FreeSpeechMe & Dot-Bit alternate domain registry

By Carl “Bear” Bussjaeger
www.bussjaeger.org

I got an email from MamaLiberty regarding something called FreeSpeechMe. It looks interesting enough to mention, but I don’t know enough about it yet to recommend. Stripped to basics, FreeSpeechMe (FSM) is a Firefox add-on to make browsing “Dot-Bit” sites transparent and supposedly effortless. So what is “Dot-Bit“?

Dot-Bit is… an alternate domain registration system. Not just another registration company like GoDaddy or Network Solutions, but a parallel system, a separate DNS system. Normally, when you’re browsing sites, your computer looks at the names you type in (like “bussjaeger.org”), contacts a Domain Name Server to get the actual numeric address associated with that name, and -presto!- takes you there. Dot-Bit uses a different DNS system to look up address registered specifically to it and not in the conventional DNS.

On the face of it, that’s cool, but… no big deal. You can do as much with your localhost file, although you’d have to keep updating it manually to add new sites. But Dot-Bit doesn’t stop there.

The conventional DNS system has a bunch of [insert gross simplification] nameserver machines scattered across the world which serve as the reference for what domains are where. Those machines are vulnerable to faults such as a major telecom cough – WorldCom – cough locking the standby server offline, then turning off the primary (really happened; I was at work in another telecom company’s NOC that morning… fun… fun), or the FBI ordering them to redirect traffic for your “copyright infringing/terrorism supporting” site to one they prefer.

Dot-Bit is a distributed system. There is no one machine to be turned off or corrupted by government agents.If you’ve looked into new digital currencies like Bitcoin, you know something about distributed systems. [insert gross simplification] People voluntarily let their computer be used as peers to relay info. You keep a record of transactions for your coins, and when you make a new transaction, that info gets bounced around until it reaches you, complete with a virtual papertrail by which you can verify the legitimacy of the transaction.

Dot-Bit uses a similar distributed peer system to relay its domain data. More specifically, it uses the NameCoin system, a competitor to Bitcoin. In general, [insert gross simplification] NameCoin operates similarly to Bitcoin. This is important because…

Yoy may recall that the FBI busted Ross Ulbricht and got hold of his local Bitcoin wallet (which means they got the money; the only way to seize Bitcoins; freezing accounts doesn’t work). You may also recall that protestors used those very coins to send messages to the FBI, by sending tiny fractional Bitcoin transfers to Ulbricht’s wallet (the address of which is naturally in the distributed peer-to-peer Bitcoin universe) with messages attached. So the currency system can send more data than the money itself. Dot-Bit exploits NameCoin to disseminate DNS data.

Which finally brings us back to FreeSpeechMe. To browse .bit (the TLD for Dot-Bit, duh) sites, either you have to manually check the NameCoin-based Dot-Bit DNS for the latest domain updates, or your computer has to know when and how to do it for you. FSM automates the process in Firefox. [insert gross simplification] When Firefox encounters a .bit TLD, FSM goes out to the Dot-Bit DNS system, grabs the current numeric address, and -presto!- takes you there. Transparently.

Obviously Dot-Bit and FSM are stressing the anti-censorship capabilities of their system. Taking everything at face value, they’re right. It’s hard for the feds (or Chinese, or RIAA/MPAA) to find and shutdown a domain registration that isn’t pinned down in any one place. That’s a good thing. Also, as you may have realized from the WorldCom/DNS shutdown story, it can protect the system against accidental/negligent damage as well. That’s also a good thing.

But why stop there? There are various “dark ‘net” systems that work as alternatives to the “real” Internet [insert gross simplification] by creating a parallel physical network. People reprogram their little consumer grade home routers to act more like big time Internet edge routers. These routers interconnect, creating a “dark” Internet over WiFi. No telco DSL, cable company, Verizon FiOS, or whatever needed. It’s very short range, between one router and the next, but in theory volunteers can daisy chain enough routers to cross continents.1 And each router is also a user access point. If enough people were willing to do this, the commercial Internet could be obsolete (I’m ignoring certain bandwidth issues, of course).

The downside to such a dark net is DNS. Conventionally, someone would have to run those [vulnerable!] DNS servers. And the feds (or Chinese, or RIAA/MPAA) would simply move in and do their destructive usual.

Until now. Dark net, meet Dot-Bit. Dot-Bit, dark net. Play nice.2


1. If you wonder if this could be done with smartphones: Yes, it’s been done on a small test scale. We are very close to the point where old-fashioned telephone companies and Internet service providers are utterly obsolete.

2. I would expect that the dark net would need an intial connection to the existing Internet, since that’s where NameCoin/Dot-Bit currently are. But they would gradually migrate over to the free side.

 

About MamaLiberty

As a lifelong individualist and voluntarist, my philosophy can best be summarized here: No human being has the right -- under any circumstances -- to initiate force against another human being, nor to threaten or delegate its initiation. Self defense, and the defense of others, is a basic right of all living creatures. After a long career as a registered nurse in So. Calif, I retired in 2005 to NE Wyoming, living alone in my own log home, with good friends and neighbors all around. Biological family includes two grown sons and five grandchildren, unfortunately still in California. In addition to writing and editing, I garden, sew, cook and bake my own bread from home ground wheat and other grains. Hobbies include identification and cultivation of wild food and herbs. I am also a certified instructor for firearms and self defense. I carry a gun at all times.
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14 Responses to FreeSpeechMe & Dot-Bit alternate domain registry

  1. Bob Robertson says:

    There’s good reason that what we call “the internet” didn’t pop up in 1990, or 1988, but had to wait until the NSF released their restrictive peering rules in 1993: Bandwidth.

