Back to list
Sep 25 2017

The Meaning of Aether

This is an archived post from the bitcointalks thread on May 05 2014

Aether’s original design has evolved into what is now called CXO

*Quote from: Tobo on May 04, 2014, 02:11:12 PM* >I noticed that you previously used the name of ether which was used by Ethereum. Now you changed it to aether which has been used by some other people at this forum. Why did you like these two names so much?

Ether permeates space. Then we found out ether is alcohol that people snuff to get high and aether is the mystical substance that permeates space.

Its called Aether because the data does not exist on a server. It exists collectively throughout the internet (or at least the subscribers). Once published, it cannot be destroyed. There is no central point, there is no server that can be seized. The publisher cannot be located or tracked because once the data is published, they are just a peer.

Its a perfect system. There is one type of Skycoin address and its is an endpoint for a datastore or a pubsub system. There is another type of Skycoin address and it holds coins. There is another type of Skycoin address and it is a node you can communicate with and send messages to.

You generate a pubkey, which hashes to an address and that is an ID. The address replaces IP addresses for identifying a device or computer if its used for communication. It names a datastore (just like a magnet link is a hash of a torrent file and name the torrent) if its used for a datastore. If the datastore contains a filelist and a hash list for chunks in the files, then its just a torrent that people can update. If it names a Skywire node if its used for communication, like an IP address names a computer.

So if you wanted a create a distributed twitter with Aether, you create a pubkey. You publish updates to your key value store and sign them with your private key. Each key in the keyvalue store is a number incremented each tweet and the body is json for the tweet.

You give someone your pubkey hash (an address) and now they can download and replicate your feed. They can pull in the feeds of everyone they are following. They can run their own filtering algorithms locally for ranking things in the feeds they are subscribed to and choose their gui. Its a website, but its a website running on your computer and its running from data you have a copy of.

You are not downloading the feeds you subscribed to from a server, you are downloading them from other people who are subscribed to them. Its completely decentralized. Its pubsub, its a communication channel, its a key-value store, its an RSS feed, its a document oriented database (if you are storing JSON), its an updatable torrent if you are storing file lists and chunk lists.

This innovation, this data structure is as powerful as the blockchain. Its as powerful as DHT. It is a core component for the next generation of decentralized systems.

Aether is a mystical element that permeates all of space and I think its appropriate.

In Tor, you can identify the path to a service through traffic analysis by looking at variation in latency for traffic and correlating them to latency of other traffic passing through the nodes. Requesting pages is slow because you have to go through multiple hops. Here the replication is peer to peer. There is no “center”, there is no “server”. The webpages are instant, because you are not requesting the data but have a full copy of the data locally. You are generating the webpage from the database.

In the internet of things, you have an LED lightbulb. You want to set the lightbulb to red. The lightbulb has an IP address and its connected wirelessly to your house. You move the light bulb and it has a new IP address, so you cant find it or send it messages. IP addresses are not “ids” for devices, they change as the object moves and accesses the network over different endpoints. Skycoin gives devices or applications “names” that are network independent. This is the function of DNS, to take a name and resolve a server or IP.

The lightbulb has a Skycoin address and you can send messages to the address. You can say “turn red” or upload a new program to the programmable LED lightbulb. Skywire automatically figures out how to find a route to the device.

Additionally, when you are running a Skywire Mesh node, the node may be connected to four wireless networks and a router. The wifi node has five different IP addresses. An IP address no longer uniquely identifies the node. An IP address is merely a path to the node. The IP addresses on the router are often not even public addresses because of NAT.

The set of computers you control, your desktop, your tablet, your two laptops. They form a personal cloud. Each device has a Skywire daemon and a node address it can receive communication to. You have application servers running on your cloud. For instance you may have several storage application servers (which expose a volume of a drive as a network file system, like Dropbox). You might have application servers such as web servers or email servers.

So the idea of the mythological “Aether” reflects the vision with what we are trying to accomplish.