocols because there is absolutely no way to incentivize the global community to install them. Also, without the incentive system, it is very hard to punish abusive behavior. On the other hand, the actual routing protocol that we propose does not bring any novelty to mesh networks. It is a very straight forward implementation of the Bellman-Ford distance vector algorithm as seen in RIPv1 and BGP applied to a hierarchical topology.
We will. We have already made contact with many similar projects and communities and are discussing potential for collaboration. Things look promising.
First off, we have completely ignored the problem of internet backward compatibility. Our protocol is designed from the grounds up to live on its completely separated network. This will allow us to utilize a hierarchical routing protocol, while completely disregarding the issue of maintaining an Addressing scheme that is compatible with the internet. But the most important addition to Mesh Networking that Open Libernet brings is the element of Incentive. Our network is built around a robust payment system, modeled after the tried and tested algorithm for the decentralized crypto-currency Bitcoin, to introduce inter-node payments. The concept is simple, the more traffic you help route efficiently, the more traffic you earn for your own consumption. This serves to limit abuse, encourage the community to actively expand and maintain the network, and persuade people to join. The payment system will also make it possible for the network to punish abusers and possibly ostracize them. And naturally, traffic can be earned, transferred, donated or sold, making it a valuable commodity, akin to a currency.
The current internet is hierarchical in nature. This means all your traffic will eventually reach one or more single nodes, where it is possible for anyone (your ISP, the government …) to monitor your traffic and your internet activity. With Mesh networks, traffic will follow different routes from source to destination, making it very hard for any authority to monitor anyone’s internet usage without having access to each and every node along the route. Our protocol also introduces Layer 3 Packet encryption. This means, not only is it almost impossible to reconstruct a user’s traffic stream, but even then the traffic is encrypted using some of the most robust cryptographic algorithms in existence, making it even harder for any third-party to snoop on communication.
A peer address is the hash of a cryptographic public key. It is used to encrypt certain packets as part of the routing protocol, serve as a payment address for the payment system (similar to a Bitcoin’s wallet address), but also serves as a unique identifier for a node, similar to IP Addresses in the current internet. It also looks like an IPv6.
Peer addresses are randomly generated numbers; they are the hash of a public asymmetric cryptographic key generated by the user, whose private key is kept secret. Also, A node may not register a peer address (public key) on the network without having the private key associated with it. It is also impossible to receive traffic destined to another Peer, therefore eliminating the risk of impersonation attacks and boosting security. As such, peer addresses are unique identifiers that can be used as IP Addresses.
There are 2^128 ≈ 3.4 x 10^38 possible peer addresses. That’s many times more than there are stars in the observable universe. Even when considering the Birthday paradox, the statistical probability of a collision is negligibly low.
With the current technology, it is much more likely and hopeful to win the lottery 30 times in a row. Also, a node may simply generate a new Peer Address anytime it chooses to.
Each node keeps a small ledger for all its direct neighbors, with the total packets received/sent to and from each. The node also keeps count of all the packets it sent and received for its own consumption. When the balance of a neighbor hits a certain threshold, a payment request is initiated. The neighbor in question is required to sign the payment request with its Peer Address to make the payment legitimate. The signed payment is then forwarded to a payment processor (a mining node), which will verify and add the payment to the public ledger. The miners are special nodes that use a modified version of the Bitcoin Algorithm and require huge amounts of processing power. They earn free traffic for their efforts as well. Read more on Bitcoin for more information on how this works.
They are completely different things. Bitcoin is a currency. Open Libernet is a Mesh Network Protocol. The only thing in common is the payment system.
Bitcoin is in perpetual deflation because the total Bitcoin supply is capped at 21 million, which is a hard-coded limitation. Our mining protocol eliminates this artificial limit to overcome this problem. As such, miners will be perpetually rewarded with traffic for their efforts, and this will keep a steady supply of traffic in our economy, which is in perpetual inflation. To exacerbate the inflationary nature of our economy, the miners are designed to mint traffic at a rate that is proportional to the total amount of traffic verified in each block. This means traffic supply is minted at a rate that reflects the total network capacity and mirrors the increasing demand.
