PARSEC: The Release of the Code

At the end of May, we announced the release of the PARSEC Whitepaper and RFC. Standing for the Protocol for Asynchronous Reliable Secure and Efficient Consensus, the new consensus mechanism will power not only the SAFE Network but will also help many other decentralised projects looking to build global, permissionless networks across the world.

The release generated a huge amount of interest online and now, only a few weeks later, we’re delighted to announce that we’re releasing the actual PARSEC code itself. That’s right – as of today, you can check out the world’s first completely decentralised, open source, highly asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism by visiting our GitHub repo and downloading the code for yourself.  

As a reminder, everything is being released under a GPLv3 Licence (with linking exception) so there’s nothing to stop you downloading the code. In fact, we’re actively encouraging you to go and do just that. The more the merrier!

Want to know a little more in terms of an overview of the technical details? Check out the video we released at the time which has a little bit more of the context as well as as the original announcement.  

This represents another major Routing milestone complete on the road to the release of Alpha 3. We’ve now moved onto working on the Whitepaper and code that shows PARSEC working within a network of nodes where individual nodes are continually joining and leaving (we call this a Dynamic Network). After that, the Routing team will be detailing how Sharding will work on the Network in a further Whitepaper (plus code), illustrating the workings of Node Ageing (where the Network autonomously and continually rates the trustworthiness of each node) and Secure Message Relay (the method by which one Section is able to trust a message sent by a remote and otherwise unconnected group of nodes on the Network).    

But for many people, this level of detail is too technical. After all, what is a consensus mechanism anyway?

Why we need consensus

We’re building software that lets your computer join directly with others around the world, removing the need for servers and centralised authorities. Doing this successful means that you get total ownership of your data, with privacy and security built-in from the ground up. Any time you want to access data, you – and only you – can recover it.

Very different to the internet we all rely on today.

But when you want computers all over the world to connect to each other without a central authority, one of the first challenges you face is how to enforce rules. For example, what’s allowed to happen on the Network – and, importantly, in what order do events get recorded? Ordering is crucial. Just imagine a bank account where the order of transactions gets mixed up. Try to spend money before you’ve received it and you can expect your bank to have an opinion.

So who enforces rules on a decentralised network where, by definition, there is no central authority? In addition, we can expect many thousands of events to take place simultaneously all around the world. How can a Network like this possibly agree on who did what, whether it’s allowed and in what order things happened?

The answer? By using a consensus mechanism. And on the SAFE Network, that consensus mechanism is called PARSEC.

Alternative methods

There are many different types of consensus mechanisms today. However, most of these can immediately be discounted for the SAFE Network. For example, any that use leader-based systems – where certain computers nodes are given the power to make decisions on behalf of the network – won’t work for our purposes. These might be fine within a private, permissioned network where you know who the nodes are and you can be confident that they’re going to follow the rules. An example might be a financial network where banks join together to carry out business more efficiently.

But we’re not building a permissioned Network where only certain people can join. And as soon as you open up the gates to the Network for anyone to join, it’s far too easy for those decision makers to be attacked – and for the network to be brought to its knees (for example, DDOS’ing the leader).

As a global decentralised data and communications network, the SAFE Network has to be public and permissionless. But without those gates to entry, the one guarantee faced by any decentralised Network is that there will be nodes out in the wild that are either malicious or are non-responsive (due to technical issues).

So we needed a consensus mechanism: a set of rules that guarantee that the Network can still reach agreement despite these attacks. In other words, it needed to have a property called Byzantine Fault Tolerance (‘BFT’).

Blockchains & Byzantines

Recently we all witnessed a real BFT breakthrough with the creation of Bitcoin. It uses Proof of Work – in other words, you have to spend money to run a computer that cycles through many expensive mathematical operations. Why? Skin in the game. And because it means you end up with a system that slows down the rate at which miners can add one block at a time. This in turn lets a definitive agreed view spread across the Network.

But at the risk of stating the obvious, the challenge is that a blockchain is quite literally a row of blocks chained together. It’s hugely powerful for a range of reasons – but they don’t map to what’s needed on the SAFE Network. After all, Proof of Work is relatively slow, it’s hard to scale because you need the transactions to fit into one block at a time and – crucially – you never end up with a definitive result. It’s worth restating the point. A blockchain can only ever provide you with a probabilistic outcome. History becomes less likely to be altered over time – but it can never be 100% certain. That’s why you’ll hear people talking about waiting for confirmations before accepting large Bitcoin payments – each additional confirmation reduces the chance that their transaction becomes invalid.

