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Aether for Redditors (getaether.net)
168 points by _fx6v on Feb 16, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 161 comments

These kinds of social media platforms always seem so technologically interesting, but in practice, end up as a bastion for content too distasteful or hateful to post on "normal" services (think voat, the vast majority of Mastodon instances, gab, the list goes on). I feel like the centralization and the ability to direct and moderate persistent conversation is what allows "mainstream" social media to have such widespread popularity. These services abandon that model with good intentions but never positive results.

Creator here. I’m very aware of this problem - and I’m working make this suitable for mainstream use. That’s one of the reasons why there is a SFW list as mentioned in the article, for example.

The aim of Aether is to deliver a real improvement in privacy to the masses. It explicitly chooses to be practical, with mass appeal, versus the narrow appeal of the instances you mention. (Well, at least try to do that.)

I feel morally obligated to start using Aether because I think that p2p and decentralization is what we need. I am going to try to make it work.

It would sure help to have a mobile app.


You mention that one you make a post that you need to stay online for a half hour or so. How come your post won't continue to propose once you go offline? I would think that once it's sent to a few peers that it should continue to prepare even if I close the client. Is this a choice you made due to limitations or due to user experience? I honestly don't see it justified either way though.

Since you are here. After reading the post I was left with one very big question.

If the network is p2p, and nobody but me can delete my posts, how would you be able to deal with illegal content?

I’ll have a look, and I second the need for a mobile app. Reddit happens during train rides :)

That was my first question too after reading the blog post. It looks like mods can delete posts, but users can undelete them if they want.

This is correct with a minor exception: if the posts are deleted because of illegality or DMCA (i.e. not because you pissed off mod of a random community) those aren’t reversible. You can make your client not respect this form of deletion as well, by modifying the source code, however that would make you legally liable.

Generally, you’re liable for the content your computer shares in all cases, so having that legality-based block list is a benefit to you. You can disable it, but you probably don’t want to.

All other deletions are just a flip switch away from being reverted. Ultimately, as the end user you have full control over both systems.

Why would a pissed-off mod not flip the "this is illegal" switch instead of the "this pissed me off" switch?

Presumably because the ability to use the illegal switch lies with the Aether creator, not the mod.

That is correct. Though mods can report illegality, they can’t use the second system (called badlist, a list of hashes) themselves. They would first delete it through normal means, and then flag it. Likely this will be automated in the UI at some point.

Again, the first system is is designed to be user reversible so disabling a mod is a fairly mundane, ordinary thing that can be done easily via the UI.

Disabling the badlist obviously takes more effort but a determined person would be able to disable it, I’d presume. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of people who don’t disable the badlist, they would still be protected against those who disable it since the filter would protect their computer from accepting or sharing that content. So even when badlist is disabled, the only people anybody who disables it can harm is themselves.

Basically, the badlist a courtesy provided on a best-effort basis, so that your computer doesn’t share sketchy content, because if it does, you are legally responsible for it.

This isn’t the best system probably, but until I find something that works better in practice, this is good enough. When it comes to these kind of things, hope is not a strategy.

How would you feel about a precompiled fork of Aether that has badlist disabled?

(I'm pretty sure this is going to happen at a certain level of popularity.)

That would be liable for helping to distribute illegal content, much like Pirate Bay is.

Cool, that’s basically exactly how I expected it to work.

Even if you disable the badlist, you’d have to work hard to sync bad content that you don’t already have, since most normal clients would not share it.

Who is the Aether creator in this case?

If that's the Aether-company, we are still at their mercy to change rules around mods etc. any time? so there's not much value in the p2p except they save money on hosting and lure us in with the promise of p2p = independence?

The police should deal with illegal content. Anything else that offends someone should be easy to ignore with personal filters.

How do you deal with trolls going around filters? I'm sure most of us did that in the past, some of us were young teenagers in the time of auto moderated live chat.

Better filters. For instance crowd sourced filters that you can subscribe to and help update. Just like ad blocking technology does today to combat advertisers attempt to evade them.

That requires centralisation because either trolls will affect the filter or the list won't be updated.

Each filter comes from its own central location curated as seen fit by its owner, but there can be any number of filters distributed across the net. Each will win subscribers based on their reputation.

Again, this has all been tested in the wild. It works just fine for ad filtering today.

Not really. Adblock made deals with advertisers so people have to use Adblock Pro, and avoid Adblock awesome because it has adware. Same for uBlock.

edit: To make my point clear: it seems unfeasible to weed out bad actors without relying on good actors. Someone you place trust in (adblock list maintainers, p2p network filter maintainers) can make deals with who you try to avoid ('non-intrusive ads', mates). It's little better than letting the centralised host moderate, especially when the biggest moderators like Adblock are the ones we tell people to avoid. Otherwise it's just like PGP, perfectly designed to be never used.

