Dev Grant Spotlight: Freenet 2

Apr 21, 2023

This is the latest post in our series highlighting the builders creating new tools and services on the Filecoin network. Learn more about Filecoin Foundation’s Dev Grants program.

Freenet is free software that lets users anonymously chat, share files, use email, browse, and publish Freenet-accessible websites known as “freesites.” Users contribute to the Freenet network by offering bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive (called the “data store”) for storing files.

Freenet’s operating model is decentralized to make it less vulnerable to attack. Communications between Freenet nodes are encrypted and routed through other nodes to protect user privacy. These practices are aligned with Freenet’s foundational values around freedom of speech.

Since its inception, Freenet has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and the application has been used for the distribution of sensitive information around the world. However, as Freenet was designed over two decades ago, it lacks real-time communication capabilities and can be difficult to use for non-technical people.

To help address this issue, Filecoin Foundation is awarding a developer grant to support the creation of Freenet 2, which will take the concepts behind Freenet and update them for 2021 with real-time communication, web assembly cryptographic contracts, and a simple user interface anyone can use.

Specifically, Freenet 2 will be a distributed key-value store serving as a foundation for decentralized, scalable, and trustless alternatives to centralized services — including email, instant messaging, and social networks. Freenet 2 will be open source — built on the Rust implementation of libp2p — which will allow developers to experiment, share feedback, and contribute improvements over time. This will help enhance systems built on libp2p, including Filecoin.

Moreover, as an infrastructure layer, Freenet 2 will open up IPFS and Filecoin to more use cases, such as mobile-native protocols for low-bandwidth, low-power applications over mobile. In addition, a “chainless” smart contract approach will generate learnings and use cases for Filecoin’s smart contract initiative.

Filecoin Foundation dev grants are intended to enhance the Filecoin ecosystem. FF’s grant to Freenet is a new type of discretionary award by the Filecoin Foundation that did not involve an RFP. Rather, the grant awarded to Freenet is a sponsored open grant. This type of grant will be periodically given to organizations that we proactively identify as sharing Filecoin Foundation’s civic values around free speech and data preservation— but need help shifting their infrastructures more fully from web2 centralization into a decentralized Web3 environment.

We’re proud to support Freenet in maturing to an even more decentralized operating model to back up its worthy mission!

The Filecoin Dev Grants program helps advance projects and aims to award additional grants to boost development in the ecosystem. Check out other grant recipients and learn how you can apply for open grants and Microgrants.