Using a blockchain to secure a ledger is hugely powerful – but also comes with significant costs. Some are exploring cheaper methods – for example, put simply Proof of Stake evolves around the concept of the more coins you hold, the more blocks you’re able to mine. No  more burning electricity churning through mining calculations.

But still, that is no help to us – because it still uses a blockchain.  The SAFE Network is a system upon which the world’s data and communications will live. That translates into billions of transactions occurring around the globe – and this isn’t something that is suited to a blockchain.

The Rise of PARSEC, Gossip & ABFT

So after many long hours, days, months and years, we’ve created something different. The Protocol for Asynchronous Reliable Secure and Efficient Consensus (PARSEC) is a consensus mechanism that designed to work on a global permissionless distributed Network. It’s capable of handling vast numbers of transactions every second. And we believe it provides the best performance of any asynchronous consensus mechanism in the world – with the maths proofs to back this up, and the absence of any patent or restriction on usage by anyone.

OK, so there’s a few terms there that we should touch upon simply. First, it’s highly Asynchronous – in other words, it’s mathematically guaranteed that this Network will reach consensus even if some transactions are delayed or fail to arrive. As background, Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (ABFT) represents the highest level of security that a decentralised network can achieve. If a network achieves ABFT, it means its nodes are guaranteed (mathematically) to reach consensus

PARSEC also uses a Gossip protocol to spread information across the Network. This is a well-established concept in computing. Think of how a rumour spreads in real life – direct from person to person, around the world. Gossip is actually the most efficient resilient method available when you’re trying to share a message with every single computer on the Network – because it enables news to spread exponentially.

At a high level, what happens is that each computer picks a random node every so often and shares its news. That computer then in turn spreads this across the Network and each computer creates its own ‘gossip graph’ to record what’s happening. And eventually, every node will hold exactly the same gossip graph. If you’d like more technical details about how this actually works, you should check out Pierre’s presentation here.

SAFE > PARSEC

It’s worth making clear at this stage: PARSEC is simply the consensus mechanism within the SAFE Network. If you’re wondering how the Network deals with other issues – for example a Sybil attack (where a bad actor throws up thousands of nodes to attack/disrupt/takeover the Network) or how to actually incentivise people to take part in the first place – the SAFE Network deals with these answers elsewhere.

On SAFE, we have something called Node Ageing – where the Network constantly varies the trust levels of each computers according to their past actions. Step out of line and your powers disappear. We have Dynamic Membership – a way in which where nodes are assigned to and re-assigned between different groups on the Network. In other words, there’s no way for a human to choose which group its computer is in (nor to decrypt the data chunks that are stored within that group). That decision is taken autonomously by the Network itself. On top of that, we also have Sharding (in the form of Disjoint Sections) and Safecoin which acts as the incentivisation mechanism to encourage usage of the system

As you can see, the project is vast as you’d expect for something that’s been in development for over a decade. So if you want more info on any of these, start by downloading the SAFE Network Primer and getting stuck into the Forum

So in a nutshell when we’re talking about PARSEC, we’re really focusing on the consensus layer within the SAFE Network. We feel we’ve made a big step forwards with this mechanism – and we’ve been inspired by others, there’s no doubt about it. But we’ve got something here that’s unique and, we believe truly useful to others who are working on similar projects.

Next Step: Freedom…

One final thing to be aware of. PARSEC is being released under a GPL v3 licence (with linking exception. In other words, this means that everybody has complete freedom to run, study, share and modify our software. Anyone can download and use PARSEC for whatever purpose they like. We’d love to know how you get on. If you do however make updates to the code, you’ll need to make those public so that the entire open source community can benefit from this innovation.

The reason behind this is simple. Open source is in our DNA. We’re building open source, permissionless networks – with no restrictions on usage and a system that we believe provides the best performance of any asynchronous consensus algorithm in the world

So we’d love to see engagement, comments (good or bad) and collaboration – and we’d encourage other projects out there today that could use the code to get in touch. Please go ahead – download the code, read the White Paper, subscribe to our YouTube channel, join the Forum – and join us on the journey.