That's irrelevant to the point, or actually makes it stronger. uBlock Origin continues on in spite of those compromised competitors and all of the subscriptions can continue to be utilized. I really don't understand what you're arguing against. The software can be replaced, a bad acting filter list can be ignored, and many good lists can be aggregated to counteract ad agencies attempts to bypass filters. And with the right software you can create your own local filters with a single click on the offending material.

We don't need a parental authority to protect us from seeing naughty images, we can take care of ourselves.

I was thinking more along the lines of it being technically impossible for the police to do anything.

The police can find the ip address of whoever's serving it, ask the isp for their name, and give a knock on their door.

As I have you here, an OT question: will the business version of Aether also remove content after six months?

No. The business version is a hosted / on-prem SaaS, that removes the space limitations and other similar restrictions that deletion is a solution to.

That said, you can still have it delete at a certain threshold. I know of a few large Silicon Valley companies that delete emails past 1.5-2y as a way of limiting their legal exposure. If you’re a 1000+ employee company, that is pretty much standard practice so long as you take care to not delete anything with a legal discovery hold.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Will give Aether a spin and see if it might work for our business once it's released.

No worries at all. Feel free to email me (email in profile) and I’ll make sure you get a notification when that becomes ready for a pilot.

Hello. Wouldn't 6 months of reddit-scale data be way too much for any single machine?

If it crosses 10gb limit, it starts to ‘back off’ from 6 months to shorter timeframes.

> These kinds of social media platforms always seem so technologically interesting, but in practice, end up as a bastion for content too distasteful or hateful to post on "normal" services (think voat, the vast majority of Mastodon instances, gab, the list goes on).

Part of the problem, at least with voat and gab, is that those services were created to avoid the moderation that kept the "distasteful or hateful" content off mainstream services. I wonder if alternative services that start with communities that strongly want to keep that stuff out would fare better.

The "start with communities" is the hard part. You never start with a community, you have to build it. Early adopters define the shape of your community as much as intentional design does. And when you compete with a monolith, who are your first adopters going to be? They'll be people who were kicked off the bigger ship. Most of them were kicked off for a reason.

That's why pretty much every successful social network has a killer feature that everyone is potentially interested in, like Facebook's directories and news feed, or Twitter's microblogging concept, or Reddit's constantly updating Frontpage that'll give you the latest buzz on every topic you care about, or Instagram's photos-as-first-class-citizens concept.

"identical to reddit, but with less censorship of hate speech" just isn't going to make people turn their heads.

There are some communities, line the D&D community that are being disrupted by the end of Google+, they might not be big in absolute numbers, but it’s a prime time to get them as one’s first “real” users.

I think it's interesting that the parent included Mastodon on their list, because it certainly has a very pro- safe space culture, despite it being very tempting alternative to people rejected from centralized Twitter. Mastodon has very strong tools for moderation, and the more "free speech"-aligned instances are quickly blocked from interacting with the main network.

Scott Alexander at SlateStarCodex makes some good points about this effect here[1]. The problem isn't the lack of moderation per se but the dynamics of starting an unmoderated alternative to an existing service. The kinds of people that would switch are only occasionally principled advocates of free speech. Most of the time, they're the people whose communities were banned on the moderated platform -- everyone else ignores your new, smaller entrant and continues on the moderated platform where their friends are. You end up with a just the hateful people. A decentralized platform would probably be better and have better social dynamics if it were the default and _everyone_ used it, but I don't know how you'd get there.

[1]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/22/freedom-on-the-central...

That essay is one of my favourites from Slate Star Codex, and it has been a source of inspiration for my current approach.

There is one way around this: to actually not care about user growth. I don’t have any pressure to make this a big thing. I’ve received a very small amount of VC funding to make a private, business version of this, and that (Aether Business Edition) considers this community version effectively a goodwill exercise / marketing expense.

If it doesn’t get users because it doesn’t serve fringe people, great! Fewer headaches for me. I would rather have the community version a small group of nice people. That, to me, is success.

If you use this one, and if you like it, and want to have it as a Slack-like organic knowledge base / productivity tool for your company, that’s already a win for me.

(If you want to pilot the business version, hit me up at the email in my profile - I’m building it as we speak. It’s on a SaaS / on-prem backend, not P2P.)

Scott's inference about the million scoundrels/witches at Voat was a bit off, here's an alternate observation of the same place:

> "You know what we found out during the temporary Voat exodus of r/Gundeals? As famously "toxic" as it is claimed the denizens of Voat are, they were completely drowned out once we hit ~1000 active users."

Building a new community only from rejects of a moderated one is probably still a dumb idea, and it's a great slatestarcodex article, but the popular notion that unmoderated communities will be necessarily overrun with undesirables is wrong - they're so few in number that "even" Voat could be saved.

