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Coming soon: Twister – a distributed p2p microblogging platform

photo of Sepp Hasslberger

Sepp Hasslberger
26th January 2014


twister_logo1

Twister is a new distributed microblogging platform that is being developed by Miguel Freitas, a programmer who lives in Rio de Janeiro. You can download the white paper that describes the idea from Arxiv: twister – a P2P microblogging platform

How does twister work? It builds on previous developments in distributed networks and computing and adapts them to form a network that lets people communicate in safety and anonymity. The blockchain we know from the Bitcoin protocol is used to protect and secure the network, while the code that makes Bittorrent work will facilitate the distribution of data on the network. Basically, we are talking about a user-owned and user-maintained distributed Twitter.

Twister’s developer has put up a website (http://twister.net.co/) – he says he will need help from other coders. But the basic structure is already there and functional. It runs on linux machines, so if you are a geek and want to contribute to a worthwhile effort, check out the site.

twister is a microblogging peer-to-peer platform, that is, it is a distributed system like bittorrent or similar file sharing technologies. Being completely decentralized means that no one is able to shut it down, as there is no single point to attack. The system is also designed so it cannot be censored, freedom of speech cannot be taken from you. And because the cryptography is employed end-to-end, no entity is able to spy on your communications.

The protocol is open and community is invited to help to extend it with new features. The reference implementation is free software, based on Bitcoin and libtorrent sources, which are released under the terms of the MIT and BSD licenses, respectively.

How does it work?

For the complete description you should refer to the white paper. But in short: twister is comprised of three mostly independent overlay networks. The first provides distributed user registration and authentication and is based on the Bitcoin protocol. The second one is a Distributed Hash Table (DHT) overlay network providing key/value storage for user resources and tracker location for the third network. The last network is a collection of possibly disjointed “swarms” of followers, based on the Bittorrent protocol, which can be used for efficient near-instant notification delivery to many users.

The twister protocol, for now, runs on Linux and it has been ported to the Android mobile platform. There is a way for the technically adept to compile it for Apple’s latest operating system, but there isn’t yet an easy way for normal users to get into it. A bit of patience – distributed microblogging is on the way.

Wired also has an excellent article about this one

Out in the Open: An NSA-Proof Twitter, Built With Code From Bitcoin and BitTorrent

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