Build Decentralized Software (With No App Servers)

Social software has an inherent network effect, where people have to all use the same system in order to collaborate and interact online. This makes it hard for any new and creative applications to attract enough users to become useful. Even worse, because there is no single system that everyone is willing to use, it has become impossible to deploy any online tools that have the kind of universal reach we're used to with email and the Web.

We are developing "crosscloud" protocols which allow user data to be managed separately from applications, resulting in decentralized social software. Crosscloud applications in a given problem domain naturally interoperate, forming a shared critical mass. Users are free to switch systems while keeping the same social connections, and developers are free to innovate without having to worry about capturing a user base or maintaining a massive back-end operation. We believe the result will be a dramatic increase in innovation, especially in non-frivolous applications, with an increased respect for user autonomy and privacy.

We have some prototype software, including Cimba, a decentralized replacement for Twitter. We're particularly looking for students to work in the front-end, improving Cimba and developing additional applications, and also the back-end, helping develop and operate the generic data storage services. All work is open source and intended to feed into an open standards process.

Experience with JavaScript web application development is a requirement for front-end work, and familiarity with RDF Linked Data is a plus. We are interested in working with students at all levels - UROP, MEng or PhD. To apply, please send a resume and statement of interest to Amy van der Hiel at