What we need is better frameworks (both legal and technological) for building decentralized platforms, so that it would have been just as easy for the Reddit founders, way back in the day, to build Reddit as decentralized from day one. Of course, that's really tough. Simply designing the right policies for decentralized platforms is tough, much less implementing them and figuring out how to keep your users compliant with the law in the face of trolls and illegal content. But I'm hopeful we'll move in that direction.

The fact that anything anyone posts, no matter how hideous, will end up being saved on my computer, is a non-starter for me.

This is the case for the regular internet too, isn’t it? My comment lives in a cache file in your temp folder.

By definition, a cache will only contain things you've accessed (or pre-fetched to be fair to the latest javascript whizz-bangs)

Aether proposes to store its entirety on your local drive, although it is all text content, links can still be dangerous to blindly store

Depending on how everything plays out, I might migrate to a default mode where only the communities you’ve subscribed to is shared from your computer to allay these concerns. The current mode of share-all would remain available as well.

Then...Usenet? But a little nicer because it's text only (I don't recall the level of fetching Usenet has exactly, I might be wrong).

Your server of choice hosts Usenet, your client doesn’t fetch anything unless you tell it to.

I understand why companies directed specifically at people not using the "normal" services end up as bastion of idiots, but with mastodon I think most of the flagship instances take a stance in this and block such things, see for example the official mastodon.social blacklist: https://github.com/Gargron/mastodon.social-misc. And so do most servers aspiring to be a community-led alternative to centralized social media...

I think you have it backwards. The moderation came after reddit, youtube, etc became mainstream. It didn't become mainstream because of moderation.

Reddit, youtube, etc became extremely popular precisely because they weren't censored. But once they got huge, corporate and political interests took over and you got censorship.

It wasn't the "mainstream" that demanded moderation and censorship on these platforms, it was journalists and politicians working for powerful interests.

The problem with voat, gab, etc are manifold. Firstly, their owners aren't pushing content and making the site more interesting. People forget that the creators of reddit, youtube, etc initially worked hard to provide content on their platforms. One of reddit's founders did an AMA a while back explaining how most of the content on reddit in the beginning were linked by the founders and then their employees. It took a long time before reddit became popular enough for it to be entirely user generated. Secondly, voat, gab, etc are trying to break into a saturated industry that already has large monopolistic competitors. Reddit, youtube, etc didn't have that. Sure digg existed but they weren't in a monopolistic position and there was plenty of space to grow.

I hope they succeed but they have a much more difficult task trying to take market share from established companies. If they do succeed, they'll face the same problems that reddit, youtube, etc faced. Journalists and politicians hounding them to censor content at the behest of powerful interests.

The fundamental problem is still there. I'm still not see how any of these platforms have solved this problem. Reddit and youtube were just as devoted to free speech until journalists and politicians started spreading propaganda and attacking them. If reddit and youtube folded under pressure, why would voat, gab, etc be any different?

People forget how reddit staunchly defended free speech for years. If I remember correctly, their motto was "free speech platform". They aren't that anymore.

>Reddit, youtube, etc became extremely popular precisely because they weren't censored. But once they got huge, corporate and political interests took over and you got censorship.

I... kinda get this argument for reddit, though only a bit. But this is just not true for Youtube. There was never a point where "well I wanted to put my video on X but Youtubue will actually let me do it without censoring" was ever true.

There's the recent stuff about monetization, but all that was happening way later! Not to mention that Youtube was huge even before ad revenue sharing was a thing on the platform.

Meanwhile, there are very well documented cases where lack of moderation on social networks lead to the people who actually make content taking their ball and going home.

The revisionism of "the internet used to have no mods and corporate money has ruined it all" is so exhausting to read over and over again. Even 4chan has had mods and janitors! Turns out that just letting the worst actors on a network be loud is not fun.

Didn't YouTube originally become popular because it was all pirated content? Then once they had an audience they forced out the pirates?

> Then once they had an audience they forced out the pirates?

... They did what now? I find it hard to believe that half the stuff on there is "properly" licensed.

Early days of YouTube had pirate anime on the front page. The crack down was rather noticeable and I rmemebe thinking "what, does YouTube just want to be cat videos?". Yet they managed to carry through and now the majority of view hours are coming from made for YouTube content.

Interestingly, in the beginning, Youtube was mostly airplane videos. When I first was introduced to the site, before it was a Google property I believe, a significant portion of the site was Boeing 747s landing and taking off. I had later read that the airplane videos were seeded by early employees.

The great thing about social media sites is that everyone who visits them has a different idea of what the primary content on the site is. ;-)

I remember it was not that long ago when I was able to watch the entirety of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt on Youtube. Hard to imagine that kind of content on Youtube now, and not just because of copyright.

