summaryrefslogtreecommitdiff
path: root/doc/documentation/chapters/preface.texi
blob: b4889356ab08d1de0285572afd700d9a735720c4 (plain)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
@node Preface
@chapter Preface

@c introductionary words here
This collection of manuals describes how to use GNUnet, a framework
for secure peer-to-peer networking with the high-level goal to provide
a strong foundation Free Software for a global, distributed network
that provides security and privacy.  GNUnet in that sense aims to
replace the current Internet protocol stack.  Along with an
application for secure publication of files, it has grown to include
all kinds of basic applications for the foundation of a new Internet.

@menu
* About this book::
* Introduction::
* Project governance::
* General Terminology::
* Typography::
@end menu

@node About this book
@section About this book

The books (described as ``book'' or ``books'' in the following) bundled as
the ``GNUnet Reference Manual'' are based on the historic work of all
contributors to GNUnet's documentation. The documentation existed in
various formats before it came to be in the format you are currently
reading. It is our hope that the content is described in a way that does
not require any academic background, although some concepts will require
further reading.

Our (long-term) goal with these books is to keep them self-contained. If
you see references to Wikipedia and other external sources (except for
our academic papers) it means that we are working on a solution to
describe the explanations found there which fits our use-case and licensing.

The first chapter (``Preface'') as well as the the second
chapter (``Philosophy'') give an introduction to GNUnet as a project,
what GNUnet tries to achieve.

@node Introduction
@section Introduction

@c In less than 2 printed pages describe the history of GNUnet here,
@c what we have now and what's still missing (could be split into
@c subchapters).

GNUnet in its current version is the result of almost 20 years of work
from many contributors.  So far, most contributions were made by
volunteers or people paid to do fundamental research.  Thus,
significant parts of the software lack a reasonable degree of
professionalism in its implementation.  Furthermore, we are aware of a
significant number of existing bugs and critical design flaws, as some
unfortunate early design decisions remain to be rectified.  There are
still known open problems; GNUnet remains an active research project.

The project was started in 2001 when some initial ideas for improving
Freenet's file-sharing turned out to be too radical to be easily
realized within the scope of the existing Freenet project.  We lost
our first contributor on 11.9.2001 as the contributor realized that
privacy may help terrorists.  The rest of the team concluded that it
was now even more important to fight for civil liberties.  The first
release was called ``GNet'' -- already with the name GNUnet in mind,
but without the blessing of GNU we did not dare to call it GNUnet
immediately.  A few months after the first release we contacted the
GNU project, happily agreed to their governance model and became an
official GNU package.

Within the first year, we created GNU libextractor, a helper library
for meta data extraction which has been used by a few other projects
as well.  2003 saw the emergence of pluggable transports, the ability
for GNUnet to use different mechanisms for communication, starting
with TCP, UDP and SMTP (support for the latter was later dropped due
to a lack of maintenance).  In 2005, the project first started to
evolve beyond the original file-sharing application with a first
simple P2P chat.  In 2007, we created GNU libmicrohttpd
to support a pluggable transport based on HTTP.  In 2009, the
architecture was radically modularized into the multi-process system
that exists today.  Coincidentally, the first version of the ARM
service was implemented a day before systemd was announced.  From 2009
to 2014 work progressed rapidly thanks to a significant research grant
from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft.  This resulted in particular
in the creation of the R5N DHT, CADET, ATS and the GNU Name System.
In 2010, GNUnet was selected as the basis for the SecuShare online
social network, resutling in a significant growth of the core team.
In 2013, we launched GNU Taler to address the challenge of convenient
and privacy-preserving online payments.  In 2015, the pEp project
announced that they will use GNUnet as the technology for their
meta-data protection layer, ultimately resulting in GNUnet e.V.
entering into a formal long-term collaboration with the pEp
foundation.  In 2016, Taler Systems SA, a first startup using GNUnet
technology, was founded with support from the community.

GNUnet is not merely a technical project, but also a political
mission: like the GNU project as a whole, we are writing software to
achieve political goals with a focus on the human right of
informational self-determination.  Putting users in control of their
computing has been the core driver of the GNU project. With GNUnet we
are focusing on informational self-determination for collaborative
computing and communication over networks.

The Internet is shaped as much by code and protocols as by its
associated political processes (IETF, ICANN, IEEE, etc.), and its
flaws are similarly not limited to the protocol design.  Thus,
technical excellence by itself will not suffice to create a better
network. We also need to build a community that is wise, humble and
has a sense of humor to achieve our goal to create a technical
foundation for a society we would like to live in. 


@node Project governance
@section Project governance

GNUnet, like the GNU project and many other free software projects,
follows the governance model of a benevolent dictator.  This means
that ultimately, the GNU project appoints the GNU maintainer and can
overrule decisions made by the GNUnet maintainer. Similarly, the
GNUnet maintainer can overrule any decisions made by individual
developers.  Still, in practice neither has happened in the last 20
years, and we hope to keep it that way.

The GNUnet project is supported by GNUnet e.V., a German association
where any developer can become a member.  GNUnet e.V. servers as a
legal entity to hold the copyrights to GNUnet.  GNUnet e.V. may also
choose to pay for project resources, and can collect donations.
GNUnet e.V. may also choose to adjust the license of the
software (with the constraint that it has to remain free software).


@node General Terminology
@section General Terminology

In the following manual we may use words that can not be found in the
Appendix. Since we want to keep the manual selfcontained, we will
explain words here.

@node Typography
@section Typography

When giving examples for commands, shell prompts are used to show if the
command should/can be issued as root, or if "normal" user privileges are
sufficient. We use a @code{#} for root's shell prompt, a
@code{%} for users' shell prompt, assuming they use the C-shell or tcsh
and a @code{$} for bourne shell and derivatives.