 

 

Proof of Resource

The SAFE Network is a vast project which involves many different technological innovations. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that our mission is to provide a new decentralised internet that will provide privacy, security and freedom for the world. But it does mean that it’s not unusual to find that certain principles that lie behind the SAFE Network architecture require a little bit more explanation than others.

One of the ways that we’ve addressed this is by releasing a few high level videos: for example, explaining why a SAFE future can’t be blockchain-based and Safecoin, the utility token that will incentivise participation in the Network. In essence, these are just taster videos to give people a place to start in their journeys into the SAFE Network.

Today, we’re releasing another video and once again it’s been funded by donations received from SAFE supporters around the world as part of the Community Engagement Programme (thanks once again to everyone who contributed!). The new video focuses on Proof of Resource and you can now check it out below:-

What is Proof of Resource on the SAFE Network?

But what is Proof of Resource? Well, with the recent growth of the crypto-economy, many people are familiar with Proof of Work. Even if the details remain hazy, there’s a general awareness that it has something to do with “expensive Bitcoin mining” that’s taking place around the world. So we feel that it’s important to explain what Proof of Resource is and why it’s different. Hopefully this video will not only introduce some to the concept but it will also help to remind people that the SAFE Network doesn’t use blockchain technology.

Put simply, the Network uses Proof of Resource to check that Farmers (the nodes that store chunks of encrypted data) are following the rules of the Network. Proof of Resource measures a Vault’s ability to retrieve or store chunks of data based on its CPU Speed, bandwidth availability, disk space and online time. It’s a way of ensuring that all Network nodes are up to scratch. Fail to reach that standard and that node is removed from the Network automatically.

The video is just a taster and there is of course much more detail available elsewhere about how Proof of Resource works on a technical level. So if you’ve got further questions about how this — or any other aspect of the SAFE Network — works, check out the SAFE Network Primer and join the Community Forum (https://safenetforum.org/) where you can become one of the thousands of people who are discussing the growing world of the SAFE Network everyday.

 

A Spring in Our Step – May 2018 Update

Following the excitement of SAFE DevCon 2018 in late April, May has been a month of hard work that culminated in the release of PARSEC.  This latest innovation is not only an amazing achievement for the MaidSafe team but also a paradigm shift for asynchronous and permissionless consensus that could benefit many projects.  

Going from Strength to Strength
More on PARSEC later but let’s have a look at some of the other developments first. As announced at SAFE DevCon 2018, we are removing our commercial licence and the contributor agreement to reaffirm our commitment to open source.  The team have therefore been spending time switching of core libraries and SAFE client libs as well as creating documentation (these will be hosted on the newly created SAFE Dev Hub) to assist other developers with understanding these changes. There will be some exceptions to the GPLv3 including the networking library in Crust which will be MIT and BSD licensed. We hope this will increase flexibility for those who fork these libraries and will ultimately lead to more developers using Rust.

This month the team kick started the process of replacing C libraries with pure Rust versions.  This should make implementation easier and simplify cross platform support. There also continues to be significant progress made on our custom browser Peruse and we hope to release an updated version to the community soon.

Following the great work done by community advocate Mark @happybeing the team has also been researching possible SOLID integrations and full support for semantic web applications. We think the SAFE Network could be the perfect fit for semantic web and hope to encourage more developers to consider the SAFE Network.  

We have also been lucky enough to be invited to the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco this summer.   This is a crucial meeting of minds of this sector and it is a great place to cultivate ideas, collaborations and spread the SAFE Network message.  

Thanks to the work of the newly expanded UX/UI team the new website is making steady progress.  Following a design personas and user journey phase the team have created a series of mood boards which are now informing the initial design phases.  We hope to be able to share these with the community very soon.

This biggest news this month, is the release of a new asynchronous BFT consensus mechanism, PARSEC, on 23rd May.  PARSEC, Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus is an asynchronous byzantine fault tolerant consensus mechanism. Developed for the SAFE Network but for the benefit of everyone, the details of this innovation have been documented in this RFC and Whitepaper and the code will be open source once implemented.  As always we are happy to hear from other projects for future collaborations using PARSEC. Rust Developer and one of the  authors Pierre walks us through this major break-through in this fantastic video. Pierre also spoke to the SAFE Crossroads podcast about PARSEC, please give it a listen! There is of course a lot of discussion on our community forum if you have any questions or need a more in depth understanding.   This sounds like an amazing innovation but what does it really mean for the implementation of the SAFE Network? Well with PARSEC in place we can now do much more, 2 additional papers will be released in the coming weeks detailing how we can achieve dynamic membership consensus as well as network sharding.  This achievement will also significantly reduce the number of test networks we need to run going forward. The addition of add, remove split, merge and secure messaging relay will be complete by alpha 3 and this marks the end of the unknown phase of development.

