This is a popular article about Urbit, a peer-to-peer network that is still a bit remote at present. This article is more than 10,000 words long. Since Urbit itself is very complicated, and it is quite strange for most people at present, it takes enough patience to finish reading this article. In order not to waste unnecessary time and energy of the reader, we recommend the following 4 kinds of human reading:
Users who have high privacy requirements and want to control their own data;
Reject Internet Trolls Wise people who want to seek a clean Internet dialogue environment;
Encrypted geeks and developers who love tossing hands and are interested in human society experiments and exploration;
An adventurer who is still exploring the business opportunities in the cryptocurrency world and hopes to make a fortune.
Despite its complexity, we guarantee that the simple Urbit project and the logic behind this project are an interesting spiritual and intellectual adventure. Whether it is an astronomical naming system that maps to the Internet, or a hierarchical ecosystem that is independent of each other, and the economic value contained therein, it will make the exploration of business models or technology development become infinitely imaginative.
Alright, make sure you have boarded the ship. Please fasten your seat belts and an adventure of utopian territorial governance is about to start.
Dog head question .jpg-What is Urbit?
The simple answer is: Urbit is a digital universe that reconstructs the Internet’s “server-client” model.
Gee, it’s hard to understand, right?
Indeed it is. About every month, a “menstruation post” will appear on Hackernews, asking “What is Urbit?”, And the following comments are basically around “What is this project?”, “Too difficult to understand “”, “Pretend to be mysterious” and so on.
This “bewilderment” began in 2017:
What is the magic of this project called Urbit, which has stimulated waves of discussion and even caused controversy? Why did it win the favor of Peter Theil, crypto venture a16z and crypto punk godfather Balaji S. Srinivasan? What is the relationship between Urbit and cryptocurrency? Why is Urbit so difficult to understand?
This series of problems prompted us to decide to spend some energy on this “confusing” project.
Urbit was born longer than Bitcoin. As early as 2002, it started as an amateur project, and after another 18 years of slow evolution, it still looks like today: a peer-to-peer Internet.
In fact, Urbit has many titles, such as the first cloud personal computer, cloud city, digital land, and even some people say it is a performance art.
It is difficult to clarify what Urbit is, because it completely reconstructs the current “server-client” model of the Internet. For those who do not understand the principles of Internet architecture, it is naturally difficult to understand.
To this end, Urbit also reinvented a set of technology stacks, including a virtual machine “Nock”, a typed functional programming language “Hoon”, and a functional network operating system that is also a database “Arvo”. It can be said that Urbit is very different from the existing programming, and the only thing in common with 20th century programming is Unicode and some encryption algorithms.
The most interesting part is that Urbit also invented a new decentralized identity system “Azimuth”. The uniqueness of this Urbit identity system is that it adopts a free and loose hierarchical governance structure and has a very cool astronomical naming system. From top to bottom, they are “galaxies, stars, planets, and satellites”. DNS, ISP, personal computers and connected devices in the Internet.
Due to the upper limit of Urbit’s address space issuance, this makes Urbit’s identity ID scarce and has a value that can be captured by digital assets.
In short, all of Urbit’s inventions are intended to replace the current mainstream “client-server” model and reconstruct a peer-to-peer Internet. In this peer-to-peer network, each user has its own client and server without being hosted by a large company, without third-party intervention, the server and server communicate directly, which means that users can communicate with various types without giving up data control. Applications interact to have full autonomy and accessibility of their own data.
In addition, Urbit also plans to integrate Bitcoin. In other words, developers in the Urbit ecosystem can safely integrate digital currency, as simple as using a file system or network protocol. The Urbit team believes that this will promote the popularity and use of Bitcoin.
Considering this is completely different from today’s Internet architecture, this will be a very ambitious goal. So, let’s return to the most basic question: what exactly is Urbit, and how to achieve it?
What problem is Urbit trying to solve?
