Friday, July 26, 2019

Urbit raises $200,000 in crowd sale

This seems like big news:
Urbit, the computing platform described as a “city in the cloud” by its inventors, raised more than $200,000 in four hours through a crowdsale last week. While the crypto-space has seen many spectacular crowd-sales, some more dodgy than others, Urbit has been able to excite leading venture capitalists and executives in the space, including BitGo's Ben Davenport, 21 Inc.'s Balaji Srinivasan and Chaincode Labs' Alex Morcos.


Urbit doesn’t get rid of the complexity of the decades-old Unix-Internet platform, which requires a professional sysadmin, by removing it. Rather, Urbit installs a new platform, redesigned from scratch, on top of the old platform.
What's interesting about this is it's a sign of the commercial viability of an extremely subversive new architecture.  I posted about this a while back and it's long and detailed (and you should RTWT) but this is the subversive part:
And now to the really subversive part.  Clark again:
Back in the early days of the internet when Usenet was cutting edge, there was a gent by the name of Timothy C May who formed the cypherpunk mailing list.
His signature block at the time read
Timothy C. May, Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money, anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero knowledge, reputations, information markets, black markets, collapse of government.
I bring up his sig block because in list form it functions like an avalanche. The first few nouns are obvious and unimportant – a few grains of snow sliding. The next few are derived from the first in a strict syllogism-like fashion, and then the train / avalanche / whatever gains speed, and finally we've got black markets, and soon after that we've got the collapse of government. And it all started with a single snowflake landing at the beginning of the sig block.


I suggest that Urbit may very well have a similar trajectory. Functional programming language. Small core. Decentralization.

First someone will rewrite Tor in it – a trivial exercise. Then some silly toy-like web browser and maybe a matching web server. They won't get much traction. Then someone will write something cool – a decentralized jukebox that leverages Urbit's privileges, delegation and neo-feudalist access control lists to give permissions to one's own friends and family and uses the built in cryptography to hide the files from the MPAA. Or maybe someone will code a MMORPG that does amazingly detailed rendering of algorithmically created dungeons by using spare cycles on the machines of game players (actually delegating the gaming firms core servers out onto customer hardware).

Probably it will be something I haven't imagined.
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the crowd was desperate for news on what was going on.  Benjamin Franklin came out of the building and a woman asked him was was the outcome of the meeting.  He is said to have replied "A Republic, if you can keep it".  The Internet was founded on decentralization, but we are struggling (and losing) to keep that.  Urbit is - maybe - a path to restoring that.

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