    While every FidoNet node could send information to any other FideoNet node, the time to get from end to end could takes several days.

    Ad-hoc and relay networks are improving, and the various “dark net” implementations can and do utilize tunnels across the present “internet” (like TOR) to get packets from here to there, but people have become used to real-time access to data.

    The Internet is, at present, more like a tree than a web. Each leaf (that’s the individual user) can reach every other leaf, but it is very likely that to do so the path will have to go to the ‘trunk’, the primary ISPs and their peering points. These, as the NSA demonstrates, have become targets of opportunity.

    But the tree is efficient. Fewer hops means faster browsing, but such huge pipes are expensive. Connecting leaf-to-leaf seems easier, but could require dozens, maybe hundreds, of slower hops to reach the destination. So much for voice traffic, we’re back to the fastest thing being the Pony Express.

    End-to-End encryption, applications like BitMessage, seems to me to be the best solutions to a bad problem at the moment.

    • MamaLiberty says:

      I fully expect that where there is a will, there is a way. The potential is very exciting. When I was a child, we had no telephone in our home, TV was regarded as a myth and we finally got a tiny one when I was 12 years old. I was never impressed much. LOL We had an ice box, no refrigeration until I was 7 or 8. We wrote paper letters and put 3 cent stamps on them grudgingly when the price went up. :) Lots of things have changed in the last 67 years… and more changes all the time, faster and faster. I’m ready and willing to experiment, to adopt those that benefit me and gladly ignore any that do not.

      • Michael Dean says:

        When I was a kid we had a party line sharing with our neighbors.

        And a long distance call out of the US was ten dollars a minute. Now it’s free (Skype.)

        I could go on, but I have to go build the roads to the future.

        Peace!
        MWD

        • MamaLiberty says:

          Yes, our first telephone was on a six party line. It almost never rang, and if we needed to use it, we had to convince the old ladies who shared it to get off for a minute. My sister and I were forbidden to even touch it for a long time. And we didn’t know anyone out of the US in those days. I do remember when we finally got a private line. I was in high school by that time, and we had strict limits on who and when, and how long we could use it. None of us could even imagine having our own phone, let alone one we could carry around with us everywhere.

    • Michael Dean says:

      FidoNet – its creator Tom Jennings used to come to see my band Bomb in San Francisco in the 80s a lot.

      Oops. I typed “bomb” on the Internet. Before the goons kick in my door, I’m talking about a long-defunct rock band called “Bomb”, not actual Bombs.
      http://www.michaelwdean.com/BOMB/

      (warning for the squeamish: photo of me back in the day, on drugs, wearing a slip.)

      MWD

  2. Michael Dean says:

    Mama,

    Same offer for you, of course. If you get a Namecoin wallet and want to try our tutorials and set up a Dot-Bit domain, send me your Namecoin address and I’ll send you .04 NMC. (my gift. That’s only about 20 cents worth.)

    MWD

    • MamaLiberty says:

      Thanks! I still don’t have much of an idea what this is all about. Will do more reading and we’ll see what happens. Right now it all sounds as if it is beyond my skill set. :)

      • Michael Dean says:

        Watch the video on YouTube. If you have trouble hearing it, click on the CC link at the bottom. The automated closed captioning is pretty good, except it calls “dot.bit” “dot.be.”

        MWD

  3. Bear says:

    Glad you liked that, Michael. My article didn’t go into technical details mainly because I had in mind reaching out to nontechnical people who can still use this. But also, I simply hadn’t taken the time yet to look into the background tech myself. [grin]

    That first question in the tech FAQ was… sheesh. Is Dot-Bit secure because ISP can still filter? Is Granma’s lye soap bad because it isn’t an internal antibiotic?

    Just point out that Dot-Bit itself is just a DNS tool. It isn’t specifically designed to address ISP filtering. It works in a different protocol layer. There are other tools for that, including proxies and encryption.

    If ISP port blocking becomes an issue… I don’t know what ports you’re running on now, but if you use UDP over one of the common MMORPG ports, any ISP that blocks it that is going to be razed, burned, and have salt sown over the ashes by pissed off gamers. If you share the TCP port, blocking that will block any web surfing. That ISP won’t last long.

    I see a lot of potential in this. I plan to play with it. If I ever get my hands on a NameCoin, I’d like to get my site a .bit domain.

  4. Michael Dean says:

    MamaLiberty has the best Rolodex in the biz. This is our first press (we released this about 6 hours ago), and Carl NAILED it. He GETS it. Excellent.

    I sent this to a bunch of tech sites also, people who claim to be “on the cutting edge” and a few of them came back with questions that were like “I don’t get it.” Man, Carl GETS it.

    Carl, there’s even more to it than this though. Please check out the tech info that Jeremy has posted for improvements he plans to do on FreeSpeechMe, including better integration with TOR, and about 75 other things. It’s on our Tech FAQ (which is quite a bit more detailed than our plain-old general FAQ.) Tech FAQ is here:
    http://www.freespeechme.org/advanced-faq/

    I’ll add this to our Press page. It’s our first press, and it’s whip-smart. Thanks!

    I’d expect nothing less from MamaLiberty. She’s the grandma who turned me on to PGP encryption AND (Puppy) Linux seven years ago and helped me learn how to use it!

    Peace!
    MWD

    • MamaLiberty says:

      It helps to know lots of people, like you and Carl, who both “get it” and understand the technology. I’m slowly catching up. :)

      Anyway, I hope this helps to spread the meme.

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