One sentence answer: Urbit is mainly to solve the problem of data ownership. This statement sounds very false and must be explained in more detail.
The current Internet uses a “client-server” architecture model. In this model, large organizations provide a large centralized computer, or “server,” and each user connects to the computer through a “client.” This is how almost all Internet services work, whether it’s email, website, WeChat, SMS, etc., all run inside the server, and the client side is an application on the phone, or a mobile browser.
This centralized “client-server” network is a commonly used method that is simple, efficient, and provides great convenience for people’s modern life. Everyone can use various services for free or low cost, social networks, payment services , Free instant messaging, all easy to use free Internet services at your fingertips.
The price of convenience and free is that you cannot own and control your private data. In fact, your data will become a source of income for these service providers, and they will use your privacy data to sell advertisements, which may cause security risks such as privacy leaks. With the rise of the cloud hosting model, more and more self-hosted servers are beginning to migrate to cloud server providers, which results in data ownership becoming increasingly centralized. This cruel reality, in today’s world, cloud computing is mainly controlled by a few Internet technology giants.
Urbit’s goal is to break the status quo, replace the current centralized Internet system, and invent a new point-to-point network that replaces the “client-server” model. In this peer-to-peer network, users have their own servers without the need for third-party services provided by others. All servers communicate directly with each other, users can interact with various applications without giving up data control, and have full autonomy and accessibility of their own data.
How to do it specifically?
In order to achieve this goal, Urbit mainly built two technologies, a brand new operating system and a decentralized identity system Azimuth. Combining the two, you can build an end-to-end encrypted network, which can ensure that the information you send will not be tampered with or monitored. By default, you can trust strangers on the network.
In Urbit’s decentralized digital identity network system, each user is an Urbit ID, associated with a unique number, which represents the digital resident identity that can be verified by a password and resides on Urbit. Each user logs in with their own Urbit ID, and then through the virtual machine “urbit” (note that here are lowercase letters, specifically referring to the virtual machine) and the Urbit network (and when referring to the network, the capital letters) always Stay connected. Since Azimuth, a set of smart contracts recording the Urbit ID registry and its rules, has been deployed on the Ethereum blockchain, every operation (such as a transaction) based on a virtual machine will be permanently recorded in Ethereum on. In this way, users can log in and log out of their cloud accounts in multiple different locations without losing their historical records, which is decentralized login.
With such a design, users are no longer limited to a specific hardware device, which is equivalent to a decentralized identity system, nor is it limited to a specific platform, which is equivalent to breaking the existing platform based on the current Internet , Users only need to log in with the Urbit identity system to seamlessly access multiple platforms on all devices. Decentralized identity system Azimuth
The identity system in Urbit is called Azimuth, or Urbit ID. It is also the most interesting part of Urbit.
Azimuth is essentially a domain name address database used to track the ownership of various addresses in the Urbit network. In addition, Azimuth is also responsible for establishing rules that stipulate which level of address and its owner can perform what type of operation. Azimuth stores the digital identity of each Urbit user and expresses it in human-readable text, such as “~ hal” or “~ littel-ponnys”, and can determine which level it is based on the number of syllables. Each Urbit ID is a non-homogeneous ERC-721 token, which is essentially a digital asset in the Urbit network and can be sold.
Although Urbit’s goal is to achieve complete network reconstruction of personal computing, its network hierarchy has a close correspondence with the traditional Internet. The galaxies, stars, planets and their satellites that make up Urbit’s routing system correspond to DNS, ISP, personal computers and connected devices in the Internet. The difference is that the Urbit ID is issued and controlled by multiple parties (rather than a single entity) and is owned by the user through password verification.
In fact, this hierarchical system of cool astronomical naming is exactly what makes Urbit’s identity system unique. As a system layer, galaxies, stars, planets, and their moons have their own autonomy and governance.
According to Urbit’s white paper, “galaxies and stars are the infrastructure in the network; planets are personal servers; satellites are clients / applications; comets are robots.”