Our aim is that by the time Open Libernet catches on, internet access would be free for personal use. An average well-positioned node would route more traffic than it consumes. Obviously, service providers such as Web Hosting will still pay for their traffic. Much as they do today, but at perpetually decreasing prices. Traffic should be cheaper as the technology advances and more links are being built. Also the increasing reliance on the internet means more traffic should be minted to cater to the increasing demand. Needless to say, ten years ago, with 32kbps modems, 10MB of total traffic per month were more than enough for most people. Today, with the advent of youtube, voip and video-conferencing the average user consumes upwards of 10GB per month. In the future, more services could require faster and more reliable connections. It is important to keep users motivated to expand and maintain the network. The inflationary nature of our Traffic serves to encourage growth. When it comes to communication, the more you have the more you need.
The payment system – based on the Bitcoin algorithm – has stood the trial of time and proven to be impossible to cheat. Malicious nodes could however cheat their neighbors and refuse to pay them their due traffic. For that, the protocol is designed to punish such malicious behavior through ostracism. A node will be automatically isolated from the network until it pays all its dues and resolves all conflicts with its neighbors. The old adage is put to work: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.
While it is possible for malicious nodes to cause damage – albeit localized – Open Libernet proposes multiple methods to limit the potential for abuse. For instance, nodes that fail to route traffic efficiently will be downgraded and less traffic will flow through them. Likewise, special nodes such as PLNs have a reputation to maintain and are less inclined to cheat, for fear of ostracism. The payment system ensures everyone is doing what they’re supposed to.
Never in the white paper or the website did we mention that we plan on building an exclusively-wireless mesh network. Our protocol is agnostic to the physical and link layers and should work fine with cable or fiber. The incentive or payment system is specifically designed to encourage profit seeking corporations capable of installing and maintaining long distance fiber to link distant cities and perhaps countries and continents in the future. Until then tunnel nodes should do the trick.
I guess you haven’t been following. Open Libernet is designed to be fail-safe. It is also supposed to be a zero-conf network meaning anyone can build, maintain and expand the network without prior expertise in IT or networking. If you know how to plug a router in and mount an antenna on your roof, you are a qualified Open Libernet technician
We are still at idea stage. We’ve built a few simulations to test some parts of the system, but the main development hasn’t begun. We have published the 1st draft of our whitepaper, which explains – to some degree of detail – the proposed protocol, and we’re still waiting for review. For that, if you happen to have any insight on routing protocols, networking or software development that you would like to share with us, please do so. If you think something with the protocol is not right or needs to be improved, or if you have a better idea on how to do something, also do not hesitate to voice your opinion. This is a community project and we are more than happy to receive all the help we could get. Also, everything we’re doing is Open Source, including the white-paper, the concept and in the future the code. You are free to take anything you like, modify, publish and release, then tell us about it. Or if you prefer, don’t.
At this time, we are seeking advice, opinions and feedback. Feel free to read the white-paper, and if you have any insight, let us know what you think. We will setup a forum where we can share ideas, suggestions, criticism, and discuss implementation details Finally, if you like the idea of OpenLibernet, you can help raise awareness and bring media attention to the project and community support. We would like to thank each and every one of those who have shown interest in the project.
Once we have a stable build, we will release it on this website. The source-code will also be hosted on Github. It will be in the form of a daemon that can be installed on Linux, and provides a TUN interface. Our aim is to make it possible to install on cheap off-the-shelf routers or access points, if we can make it small enough. Otherwise, users may be required to use an old computer running Linux with a wifi or Ethernet card installed. It may be possible for us to build our own router using a Raspberry-pi board or any equivalent small computer-on-a-chip board capable of running Linux. At this point, we are still unsure.