New Faces  
The SAFE Network team continues to grow; Ravinder joined the team in the Chennai office as a C# developer, he is settling in well and make we are looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the project.

Press are Taking Notice 
TechCrunch has released a great article on PARSEC which you can read here. Nick and David were recently interviewed for BBC Radio Scotland’s “Sunday Morning with…” programme.  You can hear the whole interview here from 1:17:25. Sarah’s recent Medium post on Safecoin has provoked some really interesting discussion on the forum. Dug has been interviewed for FutureTech podcast, we will post the link across our social media channels and forum once it is live.

Stay tuned to see what June has to bring!

 

PARSEC: A Paradigm Shift for Asynchronous and Permissionless Consensus

On Thursday 24th May, we were delighted to announce the release of a new consensus mechanism that we believe will radically change the world of distributed computing. Whilst we rarely engage in the hype that’s all too common within the crypto sphere, this one is worth shouting about — because we’ve created the world’s first (as far as we’re aware!) completely decentralised, open source, highly asynchronous, Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism.

PARSEC (Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus) has been built to power the SAFE Network. PARSEC will be released under a GPL v3 licence (with linking exception). It will be free for anyone to build upon and likely prove to be of immense value to other decentralised projects facing similar challenges.

What is the SAFE Network?

If you aren’t already aware, the SAFE Network is the autonomous, decentralised and secure Internet that is currently available to the public in its Alpha testing phase. It’s been in development by MaidSafe for over a decade, with a community of thousands around the world. As one of the most established projects in the decentralised world, there’s been a lot of interest recently as people are starting to realise that the SAFE Network is about far more than simply decentralised storage. And what’s more, it doesn’t use a blockchain…

What does PARSEC do?

PARSEC solves a well-known problem in decentralised, distributed computer networks: how can individual computers (nodes) in a system reliably communicate truths (in other words, events that have taken place on the network) to each other where a proportion of the nodes are malicious (Byzantine) and looking to disrupt the system. Or to put it another way: how can a group of computers agree on which transactions have correctly taken place and in which order?

Or to bring it down to basics with a couple of simple SAFE Network examples: PARSEC consensus does such things as enabling a user to store a piece of data and enables the Network to confirm a Safecoin transaction.

Hasn’t this been solved before?

In a word, no.

To explain why, let’s take a look at Bitcoin. The network in that case reaches consensus by using a blockchain. A blockchain is basically a shared ledger that everyone relies on. It’s a record of consensus — an agreed history of everything that has taken place on the network. Because the Bitcoin network (just like the SAFE Network) is permissionless — in other words, you cannot prevent anyone from taking part who wants to — Satoshi built a system that has a couple of key characteristics: only one node can update the global ledger at a time; and, crucially, there’s no way to identify which node that might be in advance (thanks to proof-of-work). Consensus is achieved and defended by protecting the identity of that node until their job is done.

This is a huge deal. But, as we’ve discussed many times before, the SAFE Network cannot — and does not — use a blockchain.

The limitations of blockchain tech

Because as powerful and innovative as Satoshi’s creation has been, blockchain technology comes with some fairly significant downsides. If you’re building a secure, autonomous, decentralised data and communications network for the world like we are with the SAFE Network, then the limitations of blockchain technology when it comes to throughput (transactions-per-second), ever-increasing storage challenges and lack of encryption are all insurmountable problems for any system that seeks to build a project of this magnitude. Hopefully there will be improvements along each of these fronts over time. But the very design of blockchains means that their use case isn’t suited to a global internet that deals with vast amounts of data that needs to be both private and secure.

So despite being big fans of blockchain technology for many reasons here at MaidSafe, the reality is that the data and communications networks of the future will see millions or even billions of transactions per second taking place. No matter which type of blockchain implementation you take — tweaking the quantity and distribution of nodes across the network or how many people are in control of these across a variety of locations — at the end of the day, the blockchain itself remains, by definition, a single centralised record. And for the use cases that we’re working on, blockchain technology comes with limitations of transactions-per-second that simply makes that sort of centralisation unworkable.

