Decentralized and Peer-to-peer Protocols, Services and Apps (That I've lately come across): Aether, orbitDB, Beaker browser, LBRY

By rhyzom | rhyzom | 19 Apr 2020

Aether: Self-Governing Communities With Moderator Elections Reviving Usenet for the Web 3.0

Aether is an open source platform (running as a bundled Electron stand-alone app) for self-governing communities with auditable moderation and moderator elections. It keeps post and comments for the duration of six months and destroys them afterwards. It's similar in concept to discussion boards like Reddit and Usenet, a federated discussion newsgroups system that's something of a relic from the earlier days of the Internet and of an era bygone. Matter of fact, as the official site states, Usenet seems to have been the main inspiration driving the idea:

Aether’s ultimate goal is to become email, for mass communication. What that means is that it’s the most basic way to broadcast yourself, to find an audience, to find your own community, or to start one. If you’re thinking of Usenet, I like your (real or spiritual) greybeard, and you’re my kind of person.

And I must say this appeals to me quite a bit — matter of fact, I've even read the Usenet protocol specs and RFCs not too long ago with precisely the idea of maybe trying to think of ways to possibly revive the spirit of Usenet or come up with something close enough. So, this seems refreshing, at least at first glance.


As a social medium, Aether allows you to set up communities (like those in Reddit) and subscribe to existing such based on topics and areas of interest. It shares some similarities with Mastodon and Scuttlebutt, but unlike the former (which is federated) it's completely decentralized and privacy-conscious, with no IP addresses associated with posts and comments (which are also even more diluted by being replicated among peers).

orbitDB: An Eventual Consistency Serverless, Distributed Peer-to-peer Database For Decentralized Apps Using IPFS


OrbitDB is a distributed p2p database using IPFS for data storage and IPFS Pubsub for auto syncing databases with peers. It uses CRDTs (conflict-free replicated data types) for database merges making it ideal for decentralized and distributed apps and offline-first web services and applications (which are obviously becoming an emerging trend besides cryptocurrencies and blockchains). 

The Offical User's Guide to OrbitDB is available here and there's also a quick guide here

Beaker: Dat Protocol Browser for Creating and Self-publishing Web Sites and Peer-to-peer Apps


Beaker is an experimental browser for accessing and building peer-to-peer services and apps. It introduces support for a new peer-to-peer hypermedia  protocol called Dat ("Distributed Dataset Synchronization And Versioning Protocol") that's used for web sites and file transfers (along with HTTP and similarly, Dat resources and web sites are prefixed with dat://). 

Dat support makes it possible to share and self-publish web sites and apps from the browser with a single click — you just create the web site or Javascript app locally and share the Dat URL link (which is of the form dat://<public key>). The browser app is a bit clunky, so obviously a little early phase (also, as the rest, using Electron, so basically Chrome) and reading up on the Dat protocol specs, it's also something recent as there's some aspects of it not fleshed out and thought through in the detail quite yet. Otherwise, it seems to be something in the category of IPFS that also makes use of DHTs and draws from models like Git's version control.

Perhaps not bad as a bare basis for playing around with creating simple peer-to-peer apps to get a general sense and intuition of it.

Github repository is here.

LBRY: Community-run Digital Marketplace Platform for Monetizing Content


LBRY is a digital marketplace where content creators get paid in the platforms native cryptocurrency (LBC). LBRY is both a protocol and a service running on that protocol that includes a dedicated blockchain (for maintaining the balances of its native cryptocurrency and a content namespace/catalogue), a data network (LBRYNet) and a set of associated services to do with content discovery and distribution and transaction settlement. Also running as a stand-alone Electron app (basically an instance of Chrome's rendering engine with a Node.js runtime) and somewhat less of an interest to me personally. You can read about it in more detail here.

Steem seems to be an early precursor of this (and one I hate with a passion) and Opensea is another somewhat similar concept I also came across these days — personally, I think there's something lacking there and platforms such as these aren't really particularly useful for anything, well, useful. But maybe that's just me...

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Ad hoc heuristics for approaching complex systems and the "unknown unknowns". Techne & episteme. Verum ipsum factum. In the words of Archimedes: "Give me a lever and a place to rest it... or I shall kill a hostage every hour." Rants, share-worthy pieces and occasional insights and revelations.

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