Believe it. Go to almost any song, click "see more" in the description, and it will tell you who they licensed it from.

> There was never a point where "well I wanted to put my video on X but Youtubue will actually let me do it without censoring" was ever true.

I can't parse this. Can you please state your point more clearly.

I think it says "there was never at time where I could put my content on YouTube without them censoring it".

It's more "there was never a time where the draw of youtube was that it wouldn't censor". The draw was simply that it hosted videos.

Sorry, I might not have been clear. My point was more that there was never a point in YT's where Youtube's moderation policy was part of a decision for an uploader to go there instead of some other platform (excluding some edge cases like gov't dissidents in certain countries)

The implication of the original post was that YT's growth was in part thanks to some moderation policy that made it more attractive than alternatives. But to my understanding this was never the case, and YT's growth was from a bunch of other things. Including it basically being the only reliable option for a good part of its early life (how I remember things)

Our memories are different... I always remember the raids from /b/ on Reddit leading to mass bans, way back in the early '10s. It was always 4chan where the overt racism and whatnot happened. Communities like /r/jailbait would slowly form, then be shut down. "Censorship" was applied like whack a mole from the beginning.

Early '10s is not the early days of Reddit. 05-07 is early days of Reddit.

Hell, I remember doing an IAmA [1] in 2012 about having discovered Reddit the day it opened, back in July 2005. Hard to believe that it's been as much time since then as it had been between then and Reddit's founding.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/r4td2/i_want_to_...

Hi, Alexis!

Not him. He commented on the thread, though.

It was a joke. Alexis and Steve seeded most of the content in the first year of reddit, so the joke was that anybody around then was one of these two people.

Maybe, just maybe, the determined that it isn’t cool to host obnoxious horrible people who incite violence.

Maybe, just maybe, letting everybody post everything is not actually desirable or responsible.

Agreed. I backed out of reading about Aether when I read peer to peer. I require moderation. It's not what makes it, but what it makes that I'm focusing on.

Good for democracy. Bad for a social platform.

> I think you have it backwards. The moderation came after reddit, youtube, etc became mainstream. It didn't become mainstream because of moderation.

It's just a difference of semantics here... About what the inflection point is for "mainstream". I think there is a reasonable argument that moderation/centralization is needed to protect the "brand" once you get to a certain level of "mainstream".

reddit itself might have been a proclaimed free speech platform but the biggest strength of reddit after it started to grow was the good subreddits were heavily moderated.

I think it was great that they banned /r/jailbait and I think that the people who are often heavily moderating and shaping their subreddits are doing a valuable job.

I've been following /r/syriancivilwar for years and even though it is an incredibly sensitive and horrible subject it has incredibly contributions just because the mods have strict rules about content.

Decentralized moderation is also possible, and it solves your complaints.

People don't really care about that, it's just businesses appeasing advertisers for brand safety after they're already mainstream and need to make revenue.

Censoring/moderating at the platform level just gets in the way and leads to inevitable conflict over who gets to decide on "distasteful". Give users the proper tools to follow and ignore others and it'll work itself out.

Cool. I really like the idea of these things in principle. But how well is 6 months of content going to scale when you have 1 million active communities?

Another thing that stood out to me is when I went to download, I noticed immediately I'm dealing with a DMG. So I tried to find a link to github where I could take a look at the source, and found the "Open source" link in the footer. This just listed a bunch of libraries, but not the place to build myself if I wanted to. Maybe include a link to github [1].

Finally, when I did reach your github, there is a big notice:

> https://github.com/nehbit/aether

What kind of metrics? And why isn't this in big text on your homepage? Can I disable it? Why do you need to keep metrics? 99 times out of 100 people will not be able to correctly anonymise metrics. I think this is a pretty a bad decision.


How much text content does an active user produce over 6 months? Most uers lurk, so the average user is probably producing a few hundred kilobytes of text. That adds up (and compresses) to only a few gigabytes.

> Cool. I really like the idea of these things in principle. But how well is 6 months of content going to scale when you have 1 million active communities?

It looks like disk usage is capped at 10 GB.

> What kind of metrics?

> 99 times out of 100 people will not be able to correctly anonymise metrics.

It's open source - I would just take a look at the code.

>Anything you post on Aether will be gone in about 6 months. This is nice, because no one can stalk your decade’s worth of Reddit history and figure out where you sleep.

This seems really misleading. If I can view it, I can save it. Enough people take data dumps from reddit that even if reddit decided to follow the same policy, it wouldn't mean "no one can stalk your decade’s worth of Reddit history and figure out where you sleep."

My apologies. The front page at https://getaether.net has a better description:

‘It keeps 6 months of posts by default. It's gone after. If something is worth keeping, someone will save it within six months — but not from beyond that.’