Alternative blockchain consensus algorithms

So with blockchains unable to meet the challenge of powering the SAFE Network, we’ve explored a number of other approaches to consensus since we started working on the problem back in 2006. You may have heard of leader-based consensus systems. Broadly speaking, these systems work by having the individual nodes sending their transactions to a chosen leader who then decides on the order of transactions that the Network will follow. However, whilst these solutions (with names such as PBFT, Raft and Paxos) may be useful in closed (permissioned) Networks where all of the nodes are known or authorised, they are not suitable for our purposes — because as soon as you have a known leader, you introduce problems. As a couple of examples, having a leader means that you now risk having a malicious leader that sends huge amounts of messages and you also have a target for others to attack if they want to bring down the Network (for example, with a DDOS attack).

Another approach to seeking consensus in public networks is known as Proof of Stake. Here, each node is forced to stake real value on the consensus that they see as being correct (the idea being that no one wants to lose their own money by attempting to subvert the consensus process). There are many different flavours here. Some approaches have clear weaknesses (in the sense that they will lead to the centralisation of power) whilst others appear more promising. However, each suffers from the same issue as Proof-of-Work blockchains for our purposes: a lack of highly asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance.

Highly Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance

The concept of Byzantine Fault Tolerance is a crucial one. It means that it is mathematically guaranteed that all parts of the Network will come to the same agreement at a certain point in time. Exactly what PARSEC achieves.

This is very different to any blockchain-based consensus mechanism. With blockchains, the probability that the consensus cannot be reversed increases with every additional block that is added to the blockchain — but crucially, it never reaches 100% certainty. Put simply, this is down to the way in which blocks are added in blockchain technology and not something that will change in the future. With PARSEC, consensus is mathematically guaranteed as certain (as well as having a throughput that dwarves blockchain tech). And this is a huge thing.

What’s more, PARSEC is highly asynchronous. This means that there is no trusted setup nor any synchronous steps involved, as might be required in common coin implementations or threshold signature schemes. In other words, any consensus mechanism has to be able to work perfectly, even when different events on the Network are reaching nodes at wildly different times and allowing for the fact that nodes may suffer technical issues around the world or the Network could be attacked.

Hashgraph and DAGs

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion around technologies such as Hedera Hashgraph. They’ve looked at solving many of the same challenges that we have but ultimately there are a number of significant differences to PARSEC which we believe make our consensus mechanism more powerful.

Most significantly, the Hashgraph consensus is closed source, restricting its use significantly. It is also unusable for our purposes as it requires a fixed set of known nodes. Furthermore, a network using the Hashgraph consensus is only proven to reach agreement if it is guaranteed that there is no sophisticated adversary on the Network.

PARSEC provides this proof.

On top of this advantage that PARSEC has when it comes to unconditional performance and resilience to adversaries on the Network, PARSEC has also been developed in a way that reflects our core values. Anyone who has looked a little further into the Hashgraph algorithm will see that it has only been shown to work so far on a network in which the nodes are identified and do not change — in other words, a permissioned network. But at MaidSafe, open source is in our DNA. We’re building a system that guarantees privacy, security and freedom for every individual on the planet who can get online.

Therefore, PARSEC has been designed and built for everyone to use. We are, as ever, keen to engage and collaborate with any other decentralised projects who are currently exploring DAG-like technologies (such as Byteball and IOTA, amongst others) who would benefit from not requiring controllers, trusted nodes or any such centralised components, provided that the focus is always on building open source, permissionless networks. Free of charge and free (as in freedom) forever. The result? We now have a consensus algorithm that provides the best performance of any asynchronous consensus algorithm in the world; with better maths proofs (in the sense that they prove that there can be no stalling even with max byzantine adversary); and crucially the absence of any patent or restriction on usage.

With PARSEC, we’ve created a solution that gives everyone the ability to have highly asynchronous vote ordering in a BFT-way. In other words, the events appear in an agreed order that every computer can sign and accept is good. PARSEC will reduce significantly the number of testnets and code that the SAFE Network requires before launch. The next stage will be to add this to add, remove, split, merge and secure message relay. At that stage, routing will be complete and we will be releasing the Alpha 3 network. This marks the end of the last significant area of research before launch, after which we will be finalising Vault rules, Safecoin farming, SOLID integration and all of the client APIs and bindings.

