While there is a surge in federated social media sites, like Bluesky and Mastodon, some technologists are hoping to take things further than this model of decentralization with fully peer-to-peer applications. Two leading projects, Spritely and Veilid, hint at what this could look like.
Spritely is a framework for building distributed apps that don’t even have to know that they’re distributed. The project is spearheaded by Christine Lemmer-Webber, who was one of the co-authors of the ActivityPub spec that drives the fediverse. She is taking the lessons learned from that work, combining them with security and privacy minded object capabilities models, and mixing it all up into a model for peer to peer computation that could pave the way for a generation of new decentralized tools.
The Veilid project was released at DEFCON 31 in August and has a number of promising features that could lead to it being a fundamental tool in future decentralized systems. Described as a cross between TOR and Interplanetary File System (IPFS), Veilid is a framework and protocol that offers two complementary tools. The first is private routing, which, much like TOR, can construct an encrypted private tunnel over the public internet allowing two devices to communicate with each other without anyone else on the network knowing who is talking to whom...The second tool that Veilid offers is a Distributed Hash Table (DHT), which lets anyone look up a bit of data associated with a specific key, wherever that data lives on the network.
Public interest in decentralized tools and services is growing, as people realize that there are downsides to centralized control over the platforms that connect us all. The past year has seen interest in networks like the fediverse and Bluesky explode and there’s no reason to expect that to change. Projects like Spritely and Veilid are pushing the boundaries of how we might build apps and services in the future. The things that they are making possible may well form the foundation of social communication on the internet in the next decade, making our lives online more free, secure, and resilient.