Online / 6 & 7 February 2021


Designing a human centric next generation internet

Vision and progress on the Interpeer Project

The Interpeer Project attempts to provide the technical underpinnings for a human centric next generation internet.

As sensors and compute nodes are now (close to) ubiquitous, it follows that there is no longer a static or traceable relationship between ownership of a physical processing unit and the personal identifiable data it processes.

A future internet architecture must take this into account, whilst respecting and protecting user's privacy and data protection concerns, also from a regulatory point of view. At the same time, sharing data in this proliferation of processing units also favours distributed approaches over the web's decentralised architecture.

This session outlines the future the Interpeer Project envisions, and reports on achieved outcomes to date.

The Web has was designed with sharing of textual information in mind, and has by now outgrown this purpose. In the academic context in which it was conceived, and considering the technical constraints of the time, it made sense to design a centralised protocol for up- and downloading documents to a server managed by an institution or company. The Web has long evolved away from this, and added authentication, authorization and encryption as natural afterthoughts to the original design.

Nowadays, we share more than documents. Our concept of sharing has evolved (for better and worse) from only adding to the public domain to selectively trusting groups or individuals with specific pieces of information.

While services built on web protocols can and have modelled this new concept, it remains difficult to do well. This and financial incentives combined push developers to instead adopt half measures, whereby a central instance - the webserver and its legal owners - act as intermediaries to the process, weakening the sharing model to commercial, state or criminal exploitation.

There are excellent organisations fighting to amend legislations to close such loopholes. The Interpeer Project recognizes that aside from the legal struggles, the practical consideration remains that it is much simpler for developers to build centralised, vulnerable products than those safe by design.

It aims at making safe data sharing applications as easy or easier to build by starting from the ground up, and embedding the security and synchronization concepts for a highly distributed network directly into a new and open protocol stack.

Empowering users in the context of this project means enabling them to do everything they're currently used to and more, but safely and without the strict need for centralised infrastructure.


Photo of Jens Finkhaeuser Jens Finkhaeuser