As a result, the work behind PARSEC is summarised in the first of three papers that we will be releasing over the coming weeks. Next up will be a paper that details how Group Membership works within the Network, whilst the final paper that we release will explain Sharding. And the exciting thing about these papers are that these elements have already been implemented.

Join Us!

The Protocol for Asynchronous, Reliable, Secure and Efficient Consensus is the most elegant solution to the highly asynchronous byzantine fault tolerance problem in existence today. PARSEC has been fully proven mathematically and MaidSafe are now planning its implementation. PARSEC will be a vital part of the SAFE Network. But any team that is working on distributed consensus problems can now use this technology. We’re making it open source, and available for anyone to use. We’re looking to build and improve on top of this and we strongly believe that the best way to do this is to open it up to the world for comments and contributions.

The implications for distributed computing are significant and we look forward to hearing the response from others in the field to the work that we are releasing today. This is a technology that will power the SAFE Network, the only truly next-generation decentralised autonomous internet that promises privacy, security and freedom by default. And it’s a technology that you can use for your own projects as we all look to build the future together.

You can read the full details in the White Paper and RFC (Request For Comment). We look forward to receiving your feedback.

 

The Release of the Code

Following the release of the Whitepaper on our new consensus mechanism – Protocol for Asynchronous Reliable Secure and Efficient Consensus (PARSEC) we are delighted to now be releasing the code. You can check out the world’s first completely decentralised, open source, highly asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism by visiting our GitHub repo and downloading the code for yourself or if you are still looking for further information this new video gives a great overview.

SAFE DevCon 2018: A Hive of Industry

What a day!

We’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who joined us — both in person and online — at SAFE DevCon 2018. It was a unique occasion, as the entire global MaidSafe team joined developers who travelled from all around the world to take part in the SAFE Network’s first ever European developer conference in Ayr.

SAFE DevCon 2018, Ayr, Scotland

With most of the attendees checked staying in the same hotel, everyone was at the venue and ready to go nice and early for a day that was packed with talks from both the core MaidSafe team and members of high-profile community projects on the SAFE Network. And, of course, the evening saw conversations continuing long into the night for the second evening in a row.

Preparations for SAFE DevCon 2018

All talks were streamed live online and the individual videos due to be released within the next couple of days. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel and enable notifications to find out as soon as the conference videos.

Dug Campbell (MaidSafe) kicking off SAFE DevCon 2018

As expected, it was a packed room that settled down early in the morning to see founder David Irvine kick off the conference by outlining the vision behind the SAFE Network. Explaining why the SAFE platform is critical for the future of data and communications, David also made some key announcements that support the building of the SAFE Network and making it easier for new developers to get involved, including:

  • Locking the core SAFE Network libraries open by removing the MaidSafe Commercial Licence from all libraries
  • Increasing flexibility for app developers by relicensing the APIs and bindings to either MIT or BSD licenses
  • The launch of the SAFE Developer Hub, a new online resource for SAFE developers to find out more about key concepts, APIs, tutorials and more
  • Release of a new video explaining Safecoin, the world’s currency for security and privacy

Founder David Irvine & CTO Viv Rajkumar with the opening keynote of SAFE DevCon 2018

CTO Viv Rajkumar then joined him on stage to talk about recent progress in development towards a live network, and provided a great insight into the up-and-coming Alpha 3 network and beyond.

Discussions then moved to SAFE Network app development, where front-end lead Krishna Kumar unveiled the plans for new platform support as well as further new features.

Krishna Kumar (MaidSafe) running through life at the front end of the SAFE Network

Next up back-end lead Spandan Sharma ran the delegates through an overview of the SAFE Network backend and the recent enhancements made to the network’s networking libraries Crust and Routing.

Back end team lead Spandan Sharma (MaidSafe) updating SAFE DevCon 2018 on progress

After a well-earned coffee break, Nikita Baksalyar took the first talk of the next session in which he explained his team’s focus on expanding language support, enabling apps to be built in many more languages and the approach toward expanding the language bindings.

