Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Independent Content Exchange Freedom Network: Freenet

Freenet, the brainchild of Ian Clarke while a student at the University of Edinburgh, is a free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. Nobody controls Freenet, not even its creators, meaning that the system is not vulnerable to manipulation or shutdown. To achieve this freedom, the network is entirely decentralized and publishers and consumers of information are anonymous. Without anonymity there can never be true freedom of speech, and without decentralization the network will be vulnerable to attack. Communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are "routed-through" other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is. Users contribute to the network by giving bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive (called the "data store") for storing files. Unlike other peer-to-peer file sharing networks, Freenet does not let the user control what is stored in the data store. Instead, files are kept or deleted depending on how popular they are, with the least popular being discarded to make way for newer or more popular content. Files in the data store are encrypted to reduce the likelihood of prosecution by persons wishing to censor Freenet content. Freenet has been downloaded by over 2 million users since the project started, and it is used for the distribution of censored information all over the world including countries such as China and the Middle East. Freenet can also be utilized to host Web sites without having to buy a hosting account or needing to run banner ads. Yes, in fact even without the anonymity feature Freenet is very useful because of its unique way it handles content distribution and information load. While it is unlikely that Freenet sites will ever load faster than regular websites, they do adapt better to sudden surges of visitors and can provide high download speeds for large files though latency issues cannot be eliminated altogether.

Related readings:

"Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System"



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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, July 28 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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