The idea is about freedom of speech, and especially about freedom of speech immune to censorship. More than half of the population of Earth lives under oppressive regimes that seek to suppress freedom of speech to varying degrees. The problem lies in the fact that for those people, this freedom is both almost impossible, and dangerous to one’s own self in a way that we cannot conceive in the western world. The entire premise of democracy and just rule of law lies in the idea that people cannot be suppressed from and harmed for expressing their ideas; specifically for that reason, we, the luckier ones, are morally obliged to help them in achieving this basic premise. Until we provide this basic tenet of civilization to everyone on Earth, we cannot see our basic groundwork fulfilled. The Internet achieves much of this, yet it falls short on many others—for example, it relies on central, massive servers that can be blocked and shut down by people in power. Moreover, it’s built in the age of a server and a client, and the interaction between the server and the client is supposed to be one-way, from host to the user. This does not allow for conversations between peers. Fortunately we have many technologies that mitigate such shortcomings, but in the end, those technologies are also fragile to interventions and eavesdropping, not to mention the risk of failure increasing as complexity increases. The Web was never meant to withstand such external pressures.
The solution takes its roots from the Web itself, however, it is a decentralized network based on peers, not server-client pairs, and similarly, text. The connections between peers are encrypted by default. This is a solution to two of the essential problems mentioned, the first, the problem of communication in absence of servers, and the second, the problem of safety. One example of such a peer-to-peer network protocol already exists: BitTorrent. The difference between Aether and BitTorrent is that BitTorrent is a protocol for distributing files and it terminates the connections immediately thereafter, while Aether sustains them to create an online, safe talking room that people can rely on in times of distress, there are no servers to be shut down, as there are no servers at all, because all of the information is stored on the devices of the participants. When an user decides to put a piece of text —a comment, an article, a plea, news, whatever—, the Aether client on the user’s (User #1) device starts to distribute the file to everyone’s clients that connect to it. If one of the connected users (User #2) likes the information and “upvotes” it, User #2 also starts to distribute the same piece of text. This allows natural and organic dissemination of information based on popularity, and it’s a close representation of how real-life social networks work. Aether Protocol is the set of rules that govern such interactions, and Aether Client is the program that interacts.
[Note: Aether was formerly called Bitnews]