Nikita Baksalyar (MaidSafe) explaining the libraries and bindings of the SAFE Network

Gabriel Viganotti then took to the stage to explain the newly-launched SAFE DevHub in more detail as well as the various additional tools available to developers which include the various test network options, web API playground and demo applications.

Gabriel Viganotti (MaidSafe) takes new developers through how to start developing on the SAFE Network

After lunch, COO Nick Lambert and Sarah Pentland shared their thoughts on community building and marketing, with Nick confirmed that two additional exchanges will be listing MaidSafeCoin in the coming weeks while Sarah provided an in-depth look at the state of the SAFE Network by summarising the growth of the global SAFE community.

Nick Lambert (COO, MaidSafe) discussing community building

Sarah Pentland (MaidSafe) reviews the State of the SAFE Network

The stage was then turned over to some of the hugely impressive projects and developers that are being built independently on the SAFE Network. Clearly the current Alpha 2 status of the Network wasn’t holding back these projects as they showed off their respective applications in a range of presentations, including:-

James Littlejohn discussing SAFEflow for decentralised health science

Harmen Klink, Founder of Project Decorum discussing decentralised SAFE social platforms

David Brown explaining his work on archiving Wikipedia on the SAFE Network

Joseph Meagher talks about The Safey Project

Josh Wilson (MaidSafe) introduces Mark Hughes’ work integrating the SOLID Project and the SAFE Network

With each of these community projects representing the culmination of many hours of work by the teams, the general feedback from delegates was that the afternoon session left two strong impressions:

  1. each of these projects has immense potential as we get closer to the full launch of the Network; and
  2. there’s an immense amount of work going on here within the community. It might be beneath the radar of those who aren’t checking into the forums regularly. But it only takes a cursory glance at the activity here before you start to get a feel for the hive of activity that is actually taking place.

This is a community that was represented by folk from countries all over the world — in a number of cases, people who had flown for more than 24 hours to spend no more than 48 hours in Scotland, just to get the opportunity to meet others working on the SAFE Network. The SAFE Network will be a global solution — and that was highlighted by the fact that SAFE DevCon attracted delegates from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, the Canary Islands, Japan, Holland, Slovakia, Ireland, Canada, the US, Czech Republic, Indonesia and Argentina, amongst many others.

Coffee break at SAFE DevCon 2018

More coffee and chat at SAFE DevCon 2018

So once again, thank you to everyone who made the trip and to those who watched online. We can’t wait to hear the first stories about people who either have been inspired by the talks, or will be motivated by the videos, to head along to the DevHub and start building their own decentralised applications for the SAFE Network.

We’ve started planning SAFE DevCon 2019 already….

So the only question is…who’s up for it?

Note: a special shout-out must go to Mark Hughes (@happybeing on the Forum) whose talk at SAFE DevCon 2018 explaining his work integrating SOLID with the SAFE Network has now attracted the support of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Watch this space…

Designing the New Internet

By Jim Collinson

I first logged on to the internet back in the early days of the web. A hand-me-down computer from a programmer uncle meant that Christmas of ’94 was a revelation; a new frontier of knowledge opened up in-front of me. The sum of human understanding was being amassed, and was right at my fingertips: graphic design, politics, music, race car engineering… it was all there to be absorbed, pored over, discussed, contributed to. And that, to me, is the essence of the internet. A meeting of like minded individuals; teaching, learning, collaborating, trading, connecting, sharing. A place of science, of wonder, exploration, and unconstrained thought. A space where all information is equal, even information published by a teenager in a Scottish fishing town, hacking away on a cast-off 386.

The internet took me to a career in the music industry where I’ve spent the best part of the last 15 years. I’ve built independent labels, high-resolution music services, and have helped design new ways for people to experience and interact with music in their home; all thanks to the power of the computer network.

And the web, for a fleeting moment, seemed truly revolutionary for music. Suddenly layers of middlemen evaporated and the gap between the artist and their audience became vanishingly small: music distribution was becoming accessible to everyone.

But like the same situations faced in many industries, the prospect of fair and open access to music — to information — faces strangulation from corporations deploying technology and the brute strength of centralisation to control supply chains and the ability of individuals to create and distribute data.

It was just this kind of challenge that led me to the find other people working to solve the problem at its core: rebuilding the web from the ground up. Little did I know that the best of them were right on my doorstep!

So I’m thrilled to be joining the MaidSafe team as UX/UI designer, to lend a hand in building the solution.

