Each quarter, the whole team at Red Queen takes a day off to try and do something good for the world rather than just for our bottom line.
We’ve all long been fans of decentralized systems and leaderless infrastructure. Meaning things like Tor, IPFS, and Secure Scuttlebutt, not the flood of scams surrounding "blockchain" hype. If you were at DEF CON 31 in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, you might have bumped into our CEO Tarah, or played in the second EFF Benefit Poker Tournament she runs. While she was there, she saw a presentation on the newest public project from members of the Cult of the Dead Cow (slides). Veilid (pronounced Vay-Lid, from 'Valid and Veiled Identification') aims to build the distributed storage backend needed for private & serverless online applications. Imagine a Twitter which can’t be shut down by a billionaire or Mastodon which isn’t subject to the whims of a server administrator. Veilid’s proof-of-concept application is a mobile chat app which doesn’t need any dedicated servers to operate.
Veilid aims to move away from software surveillance and commercialization. Building even a simple app often means paying a hefty server bill. That cost means that developers have to make money — or else pay out of pocket. And that drive towards commercialization encourages surveillance for marketing & monitoring in those apps. Veilid's authors Christien Rioux, Katelyn Bowden, & Paul Miller gave an interview for2600 Magazine’s Off The Hook radio show (and podcast). A line which stuck with me was talking about Veilid as enabling “web 1.5” technology. That deliberately rejects the “Web3” buzzword which infects cryptocurrency conversations. It also implies a time before "Web 2.0" co-opted the web from a hobbyist haven to a profit center for startups. What if we could nudge the web away from the ceaseless profit drive which leads to unchecked surveillance and the control of corporate behemoths.
We’re on board with that vision. We decided to spend our pro-social day setting up a Veilid instance on our own infrastructure. Jeff was pretty impressed with how much work the Veilid team has done to make this effort-free. It was — more or less — as easy as spinning up a new server and installing the package. As a proof of concept, we’re providing about 15 GB of space. We expect the throughput for this to cost less than $100 on our monthly server bill. We hope this is a drop in the bucket of the larger Veilid network. In fact, setting up a node was so easy, that your humble correspondent (very much a product manager and not a devops professional) is planning on installing a Veilid node on their home NAS as soon as a compatible package is available.
Enabling this sort of work, we’re deeply grateful for Section 230. §230 is a legal safe harbor which protects people who run general purpose internet services. In a nutshell, §230 means that that legal responsibility sits with people who post things, not the people who host them. (Not legal advice!) If you want to learn more about Section 230, Jeff Kosseff wrote a great book called The Twenty Six Words That Created The Internet.
Last time we took a day to work on projects for the public good, we didn’t have a newsletter to brag about it. So I thought I’d include a little summary here. In April, each of us took some time to contribute to a project which makes the world a little better. To make it more fun, we held a friendly competition. And we were lucky enough to have Veracode CTO and founder WeldPond (Chris Wysopal) as the judge.
Everyone who participated earned a $50 charitable contribution and a shot at bigger prizes. Mehtab improved learning resources for an open-source honeypot project, supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Lucas worked on HSTS preloading in Chromium supporting Black Girls in Cyber. Tilde made contributions to the Cornell Clinic to End Tech Abuse, which is also their charity of choice. Jeff improved some frustrating driver issues in NetBSD and supported Operation Safe Escape. Russ added some stalker-detection features to the Kismet software-defined-radio project, also supporting EFF.
WeldPond awarded two prizes. Lucas won a Flipper Zero along with a few exciting accessories, and Tilde’s contribution earned a double contribution to CETA of $100. All in all, a rewarding day for us, and a valuable day for the software ecosystem and underrepresented groups in tech. If you'd rather receive these posts in your inbox, you can also subscribe these posts as a newsletter, or via RSS.