Building The SAFE Network in 2018
As we stand at the start of 2019, savouring the memories of another Hogmanay, we view the new year stretching out in front of us — and we can’t wait to get stuck into things!
We’ve already pushed out our first significant release of the year providing support for developers to build native Android SAFE apps. But before diving headfirst into all of the hugely exciting things that 2019 promises, it’s a great time to reflect on what the last year delivered for the SAFE Network. As the MaidSafe team continues to grow and the releases continue to stack up on GitHub, it’s easy to lose track of just how much progress has been made, both by MaidSafe and the wider community.
So if you’re new to the SAFE Network, first off — welcome! Hopefully this will give you a place to start from when taking a deeper look into the progress that has been made.
The SAFE Network Fundamentals
We worked this year on distilling a number of essential truths about the SAFE Network into a list of twenty one Fundamentals. You can read these on the website but if you’re looking for a little more context about why each of these has consistently guided the design of the Network for the last twelve years or so, it’s worth checking out the post on the Forum that explains the context.
Up there with the biggest news of the year was the release of the Protocol for Asynchronous Reliable Secure and Efficient Consensus (PARSEC). In May 2018, MaidSafe announced the release of PARSEC, a new completely decentralised, open source, highly asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism. In other words, it’s the method by which a global network can come to agreement on what happened, and when, without requiring any centralised authority.
Much of the rest of the year for the Routing team has been focused on integrating this into the SAFE Network and we’re hoping that many other projects take up the tech and use it for their own purposes. You can read more about it in the White Paper, the release of the code, a number of podcasts, technical and not-so-technical videos, a TechCrunch article and many other places!
There was plenty of excitement amongst the community when we released a couple of tests to see how our peer-to-peer networking library Crust (Connections in Rust) would fare in the wild. Between both the first Crust test and the second, we saw some fantastic results. So after involvement from 37 countries and over 20,000 attempted connections, with connections into and out of China also very strong (88% success rate overall), we’re happy to say that people are able to connect to each other directly! We also found some interesting evidence of issues out there that support our fundamental stance that all data on the new decentralised Internet needs to be encrypted.
SAFE and Solid
Great progress was made in 2018 between Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s SOLID project and the SAFE Network. By building the framework to ensure that data is saved on the SAFE Network in a way that is compatible with Solid’s semantic web approach, we’re able to ensure that our shared visions of total user control of data and excision of the third party aggregators who currently control and use our data in ways that we don’t intend are able to fit snugly together.
We released a Proof of Concept to highlight this in July 2018 called Patter. A Twitter-esque proof-of-concept, you can check out the details here (Josh’s blog post and this podcast). What’s more, the new SAFE Browser has support for RDF data structures!
We released a range of video content this year — from explaining the difference between the SAFE Network and blockchain-based storage, to a couple of videos funded by the Community Engagement Programme (talking about the currency of the SAFE Network and the Proof Of Resource mechanism).
The Community really took strides forward this year with regular meetups in London, Chicago and Brighton. Community member @fergish continued to forge ahead with his SAFE Crossroads Podcast. And it was fantastic to see the SAFE Network Primer being produced in January by the community, giving newcomers a straightforward document to take a look through when they first explore the project.
The team were also out and about talking at a variety of conferences events, including FOSDEM, MozFest, RustFest Paris, RustFest Rome and RustRush amongst others. And we held the first ever SAFE DevCon in April 2018. It was an amazing day with the entire MaidSafe team in attendance and a huge number of well-known community members meeting each other face-to-face for the first time ever. You can watch the videos from the day here — and news of SAFE DevCon 2019 will follow soon…
There are now three key websites: we released safenetwork.tech (for newcomers, privacy advocates, journalists), SAFE DevHub (for developers and more technical types) and then we’ve reduced the prominence of maidsafe.net to reflect the primacy of the Network and community over MaidSafe as an organisation. That brings it more in line with the ethos of the project, whereby the Community run the forum and a number of the social channels such as Telegram and Reddit.
Publicity and News Stories
It was an exciting year for news stories. First, we were able to talk about the fact that David, Viv and Nick had been acting as advisors to HBO’s hugely popular ‘Silicon Valley’ show. And Hollywood continued to sniff around the Network with the appearance of the SAFE Network in unexpected places — not least ‘Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet’.
All of this came on top of the fact that the world is increasingly looking into the decentralisation of the Internet to solve some existing problems. In a year of trials and tribulations for Facebook, Google and others, MaidSafe and the SAFE Network were profiled in a piece in The Guardian newspaper whilst we also sponsored the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco (somewhat ironically…) in 2018. We also introduced more ways than ever to follow the project — including the new Email Mailing List and watching MAID via various coin apps (Blockfolio, BitUniverse, Delta Direct, CoinGecko).
MaidSafe Team Growth
The MaidSafe team has continued to grow over the past twelve months, not least with the opening of a new office in Chennai, India. We’ve had 12 new starts around the world in the past year, a growth of 26% in the total headcount. Most have introduced themselves here in case you’d like to get to know the team a little better (you’ll find them on the safenetwork Medium publication).
We saw some strong growth in app development from the community during 2018 — from the JAMS! music project, to SAFE Drive, Project Decorum, SAFE-CMS, SAFE-Search and SAFE CLI Boilerplate amongst many others. Particularly given the Android release this year, we’re looking forward to seeing this area really grow in the future.
So: What’s Next?
2018 saw huge steps forward for the SAFE Browser (including the most recent v0.11.0 release), Web Hosting Manager, the rebooting of the RFC process (such as suggestions for XOR URL’s on the Network) and far too many other areas to mention.
And 2019 is shaping up to provide even more excitement.
We’re moving on towards the release of SAFE Fleming: that means PARSEC fully integrated into the Routing layer, with Dynamic Membership, malice detection, our sharding solution (Disjoint Sections) and Secure Message Relay all working as we enable everything to run decentralised routing nodes from home. Work will continue on embedding RDF support within SAFE whilst we start to really focus on bringing UX principles into a more foundational level within the software — together with a whole raft of other new and exciting improvements!
In the meantime, we’ll continue to be out there, spreading the word and working to collaborate with anyone who’s interested and shares our vision of a fully-decentralised Internet with security, privacy and freedom for all.
So whether you’ve been involved in running tests, submitting code, finding bugs, chatting on the forum, running meetups, giving talks, sharing the progress of the SAFE Network across social media, we’d just like to say thanks for all your support in 2018.
Roll on 2019!