It’s of course a privilege, but also a huge responsibility. The nature of the web as we now know it has given an inordinate amount of power to bureaucracies and the platforms that it is built upon. Sidestepping these structures gives us a unique opportunity to rebuild the web with the individual at the centre; the network serving the needs of humans, not users serving the needs of corporations. How’s that for a design brief?

With the SAFE Network, security and privacy will come as standard, but its implications go way beyond that. How people use and experience the web will be transformed through decentralisation, and being handed absolute control over their personal data.

When we no longer pay for technology with our personal information and our attention, it allows something remarkable: the worth of a product is based on its utility — what it can do for society — not on its ability to exploit people’s intimate data.

Portable, ownable data means competition between design solutions, not on how effectively customers can be locked in and commoditised. This is the start of a renaissance in user experience design, where businesses, developers, and designers sole focus must be on meeting the needs of humans.

It’s people that will shape the future of the internet, not corporations, nor governments. So what do we want it to be?

Another David Joins Team MaidSafe

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Hi all, I’m David Geddes and I’m very happy to have joined this impressively dedicated and motivated team to take on the task of managing customer support.  Everyone has made me feel so welcome during my first couple of days and I’m looking forward to getting to know each one of them a little better over the next few weeks.

So a little about me… I started at the University of Strathclyde studying a joint Computer Science and Electronic Engineering degree where it took me the best part of three years to realise that I simply didn’t “get” analogue electronics (I guess my mind isn’t wired that way).  I switched focus for my third year to purely Computer Science modules for my BSc. On leaving university I signed up with a Scottish Enterprise scheme in Glasgow called Graduate Into Business which aimed to place graduates with local start-ups. I found myself attracted to a software company called IES who wanted to play their environmentalist part by reducing the amount of energy buildings consume through sustainable design and intelligent building control.  My first tasks were to learn a new programming language (Visual Basic) and create database tables of which I can say that the former was definitely more interesting than the latter. I moved on to creating front-end interfaces using Visual Basic to link with Fortran calculation engines and learned many lessons through trial and error about the importance of a good user-experience. After a couple of years we created the second and third generations of what became the Virtual Environment and by now I was working almost exclusively in C++.  I had gained responsibility in multiple projects for the full application lifecycle: design; coding; testing; delivery and end user support and I have to say that if I never have to document a product again it’ll be too soon. I did however find that I was able to build up a good rapport with many of our regular users which I guess led to my next career move.

I moved into technical support in 2006 after a very enjoyable secondment to Boston in the States where I was both continuing to develop software and provide user support to the NA market.  In the beginning it was just myself handling all technical enquiries but as time went on I was allowed to grow the team and take management responsibility for it. I set up the procedures required to run the department and had to establish these in person by visiting the Pune (India), Boston (MA) and San Francisco (CA) operations… a dirty job indeed but somebody had to do it.  By the end of my tenure as Technical Support Manager we had support staff in Australia, India, Scotland, Ireland and the USA meaning that we could provide 24 hour support – the sun never set on the IES support team!

During 2011 I transferred back in to the software development department to assist the Technical Director in the administrative and planning management of the team.  We were working within a hybrid waterfall/agile methodology until a restructure in 2013 where I moved to a more hands-on development role again heading up a team responsible for adding productivity enhancements to the Virtual Environment.  Having squared the circle and being back in C++ development I felt that I’d probably done all I could within IES and it was time again for a change so I set my sights on pastures new… which resulted in me coming to MaidSafe.

I’ve been playing more and more tennis over the last couple of years and I think that I am driving poor my poor wife Victoria crazy with how obsessed I’m becoming.  I joined the local David Lloyd club where I’m very active in the tennis community there and while I’m not exactly brilliant I’m starting to get the hang of how to hold the, err, “bat” is it?  Recently I’ve learned how to string a racquet and am threatening to buy my own stringing machine… I told you… obsessed!

One thing that Victoria and myself are obsessed about together is travel.  We’ve seen some pretty beautiful places all over this wonderful world and to be honest our own country of Scotland is right up there with the best of them.  I try and take the occasional photograph when we are away and now and again if the timing is just right they come out quite well.

That’s probably more than enough from me at this time so I’ll not take up any more of your day other than to finish by reiterating how excited I am to be part of the SAFE revolution.

David.