Holmes Wilson is an Internet freedom activist whose work mixes mass mobilization and software tools. He is a co-founder and board member of Fight for the Future, the activism organization that was instrumental in defeating the infamous U.S. site-blocking laws SOPA/PIPA, fighting for net neutrality rules in the U.S. and Europe, opposing law enforcement crypto backdoors, and, more recently, challenging the use of face recognition tech by U.S. law enforcement and products like Amazon Ring. He also previously co-founded Miro, a free software video player based on BitTorrent and RSS, and was a campaign manager at the Free Software Foundation. He's currently building Zbay, a peer-to-peer app for secure messaging and marketplaces built on the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Zcash.
Zbay, Fighting FAANG, and the Quest for a Peer-To-Peer Messaging App That "Just Works"
We live in a time of tech monopolies, again. We escaped Microsoft's 90s desktop monopoly to hurtle into the FAANG monopolies, by walking a path where browsers, OSes, and developer tools might be free software, but the platforms we used to connect and collaborate were more locked down than ever. But what if free software was not just a window to a locked down world? What if the world "out there" where we speak and collaborate emerged exclusively from free software running on our laptops and phones, connecting in a peer-to-peer network? The p2p "stack" is growing fast in maturity and capability; how far can we take it? Messaging apps seem to be the most popular user-facing software; can we make one of those? This talk will survey approaches to p2p messaging apps and discuss tradeoffs in the context of a specific app: Zbay, which is being built based on Zcash and Tor, and which just launched in beta.