This year's status letter covers all news-worthy updates since our previous letter.
Inside This Year's Letter:
- Missing Updates
- Group Income
- Shelter Protocol
- Miscellaneous Decentralization Related
Those of you who've been following our work for a long time might have noticed that we are missing 3 years worth of okTurtles status updates, starting with the 2020 update. The years 2020, 2021, and 2022 were difficult years for the team. During this time, we continued to post updates to the Group Income blog, but the annual status letter remained neglected. We did not mean to keep you waiting so long, and we thank you for your patience and support.
The good news is that we have been able to make progress on many of our projects and goals, and we're finally able to share some of those updates with you today.
Next year, we will be celebrating 10 years of okTurtles, 10 years of decentralization. So much has changed. The Internet is getting both more centralized, and more decentralized. Many centralized companies have been increasing censorship, Net Neutrality has been destroyed, more governments are disconnecting from the world wide web, end-to-end encryption is under attack, and with the looming threat of CBDCs designed to control your every transaction, decentralization tech has never been more relevant.
We are still here. We are still fighting, working, developing, and advocating for a better world. We are right here alongside you — the builders and advocates of a better, more decentralized world. A world that takes power away from the corrupt center, and beams it to the edge, into the hands of the people. And we are just getting started.
Basic Income has been in the news a lot in recent years, with many different approaches to the problem. We've been long working on our own approach, one that is legitimately decentralized and privacy-protecting. Group Income is community software that empowers any group to coordinate and provide themselves with a financial safety net, using any currency, anywhere, even in countries that have shut off access to the Internet.
Have you ever heard of a "prototype" taking 7 years?
There are no frameworks for creating decentralized, end-to-end encrypted, and user-friendly web apps. We had to make our own.
On June 8th, 2023, we announced the beta was ready for testers and onboarded our first round of testers. Today we're re-opening the beta to another round of testers.
Want to try out Group Income? For free?
Group Income at BIG
Some people seemed excited, while others were less enthusiastic about the idea that they might be in a position to give money, not just receive it! 😱
Who can blame them? The way Basic Income has been marketed is usually the idea of a "check in the mail". It's always presented from the perspective of a person receiving basic income. That someone is on the other end of that exchange, writing the check and sending it to you, is sort of an afterthought, or at best, an obstacle to be surmounted. There are people suffering after all!
Indeed, there are people suffering. We should support and promote basic income. It's the right thing to do. However, why is it that too many basic income advocates don't seem to be interested in being the change they wish to see in the world?
At my very first San Francisco Basic Income Createathon, when presenting the idea of Group Income to basic income advocates for the first time, I was met with a rather curious question: "What about freeloaders?"
This question was both a shock and a revelation to me.
We had just watched a short video where basic income advocates were asked that very question by basic income skeptics!
Something was clearly very wrong. While it is true that many people in the United States (and elsewhere) are suffering because of financial pressures, basic income advocates should be among the first to set an example and write those checks themselves!
That's what we've been doing with our own Group Income Group (GIG). Group Income is Basic Income — on a small-scale. We've had a group running for almost a year now, and we've collectively given over a thousand dollars to those who need it. The Group Income algorithm matches those with cash to spare with those in need of cash. And our group is supporting every group income contributor who wants to join it.
Here's what one person had to say about how Group Income helped them:
The Group Income application made it easy for my friends to help me when my income suddenly dropped. I was able to afford my phone and internet bill with the contributions made in the app. This contribution was significant enough to ensure that I stayed in touch with friends, family and colleagues, and instrumental in bringing me peace of mind (and a roof over my head).
— Group Income participant
And now, you can create your own Group Income Group, today, using some of the coolest decentralization technology, which we'll cover next.
Shelter Protocol is an end-to-end encrypted, federated protocol for building user-friendly web applications. We have been working on this protocol, along with Group Income, for over 7 years. This year we were finally able to release concrete details about it.
Six years ago we released a video describing our approach to building web software like Group Income:
In that video we had the following slide:
This slide represented a then yet-unnamed protocol, which we announced this year at DWeb: Shelter Protocol
As stated in that video, with Shelter Protocol (and therefore, Group Income):
- You decide who stores your data.
- The protocol is decentralized. (Through a federated approach)
- Your data is encrypted, for real.
- We cannot see your data.
- We cannot censor your data.
- We cannot be forced to do the above.
- The end-user is in control.
The protocol has evolved in that time and we should update some of the statements made in that video to add necessary nuance:
- Shelter Protocol supports storing both encrypted and unencrypted data. In instances where apps use unencrypted data, everyone can see that data.