This immediately makes less interested in the platform. Reddit posts older than six months can be useful.

Different use case. Reddit is an ephemeral tool, its ancient gems are hidden and difficult to access, imho a real solution to useful information problem is something like wiki or a ML-based super-aggregate.

I don't really agree. Specifically for video games, I've found _a lot_ of useful information just by Googling something and the answer being on Reddit. A lot of 'casual' (as in people have just discussed it and not deliberately sought to put it out there) information would be lost if Reddit was wiped after six months.

Yes, other tools might be better for information sharing, but Reddit as a conversation space and Google as a search tool over the top of it is valuable.

Not really: I’ve found very useful information by using Google and just having site:reddit.com, and or using the iffy reddit search bar. The benefit of having a voting system is that ancient gems will always get bubbled up.

Prior discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18370208

Happy to answer any questions, as usual.

Source code is here: https://github.com/nehbit/aether (I’ll update it with the latest release as soon as I can clean it up)

How big is the local cache of the network on each client device?

About 9mb as of now. Of course, the compiled graph is larger. If you want full text search, that has its own index that takes space as well. But that last one is optional.

Looks like a very simple and clean user experience, definitely curious to try this out. Is encryption between peers currently supported and/or planned?

Yes - it’s encrypted-only. It does not allow any plaintext communication.

The way nodes talk to each other is plain old HTTPS (TLS v1.2). So I’m definitely not inventing my own crypto here, I’ve tried very hard to avoid that. The content on a node is public though, so this is transport encryption.

Is data saved to disk encrypted? Can you plausibly state that what I have been reading is invisible to a computer repair shop? Can I plausibly state that there are no links to (child) porn searchable on my disks?

How would you read the content if it was encrypted?

You'd probably have to require the peers to be online for a post to be visible by requesting the description key from the creator.

The creator is intentionally not knowable. The idea is that every client has a copy of all public data so hiding it from the computer technician seems like a pointless objective.

> so hiding it from the computer technician seems like a pointless objective.

Scary in jurisdictions where possession is a strict liability offence.

Great to hear, thanks! :)

Any particular reason for the license choice? AGPL may create some friction with potential contributors. Is it related to the business offering?

How bandwidth-hungry is it? Is it feasible that someday I could participate in the network from my cell phone?

It doesn’t appear to be very bandwidth hungry so far. Of course we’ll see, but I’m more optimistic for that than I used to be when I first launched it in December.

I half-completed a very similar project to this. Kudos on shipping.

The main difference between this and mine is that mine required accounts to have a certain amount of hashcash-style proof of work before they were accepted. This prevents people from creating a large number of dummy accounts, which means that banning someone actually has teeth, since they can't come back with a fresh account instantly.

Additionally, the posts were encrypted with the name of the community, so that you could make "private" communities simply by using hard-to-guess names.

I toyed with the idea of making hashcash style PoW required for posts, as well as accounts, but I gave up on the project before I got that far.

That’s how Aether works. Every graph object requires a certain amount of PoW in the form of a Hashcash variant. You were on the right track! (Assuming this is the right track, ha)

Oh well at least my idea was good I suppose. (!)

I get it why it's useful in practice here, but on a conceptual level relying on proof-of-work always seems weird to me. It's like saying "you have to pay to use this service, but instead of giving the money to the host, you need to drop it down the drain". From an economic standpoint it just doesn't make any sense.

I wonder why the peer to peer. Aether can still remove content, so it’s not really decentralized. And you have to store the entire site on your computer, I wonder what the legal ramifications are if there is bad stuff saved on your computer but you didn’t put it there.

> Due to the recent news about Reddit

Which news specifically? Also, it might be useful for the blog posts to have a date at the top. I saw there was a “1 day ago” notation at the bottom, but having it at the top would be more convenient/conventional.

Tencent investment?

It's not unreasonable to assume people missed that news. It was front page here for a day and on reddit for about the same duration. If someone didn't login for a few days, it was very easily missed.

The crackdown on anime content was the way bigger news to me. But that might just be my filter bubble.

So it's basically an updated Usenet.

I started to use Usenet years back to download shows. Around 10 years ago it was unusable due to spam, now there's actually a few active newsgroups and some people came back to post so they could remain pseudoanonymous and not deal with upvote economy. For whatever reason, spam seems to have mostly gone away. The infrastructure is still quite robust and unlike Aether, posts stay up for many years.

Honestly, the only super annoying thing on Usenet today are noobs coming in from Google Groups and responding to threads started in the 90's.

Decentralized reddit already existed in the form if usenet. This adds some moderation features which is nice, but I have trouble believing people care about decentralization enough to switch.

What would really help is if there was a website I could explore the content on before hosting anything myself. Imagine there's many instances each with many users that all sync between each other, and of I lose trust of one I can seamlessly switch to another.

