At Omlet, the first and most important goal we have is to give people a social sharing system that does not take away an individuals’ IP rights. Looking at the offerings of the big incumbents today, we see that they unabashedly carve a right to resell and use things you share for their profit. A clip from the terms of service of Facebook.

“You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post”

“You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you”

“You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such”

We do not do this. The things you create and share are your own.

From Decentralization To Beyond
When we started our journey towards creating a communication layer that gave power back to the people we began with hard decentralization using personal servers, peer to peer networking, next gen cryptography, and self declared identity. The obstacles of failure modes varying from slow delivery of messages, to networking restrictions in place on consumer networks, to poor user experience caused by the fundamentals of the underlying primitives altogether prevent fully decentralized systems from reaching a global scale with the level of service that centralized and decentralized-at-the-aggregated-provider level can provide. Most people aren’t willing to tolerate these failures because the perceived benefit they receive from them is not significant. The primary thing they want is to communicate with others easily and reliably, and they are willing to give up their own data ownership rights to do that. We want to give them back the ownership that they deserve, the ownership that has not been returned to them by the hundreds of noble efforts to create purely decentralized systems.

Power of Personal Cloud Choice
To really achieve our goal of giving people a viable alternative to the data hoarding, we have to prioritize user experience over most other concerns. If we are not able to create a widely used system that is accessible and reliable for hundreds of millions of people, we will not have achieved our goal of restoring ownership and control of personal data to the people. Allowing for competition in choosing where to store their data is a big step up in control for people. Separating the notions of identity and data storage enables this competition. Individuals can make a choice of who they trust to store their data. The personal cloud storage providers generally have terms that do not allow them to take a copy of your data and use it as they see fit for profit.

Not Keeping Data
We delete as much of the data as possible after two weeks. This window of data storage allows for people to retrieve their messages at a later date and to use multiple devices with an seamless conversation experience. Any permanent storage of this data is inside a personally selected cloud service (or nowhere at all). There is some data we store permanently at your discretion, such as the address book. From a UX point of view, people expect to be able to login to an application and find their friends so they can engage. This is completely optional for Omlet, and the app continues to function even if you deny this permission. We also do not sell or share your address book.

Smarts on the Device
The platform we are building is open to developers building applications that take advantage of our consumer-in-control messaging substrate. For example, applications built with our Android API can send, receive, query, and display all the content shared via Omlet. These APIs give access to a database of content stored on the mobile device. The cloud service does not service query user data, it just delivers content to the end devices so that the smarts can all be at the endpoint. This creates a P2P friendly abstraction so that as wireless radio and battery technology evolve, apps built with Omlet will be ready to take advantage of those advances.

Openness
Omlet is open for the most important things: choice of apps, choice of identities, choice of clouds. One confusion we see a lot is that open and open source are the same thing. They are not; open is about enabling competition at levels of the system. Open source is a tricky beast when it comes to building a successful business. If you look around at the wildly successful open-source projects, they often are conceptual copies of successful closed-source systems. In other words, after something is well established, excellent open source alternatives develop. Part of this is that it is difficult to take something which is rapidly evolving and growing and involve a broad community in the process. A blind code dump isn’t really a useful open source thing, you have to grow and nurture a community around building the right things on top of the platform. Jumping the gun on open source/protocols/IP could be highly detrimental to the big picture goals. Incumbents with poor data rights for end-users could grab the parts of the system they like, make it proprietary, and strip out the parts that give users the data ownership. Then we end up with a situation where there isn’t compatibility and therefore there isn’t choice, and we accomplished nothing.

If you are interested in exploring an open source messenger with an app platform, you can check out Musubi.

-T.J. Purtell, CTO Omlet

 

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