EFF Founder Donates $15,000 to Freenet

The Freenet Project, which is dedicated to developing anonymizing P2P technology to promote free speech, has received a $15,000 donation from one of the founding members of the online rights group EFF.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

“Prior to [the] donation, we were receiving about $2,300 per month, which was barely enough to pay Matthew Toseland, our only paid full time developer,” Ian Clark, architect and coordinator of the Freenet Project, told Slyck.com.

Along with five voluntary developers, Toseland has been working on the Freenet Project full time for the last 4 years. His work relies on donations, so $15,000 will ensure his continued development of the software as it moves towards a beta release of version 0.7.

The donation was made by John Gilmore, a philanthropist and outspoken civil libertarian. Gilmore made his fortune as the fifth employee of Sun Microsystems and a cofounder of Cygnus Solutions, who provided commercial support for Open Source software.

Gilmore, who has now taken early retirement to focus on social justice and Open Source software, is one of the founders of the popular online rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Among many other projects, Gilmore helped start the highly controversial alt.* hierarchy on Usenet, which has earned a name for allowing discussions on subjects deemed socially unacceptable by many.

His interests in the use of technology to support privacy and free speech made Freenet a natural project to support. Developers and supporters of the Freenet Project argue that only with true anonymity can true freedom of speech be accomplished.

Anonymity on Freenet is achieved by caching data within the distributed resources of peers in the network. Peers then act as proxies for each other to handle requests and to transfer data. No peer knows what information they are caching for other users, or the original source. When uploading files, users do not know if it is to a proxy, or to the destined user.

Because data is passed through multiple peers who have limited upload and download bandwidth, Freenet is often criticized for being slow.

Version 0.7 is a major re-write, which will fundamentally change Freenet. Instead of being one network, Freenet will become a tool for creating interlinking darknets, whereby users only connect to trusted peers. The developers also hope to tackle other ongoing issues, such as speed, scalability and ease of use. Version 0.7 alpha was released in April 2006.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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