What is Amethyst Grid?

I haven’t been to a lot of networking events, nor have I met with a lot of startup guys but I have talked to the people around me. There’s a lot less pressure while answering their questions. Except for the million dollar one.

What are you building? What exactly is Grid?

My answer involves wrenching guts, sweating palms, and a fake smile. It is not that I don’t have a definition of Grid, I do, but that definition is not what people want to hear. What they really want to know is What am I building for them? or What value does my product bring to them?. And THAT is a tough question. Tough, because Grid does not do just one thing, it has myriad applications. And when someone asks What does Grid do?, it is like a brain system crash. We really needed to sort this out, and we did. This post answers all the questions, and clears the air around Grid.

What are we building?

We have devoted around a year to this project and have built an ecosystem of applications, which don’t need to rely on a third party connectivity media to operate. In simpler words, we have made a layer, or a platform over current technologies, which is basically what Internet would be if it didn’t have so much of centralization. Think of Grid as your portal to an independent network. Grid never ever depends on a third variable. It will always build it’s own network if needed or if a base is provided, it will use it to craft out a decentralized network. One thing is for sure, there won’t be central points of failures in Grid and you wouldn’t have to depend on someone else’s service to connect.

What exactly is Grid?

The world today is binary, you are either online or offline and Grid aims to change this scenario. Talking about offline, a large percentage of population has Internet availability and uses it on the go. I mean who doesn’t have 3g or at least 2g on their phones, almost no one. Then what is the point of making Grid work for offline cases, you might ask. You know the answer yourself, you are aware of the anxiety when your Internet stops for 3 seconds. If the stalling of your social life can make you this much anxious, then imagine the plight of people who really need to connect. Imagine a disaster struck city, with communications wiped out. Or imagine yourself walking hurriedly towards home through an unsafe neighborhood at night with no signal on phone. These example clearly show the need of a backup network, one which is independent and and controlled by the people themselves.

Off the Internet

To become independent, Grid uses the resources of your smartphone to make a network of its own. Currently on Android, the app will first search for Grid hotspots(phones which have tethering mode on) and if one is found, will connect to it and your phone will become a part of a larger Grid. If there are no hotspots available, the app will turn your phone into one. With such a network, which is formed by you and other users, it is impossible for it to fail because of conventional problems. There are no central servers which can be brought down, there are no strings which control the network. It can be a lifesaver in places which are often affected by floods or any disaster. Only a few minutes of connectivity too can help in tracking survivors. Or if you find yourself in a dangerous neighborhood, you can always leverage Grid to contact and ask for help.

On the Internet

We have you covered when you don’t get a signal on your phone, but why would you need us when you are on Internet. There is everything, literally the world, on net, so what is the purpose of Grid on Internet? To answer that, let us first look at the current state of Internet. There are thousands of platforms which offer many services for users, they can use them to connect, chat, or do anything they like. Users join the platform they wish to use and enjoy the services.Now take a moment to realize that you are so dependent on these platforms that if you are not on them then you are simply isolated. If you want to use a service, you need to be on a platform. And if you think about it, these platforms control what you can do and can not.

With Grid we aim to change that. The app checks if Internet is available and if it is, then the users are connected directly to each other without any central intervention, just like the offline case above. And now you don’t need to depend on any platform to use a service. While working on it, I realized one thing, that Internet is great for long distance connections, without it we just can’t do anything, but the way we have been using it renders it impossible for us to connect around us. It’s like everyone around you is invisible or simply non existent unless you visit the central park. In the park, you get everything, there are people, shops, everything, but outside of it, nothing.

The customary API

Grid would be absolutely useless if one can not build applications for it. And for that reason, we have built a framework which makes it possible for developers to craft unique experiences on Grid. The plugins(applications for Grid) are normal applications which can interact with the main Grid app through IPC. A get started will be added very soon, so that you can begin with the development.

Moar plugins

We have 3 plugins lined up for you. The first one is a simple messenger which runs on Grid. Second we have Aether, it is the www of our network and the de facto browser for us. Lastly, we have Zeal, it is a music app which streams the music located on your device to the nearby Grid users.

The Grid app

We have been working on it since a year now, and there was a plan of having a private beta but we had to scrap that up because things broke too easily. The API and the network, both have been tested extensively now, and the results are promising. We upgraded our plugin framework, and the network as well. It is now far more easier to use the API and the host app’s battery usage has been brought down too. We plan to have an alpha in december and a private beta in january(could start from Jan 15th).

And now we are on the same page regarding the project. You have a clear idea of it now and we would really love to talk more about it if you want. And it would be really awesome if you helped us in building Grid and its plugins. Hit us up at team@amethystlabs.org, and be a part the change.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead
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