But of course this has been done before and died, so the point still remains of why people should switch.

Usenet is federated, not decentralised, and the distinction is important.

Yup! Aether is basically a nicer, decentralised Usenet.

(It’s more decentralised than Usenet - everyone is an ‘Usenet server’ in Aether, vs large university servers in the original Usenet)

> Yup! Aether is basically a nicer, decentralised Usenet.

Maybe you should add support for NNTP clients to make it even more like an updated Usenet.

I wish things like Reddit, HN, email servers, and everything else that handles threaded discussion would provide an NNTP interface. That would let the user use the same program for all of these things. They could still provide web interfaces for use in browsers, but those could internally use the NNTP interface.

I suppose this would be hard for Reddit and some of the others, because it would be hard for them to show ads over the NNTP interface, but for anything that is not ad supported give me NNTP.

How is it decentralized if illegal content can be taken down? It should be impossible for a single entity to do that in a truly decentralized system. It appears this has a backdoor.

"Taken down" just means that clients get notification that such and such comment is bad. The stock client will remove them and reject them in the future, but there's no enforcement - you can have a client that e.g. completely ignores any such requests. If I understand it correctly, multiple such clients would end up maintaining all those deleted posts in distributed P2P storage, in their part of the network.

So, basically, there's an opt-in "Dark Aether".

Is there a single master moderator hard coded into the default client with the ability to take things down?

A native app is not really that great for Reddit style content.

Not keyboard friendly at all.

Took me a couple of minutes to find subs. I was about to give up.

You cant have a Reddit without pictures/gifs. And it should open in the app.

This should be like sabnzbd, or couchpotato. A local software that you can access in the browser http://localhost:xxx/

From the GitHub page:

> The Linux version provided as a courtesy, it might work, but is completely unsupported.

And the Linux version is provided as a snap, which really works best on Ubuntu and doesn't work at all on some distros (due to the Snap people's poor decision to make snap have an unnecessary systemd dependency).

I really doubt you are going to make a lot of headway with a very 'techy' alternative to Reddit with such poor (and snippy) Linux support.

Out of the ~100 people who use desktop Linux (I'm one of them) a generous 1 (rounded upwards) uses a non-systemd distro. I doubt it will have any real impact on the number of users.

The sort of people who are going to try to download some new (and somewhat dubious-sounding - "I'm going to be storing all of the content on my local machine?") are actually pretty likely not to be using a systemd distro. Getting early adopters would seem pretty crucial for this type of project, and I'm not sure where the creator imagines they're going to come from with the current passive-aggressive Linux support.

> ~100 people who use desktop Linux (I'm one of them) a generous 1 (rounded upwards) uses a non-systemd distro

You also may want to brush up on your arithmetic.

> You also may want to brush up on your arithmetic.

I'd suggest getting a refresher on sarcasm first.

My suggestion followed on in the same sarcastic tone. The implication is still that there are hardly enough desktop Linux users to be relevant to this project - which I think is misleading here, since Aether is the sort of thing that Linux users are much more likely to try out than Mac or Windows users. And, my original point is still that a combination of relying on snaps and a snippy tone towards Linux isn't likely to be productive for Aether.

> a) Similar to Reddit’s gold, if you want to support Aether, you can buy a 'unique’ username (with a checkmark, like Twitter) that makes you the unique owner of that username for the donation duration. If you want to do so, check out the Patreon.

That seems suboptimal. And what happens if you make a duplicate username while it's not being paid for, and then it gets paid for?

I see these aether:// links which are supposed to link to subs but they just open a blank/error page in Chrome when I click them in Aether and I can't figure out how to subscribe to subs with the link.

I really like this idea, but I'm struggling with the decentralized aspect of it. If you can control the content, what exactly are the user's getting? Content can be scraped and saved indefinitely, the IP address information can potentially be leaked, the exact security of the system is unclear.

It seems like I'm just moving to a less efficient platform with more open moderation and socialized bandwidth and storage costs.

The point is that you can choose your own moderators. No one that you don’t explicitly trust as a moderator can delete content you see. If you no longer trust a moderator, you disable him / her and all moderation actions that was taken by that person is reverted on your machine.

I was confused, too. They claim it is cryptographically impossible to edit someone else's posts, but apparently some group of people have the ability to take down people's posts. I'm wondering -- what's the point, then?

It's not censorship resistant, but at least it tries to be transparent (all moderator actions are visible). I'm still not seeing how this would be any better than Reddit if a small group of people have centralized control over the content distribution.

I believe I've commented on this earlier, I remember it being submitted last year.

I still think this is a really awful, completely useless product. I really like that HN & Reddit & Discord are persistent. It's very valuable to me and the general population to be able to search from stuff that happened years ago.