Sidenote: why might apps want to store unencrypted data? Because there are certain instances where you might want anyone to be able to read the data. For example, it wouldn't make sense for us to encrypt this blog post because we want everyone to be able to read it. Similarly, in Group Income, we have a feature that allows users to create public chatrooms.
- Data that can be seen by anyone is therefore subject to moderation AKA censorship.
- Shelter Protocol supports a "thin client" mode to save on storage space, and if apps use this mode, many/most clients won't have a full copy of the data - again, to save on storage space.
Shortly after the BIG Conference, it was time for a few turtles to attend DWebCamp 2023 — probably the coolest decentralization tech conference on the planet (IMHO) — to present their work on Shelter Protocol.
Miscellaneous Decentralization Related
Noteworthy Decentralization Tech
Every status letter, we highlight some of the most important and exciting emerging decentralization tech since the last status letter.
This year is no different, so let's dive right into it!
- Alby - The "Metamask of Bitcoin", a browser extension for sending Lightning payments and interacting with Lightning-based web apps
- Keet.io - Peer-to-peer hole-punching based video and chat. Creates direct connections between users with no servers in between!
- Nostr - Relay-based decentralized messaging protocol & platform for the web
- Theseus DHT Protocol - A proposal for addressing many security issues facing DHTs
- DocuSeal - Self-hosted alternative to DocuSign
- Mitra - Another Mastodon-like ActivityPub implementation in Rust supporting subscriptions in Monero
- Blockchain-free smart contracts for building decentralized web apps are coming!
- Self-hosted cloud software & hardware (Apple iCloud's missed opportunity):
- New blockchain-based networks for storage, compute, and collaboration
- Reddit-like Communities
- Archiving of websites
- ArchiveBox - Powerful, self-hosted internet archiving solution to collect, save, and view sites you want to preserve offline
- Diskernet - Full text search and automatic archival of your browsing and bookmarks. Only supports Chrome however.
- SingleFile - Web browser extension that faithfully saves websites in a single HTML file
- monolith - Command-line tool to save websites to a single HTML file
- Mesh Networking
Possibly decentralized technologies (promising but we aren't 100% sure):
- Encyclosphere - A federated Wikipedia from the cofounder of Wikipedia
- If the system is federated then it is decentralized. However, we were unable to find details of a clearly defined federated protocol in their Technical Proposal documentation that is still in draft form from 2019. We hope this project receives more attention, and are looking forward to more progress!
If you think we made a mistake in highlighting any of these projects (because they aren't really decentralized), or if you'd like to share any projects for us to review, please let us know in the comments!
How to tell if something is decentralized
We should briefly address why we picked some projects and not others for the list above, as there were some that we wanted to include that we had to leave out.
Perhaps the best hallmark of a decentralized system is permissionlessness. In other words, you don't need to ask anyone for permission to use the system or participate in it.
Some projects advertise themselves as "decentralized" because they allow "anyone" to participate in their system. However, if these projects have a central point for signing up for an account, they are not actually decentralized. A tell-tale sign that a project may be misleading you is a central "Terms of Service" page that all users must abide by, and/or a central signup page. This is a problem because even though "anyone" can sign up and participate in your network, there is ultimately a single authority that decides who is allowed to use the system. For these projects, we recommend using the word "distributed" instead of "decentralized", as it is a less misleading term.
Note that a "Terms of Service" page does not necessarily mean that the system is centralized. For example, while a federated server may have its own unique set of terms that users of that specific server must agree to, it is still a participant in an overall decentralized system. The point is, for a system to be decentralized, anyone must be able to participate in the overall system without asking for permission from a central authority, whether by running their own server, or by using peer-to-peer technologies like DHTs or hole-punching.
We updated the okTurtles Homepage to better organize and highlight all of the recent projects we've been working on.
After many years of using Wordpress we decided it was time for a change to something faster, more secure, and less buggy. Welcome to our new blog! It looks exactly like the old blog, and even has all of the old comments from the Wordpress blog — but now it's built using a static site generator.
If you would like to convert your Wordpress blog to a static site, stay tuned — we have a guide in the works that will show you exactly how to do that too.
That's it for the fifth turtle status letter!
Our mission continues this year, and if you made it this far, YOU are a real OK Turtle! 💪🐢
As always, if you are able to support our work we are forever grateful to all of our donors and supporters. You can support our work on Shelter Protocol, Group Income, and more by making a tax-deductible donation today.
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Without our supporters, we can't do what we do.
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