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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2019-12
End: 2022-10


Collaboration infrastructure with near real-time p2p data synchronization

The Interpeer Project's purpose is to research and develop novel peer-to-peer technologies for open and distributed software architectures. The goal is to enable serverless modes of operation for collaborative software with rich feature sets equal to or surpassing centralized client-server architectures. For that reason, the initial focus lies on facilitating the extreme end of the use case spectrum with very low latency and high bandwidth requirements, as exemplified by peer-to-peer video communications in quality as close to 4k resolution as possible. When that initial goal is reached, the project focus will shift to other collaboriative applications of the technology.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Collaboratively writing a document together in real-time with others is still a bit magic. Someone else, perhaps on the other side of the planet, is typing something. And within a fraction of a second, the text magically appears on your screen. This amazing technology is the ideal companion for say an online meeting - everyone can contribute, and correct any flawed minutes without much effort. For this kind of collaboration in real-time, there is a limited set of options in the market you can use. Most available services in the market like Google Docs, Microsoft Office or LibreOffice Online.

Most online collaborative services share one very undesirable characteristic: you need to fully trust the company running the service you use. Whomever has access to the servers used to connect everyone together, can read everything you have written - and deleted. That means that if you need to work on something confidential like an important contract, you may want to reconsider using the service. Especially if you write about sensitive topics like corruption, money laundering or state surveillance this open backend you cannot control is a really significant problem.

Peer-to-peer collaboration is a way for internet users to connect and work together directly, without the need for a central authority or in-between layer. Search and discovery in this way can be crowd-sourced, instead of organized by one central party (a search engine) that is more vulnerable to attack and misuse. Together, peers can publish data, subscribe to other people's messages and documents, recommend and disseminate information and news and tag correct and informed articles and stories, that can then be searched by others. The group filters what data and information should be spread wide and far and what should be forgotten, not a third party (i.e. the search engine provider) that will not give access to its search algorithm to protect their commercial interests.

This project wants to prepare peer-to-peer collaboration for current day user needs and future challenges, tackling a very tough use case: high-resolution video broadcasting using everyday consumer connections. This is a tough use case because to stream this type of video, you need to have very little delay (or latency) and a high rate of data transfer (or bandwidth) in your connection, which is hard to pull off in a peer-to-peer-network. Consider this a test of strength that only a truly advanced network solution can achieve, which would make this technology incredibly useful for real-time peer-to-peer online collaboration.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.