The worst comment history usually does is get you a snarky reply on Reddit. Losing your job for no good reason is bad, but showing support for those people is more of a solution. People will need to get used to other people not being perfect as far as opinions go, and that people's opinions can change.

I am very uninterested in Aether, the general population is not interested in Aether, and this will never catch on. The only people who care about this are a few tech people. Even people who get kicked off Twitter / Facebook / Reddit go on to centralized Gab / Voat / et cetera without a problem, this is not useful.

Edit: Also trivial for someone maliciously or otherwise to just archive stuff, so you lose the benefits and gain very little.

>You can disable any mod, and choose anyone as a mod In Aether, if you don’t like what a mod is doing, you can just disable him. Flip a switch, and everything he deleted reappears. You can also choose a non-mod as a mod.

How exactly does this work?

I assume the first part means that you can disable certain mod and then the content deleted by him will be visible for you, but still invisible for others (if they didn't disable this mod)?

But what does it mean that I can choose a mod? Will it be my "personal" mode, i.e. the content removed by him will be invisible to me and me only, or will it be applied to everyone's content? So what stops everyone and their dog becomes mods eventually?

Sorry if my questions don't make sense, but I have no clue how it works from these words.

My other thought is if illegal content is posted, how does it get removed?

Like if a mod removes it and you don't follow that mod, then illegal content would still be distributed to your machine?

It’s an append only graph database whose edges are hydrated at the local user end. Since the edge construction happens on the user’s computer, the user can control how it is built. For example, if a user decides to no longer trust a moderator, an incremental recompile from the raw database reconstructs the relevant parts as if the moderator was never a mod for the local user in the first place.

Ah sorry, by "how it works", I mean from a user experience standpoint, not from a technical one (i.e. I still don't get it :().

Running an app and a server locally is a hard sell when it only serves a single app. IPFS, dat and Secure Scuttlebutt also run a daemon, but they run generic protocols which enable multiple apps.

Also, why the aether protocol in uris? Wouldn't that preclude browser support? Safelisting should happen for generic protocols, and apps demanding that of browsers will be a slippery slope.

Also, curious how this different from SSB channels. It seems very similar, but I could be wrong.

Is there an interface to Aether that I can view in my browser, such as at http://localhost:8080?

Not yet - but that’s a good idea.

It would be really great if Aether could work as a true daemon / service - so that it'd be guaranteed to be up and running at all times, even when e.g. not logged in - and then offered a local web interface on top of that.

yes, if you're running the app; this is from the post:

> Like Reddit, you can link to Aether from the web

> Here’s an example link:

> aether://board/86e782e80681ac580b4d6d102b12e787c066e59f194fee57bb0bf83cc1e42fc6

That opens the client, not uses the browser.

For something that is nominally open source, that's quite the TOS I get when I try and download and run it from getaether.com

> and Aether app is offered to you conditioned on your acceptance

> Aether App is subject to Aether Technologies Inc.'s Privacy Policy

> If you use this [...] App [...] You may not assign or otherwise transfer your account to any other person or entity.

> You are granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable, recovable license to access and use [...] Aether App

> You will not modify, publish, transmit, reverse engineer, participate in the transfer or sale, create derivative works, or in any way exploit and of the content, in or oin part, found on the Site or App.

While normally boiler plate I find this term particularly amusing given the whole focus on anti censorship

> Aether Technologies Inc. reserves the right to review materials posted to a Communication Service [App] and to remove any materials in its sole discretion.

This term seemed reasonable (apart from a EULA at all on a "open source" project) - until I saw the example. I'm sure I can do that on reddit.

> Don't break it, or do anything that interferes with its normal use. By way of example, and not as a limitation, do not post base64 encoded images (or similar) in text form

This part would just read like ass covering, except it's immediately followed by "In addition by [...] submitting your Submission, you are perpetually and nonrevocably licensing your Submission under Create Commons BY-SA license.". As such the only possible uses of it would seem to be abusive.

> by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission [to the app] you are granting Aether Technologies Inc., our affiliated companies and necessary sublicensees permission use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses including, without limiting, the rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; and to publish your name in connection with your Submission.

In the best of practices it includes a mandatory arbitration agreement

> In the event the parties are not able to resolve any dispute between them arising out of or concerning these Terms and Conditions, or any provisions hereof, whether in contract, tort, or otherwise at law or in equity for damages or any other relief, then such dispute shall be resolved only by final and binding arbitration pursuant to [blah blah blah blah]

Just to be extra sure they won't be held accountable by the law they include a class action waiver (the caps are in the original)

> Any arbitration under these Terms and Conditions will take place on an individual basis; class arbitrations and class/representative/collection actions are not permitted. THE PARTIES AGREE THAT A PARTY MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN EACH'S INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN [BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH].

