Burak Nehbit is the San Francisco-based developer of Aether, a peer-to-peer, open source protocol for posting and discussion.
Cointelegraph: What sets Aether apart from Reddit?
Burak Nehbit: Aether doesn’t at all have privileged users such as moderators or admins to allow for manual moderation. Therefore, all judgment you face comes expressly from your peers. This is what is meant by Aether being “community moderated.”
It’s also distributed. All information on Aether is distributed across all its users' computers. This makes it very hard to block. Removing information that’s been published is comparable to removing a drop of ink from a glass of water after it’s been dropped.
Aether is also anonymous. Usernames are not unique—multiple people could post under the same username, or the same user could change his username as many times as he wishes.
If somebody could wiretap all the cables between all Aether’s users, he would be able to figure out where a post first appeared, thereby pinpointing its origin. To prevent this, connections between users are encrypted, so wiretapping would only result in a bunch of garbled bits. Needless to say, all this is done automatically by the protocol.
Lastly, it’s temporary. Whatever you post disappears after six months. It's designed to be an ephemeral space, focused on the now rather than the past.
CT: How many downloads of Aether have you had?
BN: I don't track the number of downloads. The Aether database on my machine counts over 16,000 nodes which it interacted at some point in time, but only a fraction of these are active users my computer connects to on a daily basis.
CT: Your most recent blog post says, "I have a bunch of features I’m thinking about implementing such as Bitcoin integration." How are you thinking of integrating Bitcoin - as a tipping function? Paid membership function? Something else?
BN: I'm not planning to have paid membership—this is an open source project, and it belongs to the community much like Bitcoin itself.
I am tentatively thinking about implementing an optional tipping functionality tied to the upvote action, or as a separate “tip” action. If you like something very much and have activated tipping, upvoting something would send some miniscule amount of Bitcoin to the creator of that post.
To me, tipping is useful because it's an incentive to increase the quality of posts within the network, but it's a relatively obvious idea. There could be other use cases I might be missing. I would love to hear what people think about it, honestly.
CT: Why did you develop Aether?
BN: I’m a staunch advocate of free speech.
Aether also fills a hole in the fabric of the Internet—it's the thing you use to talk to other people when everything else is down or inaccessible. If the HTTP protocol died tomorrow, with all the web servers blocked, Aether and its boards would be unaffected. These kinds of things happen in various places around the world every day.
Aether’s fairly resilient and nearly impossible to block (since there is nothing to block). It’s also useful in cases where communication by other means is not guaranteed or is outright prevented.
CT: What version is Aether in now?
BN: It’s currently version 1.2. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use Aether for security-critical purposes yet. It's still an experiment and hasn’t reached maturation—it’s likely vulnerable. But definitely give it a shot with non-security-critical uses!
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