Freenet is a non-profit initiative dedicated to the development and propagation of technologies for open and democratic information distribution over the Internet. It advocates for unrestricted exchange of intellectual, scientific, literary, social, artistic, creative, human rights, and cultural expressions, free from interference by state, private, or special interests.
Freenet was initially developed by Ian Clarke at the University of Edinburgh in 1999 as a decentralized system for information storage and retrieval, offering users the ability to publish or retrieve information anonymously.
In 2019, work began on a successor to the original Freenet, which was internally known as "Locutus." This project, a redesign from the ground up, incorporated lessons learned from the original Freenet's development and operation, and adapted to today's challenges. In March 2023, the original version of Freenet was separated into its own project, and what was known as "Locutus" was officially branded as "Freenet."
The previous and current versions of Freenet have several key differences:
Functionality: The previous version was analogous to a decentralized hard drive, while the current version is analogous to a full decentralized computer.
Real-time Interaction: The current version allows users to subscribe to data and be notified immediately if it changes. This is essential for systems like instant messaging or group chat.
Programming Language: Unlike the previous version, which was developed in Java, the current Freenet is implemented in Rust. This allows for better efficiency and integration into a wide variety of platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, MacOS, etc).
Transparency: The current version is a drop-in replacement for the world wide web and is just as easy to use.
Anonymity: While the previous version was designed with a focus on anonymity, the current version does not offer built-in anonymity but allows for a choice of anonymizing systems to be layered on top.
Freenet is a fully decentralized, peer-to-peer network and a drop-in replacement for the world wide web. It operates as a global shared computer, providing a platform for sophisticated decentralized software systems. Freenet allows developers to create decentralized alternatives to centralized services, including messaging, social media, email, and e-commerce. It's designed for simplicity and flexibility and can be used seamlessly through your web browser. The platform's user-friendly decentralized applications are scalable, interoperable, and secured with cryptography.
Delegates, contracts, and user interfaces (UIs) each serve distinct roles in the Freenet ecosystem. Contracts control public data, or "shared state." Delegates act as the user's agent and can store private data on the user's behalf, while UIs provide an interface between these and the user through a web browser. See the user manual for more detail.
Freenet was started by Ian Clarke in 1999 and grew out of his undergraduate paper "A Distributed Decentralized Information Storage and Retrieval System." The Freenet Project non-profit organization was established in 2001.
In 2023, the Freenet Project Inc board of directors consists of Ian Clarke, Steven Starr, and Michael Grube. Along with Ian, the development team consists of Nacho Duart and Hector Alberto Santos Rodriguez.
As of September 2023, we are working towards an initial prototype; see our roadmap for details. You can experiment with building a decentralized app to test on your own computer, but the peer-to-peer network will not be established until the initial prototype is ready.