And just in case any arbitrators get any ideas

> Further, unless both you and Aether Technologies Inc. agree otherwise, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than one person's claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding.

You may not publish/transmit/derive/exploit any of the content? If I copy a post to my friend I'm breaking the TOS??

Maybe this sentence is supposed to just apply to content from Aether itself? If so the wording does not actually say that.

I assumed that "content" was a mistake and they actually meant the app itself, but perhaps I am wrong.

Why do you think it's open source? I didn't see sources anywhere on the site.

See the comment by the author with a link to the github repo above me in the comments. The repo contains an AGPL license file (though I suppose he is free to change that).


I'm surprised that the website doesn't mention anywhere whether Aether is open source or not, not even on the page titled "Open Source."

So far, although it seems buggy, the general quality of content is fairly clean.

They also do have a moderation function already, although I can't really comment on how it's used in practice.

Moderation isn't an issue too early on.

Beyond that... For a decentralized network, if the different sub-reddits (essentially) are moderated by their creators, they should end up with their own cultures in time.

Good leadership is always key to building good communities.

How does this work when one is in a private network, where you can't advertise/remember your location easily? Seems like in the end you still need some servers to rely on to federate.

Pleasantly surprised I found no mention of blockchain$$$ anywhere, but this probably can still change

Windows 10 said it "protected my PC". Did you sign the executable? I recently went through a huge hassle getting a code signing certificate. So if you didn't get one I understand why.

See here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19176951

tl;dr: I concur on the pain, and I’m working on it.

It says I need to pay on Patreon to get a unique username. Does this mean if I don't pay then someone else can impersonate me?

“It is very hard to make text illegal” - literally any kind of illegal content can be encoded as text trivially.

It's also not true - it may be in the US, but for instance in the UK: It is an offence to "the person views, or otherwise accesses, by means of the internet a document or record containing information of that kind [likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism]."

It may protect the site, but it doesn't protect users.


I signed up on Patreon for $10. How do I get my unique username?

I've blocked reddit some time ago on all of my devices, what events happened that the post is referencing at the start?

It has been banning several sub-reddits for political or PR reasons and it got a hefty investment from a Chinese company.

> Aether is within the jurisdiction of the United States

Someone needs to fork this so that it doesn't operate under any jurisdiction.

Downloaded it. Whooping 150 MB that took over two minutes to download. Then data took like 10 minutes to show up, with no clear sign that the app was bootstrapping and not merely non-functional.

The app keeps using 100% of my IO for 20 minutes now, writing to files like "KVStore.kv" and "searchindex/store". If I had an SSD I would close it, afraid of it frying the disk.

Windows 10 informs me this is unsafe to run. You're going to need to fix that if you want this to catch on.

Yup, It’s because it’s not signed with Authenticode, which is because it’s taking Comodo an insane amount of time to actually give me a certificate. Let’s Encrypt for code signing can’t come soon enough.

I used Comodo also (now apparently bought by Sectigo) and they are the worst company I have ever dealt with. First I was trying to get them to tell me if my documents were acceptable before I took them to the notary. They did not seem to speak English particularly well and could not recognize that my internet/phone bill was a phone bill (because it also mentioned internet so they had never heard of a combination phone/internet bill before apparently), could not recognize a financial statement. They kept repeating themselves but with subtle contradictions.

Eventually I complained to K-Software (the reseller) and the guy then referred me to some account rep or something with a Western name. Then she sent me instructions which I followed and uploaded their notarized form. Which the instructions did not even say to upload the documents, just the notarized form. Then they said nothing and I eventually asked them what was going on. Then the Comodo rep replies and first of all does not acknowledge that I uploaded anything, 100% contradicts what was in the instructions, saying that not only the form needed to be notarized, but every individual page. I told the K-Software guy I was not going back to the notary. Then he calls them, I wait, I email him again, then they say I have to have my phone number in a valid third party registry. But they don't say what the ___ is a valid third party registry. And they never said that was required before -- I gave them the phone bill with my phone number on it.

Anyway it took almost two months and maybe thirty emails before I finally got it.

I'm also going through the same thing (K-Software > Comodo) and it is horrible. I would strongly recommend against. Pay a little more and retain your sanity.

>Let’s Encrypt for code signing can’t come soon enough.

AFAIK that will never happen because authenticode signing certificates are all essentially EV certificates, because they require verification of an individual's (or company's) identity. That's very expensive to do compared to DV certificates that letsecrypt currently issues, which have essentially $0 marginal cost.

It will learn even unsigned code after enough time, but future versions may or may not keep your earned reputation. The certificate is a good idea.

I feel like this is yet another something I'll have on my PC for a few days, forget about it, and come back to find it defunct for my desires because there's still reddit.

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