[p2p-hackers] darknet ~= (blacknet, f2f net)

Ian Clarke ian.clarke at gmail.com
Sat Dec 3 01:49:51 PST 2005

On 02/12/05, zooko at zooko.com <zooko at zooko.com> wrote:
> Let 1 be the set of networks which are used for illegal transmission of
> information,

I do wish you would refer to these networks as those which allow the
covert transmission of information, rather than those which are used
for the illegal transmission of information - since I am not aware of
any networks that are specifically designed for the illegal
transmission of information.  I think this would help alleviate the
political problem you raise later in your email.

> and 2 be the set of networks which are built on f2f connections,
> and 1^2 be the intersection -- the set of networks which are used for
> transmission of information and which are built on f2f connections.

If you broaden your definition of set 1 to be networks which are used
for the covert transmission of information (I think this is a more
useful definition for the set as not all covert activity is illegal),
then I am not sure, in practice, how many networks will fall into set
2 that aren't also members of set 1, in fact, I can't think of any
non-contrived situations where one would create a f2f network
motivated by something other than a desire to be covert in some way.

> [bepw2002] introduces "darknet" to mean concept 1.

I'm not going to spend time dissecting their paper to determine
exactly what BEPW's intention was for the term "darknet", certainly
they could have been much more explicit about this if they wanted to,
and they use the term in contradictory ways throughout their paper.
For example, they refer to "the darknet" as if there is only one, but
subsequenly refer to "darknets".  Given this vagueness, I can't
imagine that is was their goal to provide an authorative definition
for the term.

While we can debate what BEPW intended the term to mean when they used
it in their paper, this is ultimately irrelevant.  Software engineers
often seem to forget that English isn't like a programming language
where a designer specifies an unambigous definition at the outset
(Richard Stallman is particularly guilty of this).  The meaning of
words in English is a consensus that is arrived at over time, and
eventually finds its way into a dictionary (long) after that consensus
is stable.  The BEPW paper is one early voice in that
consensus-forming process.  Mine is another, yours is another still.

> By the way, I should point out that I have a personal interest in this
> because between 2001 and 2003 I tried to promulgate concept 2, using Lucas
> Gonze's coinage: "friendnet" [zooko2001, zooko2002, zooko2003, gonze2002].
> I would like to know for my own satisfaction if my ideas were a direct
> inspiration for some of this modern stuff, such as the Freenet v0.7 design.

I am not sure that they were a direct inspiration.  We (Freenet) have
been concerned about the fact that Freenet was harvestable for several
years now.  Around spring this year I made the observation that if
human relationships form a small world network, it should be possible
to assign locations to people such that we form a Kleinberg-style
small world network, and thus we could make the network routable.
Oskar Sandberg then suggested a way to do this, and we set about
validating the concept using simulations.

> Now the problem is that in the current parlance of the media, the word
> "darknet" is used to mean vaguely 1 or 2 or 1^2.  The reason that this is a
> problem isn't that it breaks with some etymological tradition, but that it
> ambiguous and that it deprives us of useful words to refer to 1 or 2
> specifically.  The ambiguity has nasty political consequences -- see for
> example these f2f network operators struggling to persuade newspaper
> that they are not primarily for illegal purposes: [globe].

I think a much better way to avoid this nasty political consequence is
to stop describing set 1 in terms of illegal activity, but rather
describe such networks as being "covert", or "anonymity preserving" -
neither of which implies illegal activity (it is perfectly legal to be
anonymous in most countries whose legal systems I am familiar with).

> > defining the term "darknet" as a f2f network that is designed
> > to conceal the activities of its participants (this being, so far as I
> > have seen, one of the main motivations for building an f2f network),
> So you think of "darknet" as meaning 1^2.

Or just 2, since I think the sets 1^2 and 2 are, in practical terms,
virtually identical.

> That's an interesting remark -- that you regard concealment as one of the
> motivations.  I personally regard concealment as one of the lesser
> -- I'm more interested in attack resistance (resisting attacks such as
> subversion or denial-of-service, rather than attacks such as surveillance),
> scalability, and other properties.  Although I'm interested in the
> properties as well.

That is surprising.  Are you aware of any current or proposed f2f
networks for which concealment of user activity is not a goal?

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