Category Archives: Decentralized Web

How to use Bridgefy as an Emergency Mesh Network

by Lisa Rein & Matteo Borri – June 1, 2020

Download link for Bridgefy

Introduction (What is a mesh network and how does it work?)

A mesh network application will allow you to continue to communicate – over bluetooth – even after all WiFi and cellular service has been interrupted.

So, for instance if your local city decides to turn off phone service on a given city block, you and your group of people will still be able to communicate with each other – in a small area. (About 100 meters, for example, if you had five people who were all about 20 meters away from each other.)

As long as there are a lot of people with bluetooth and Bridgefy installed within a given area, a “mesh network” will be enabled that has the potential to go even farther distances (than 100 meters).

More details here:

How to hold your phone for the best reception

Reminder that Bridgefy basically turns a phone into a digital walkie talkie.  So, you may need to hold it up and vertically to get the best range.

BATTERY Considerations

Using mesh networks uses up your phone’s battery very quickly – so be sure to bring extra batteries.

Bandwidth issues (Why you should keep it to text and LOW RES images (and not use too much voice or god forbid, video)

Bluetooth’s bandwidth isn’t the greatest. So, although you CAN send anything – anything but text will be very slow to move around and can slow down the network. It will work, but it’ll glitch out a lot.

Security Considerations

Using Anonymously

If you wish to create an “anonymous, unverified account” – remember when you are installing to NOT SYNC THE APP WITH YOUR CONTACTS when it asks.

Note that you and your friends can quickly “see” each other on the network, using the “Broadcast” group chat feature, BUT GROUP CHATS ARE NOT ENCRYPTED. (Perhaps you don’t care if the group messages are encrypted, since everyone is using anonymous names. Or, it could be really important that your group’s communications are not publicly seen.)

More details here:

Using with your phone identified (forever, after the first time) and your contacts synced

If you sync contacts, it will grab your phone’s IMEI identifier. If you try to change your account name and save it (in “settings” under “About” and then “Profile”), it will give you the new name, but keep the old name in parentheses when you are identified to others as a user on their phones. Like this: “new name (old name).”

If you decide to let your phone be identified and let the app sync up with your contacts, you will have to be connected to the internet for it to configure properly.

Encrypted messages between individuals vs. Clear text “group” messages using “Broadcast” feature

Messages between two accounts are encrypted. The “Broadcast” feature is useful because it allows you to message everyone on the network at once, but in CLEAR TEXT.

Bridgefy uses RSA encryption for messages sent between individual accounts. Encrypted group chat is not yet available. (Only the unencrypted “group chat – with a default of “all users in range” that is available using the “Broadcast” feature.)



Before you start installing the Bridgefy app on your phone, you need to decide if you wish to use Brigefy anonymously OR if you want to sync it to your contacts and have your phone uniquely identified.

DO NOT sync with your contacts if you EVER want to have an anonymous, unverified account. If you sync even ONE TIME. Bridgefy grab’s your phone’s IMEI identifier – and won’t ever forget it. (Even if you uninstall it, reboot your phone, and reinstall it.)

Again: Once you sync your contacts and your phone’s IMEI number has been identified you can’t create an anonymous account. You can create a new name, but when you look at your app – and when others see you on the network, the old name (in parenthesis) will keep showing up next to the new name.

Like this: New name (old name)

NOTE: You do not need to install the SDK to send and receive text messages over the mesh network. The SDK requires an account and is not needed to simply communicate and send text messages over the network.

Install Instructions

1. After deciding to be anonymous or to sync your contacts and be forever identified, install Bridgefy on to your phone (from your phone’s app store)

2. Give yourself an account name (make note of it perhaps – so you can tell others what it is).

3. If you are making an anonymous account, the program will say you have created an “unverified” account.

4. If you decide to sync with your contacts, make sure you are connected to the internet, say “yes,” and then give it a couple minutes.

5. After it syncs with them (which takes a minute) – all of your contacts that have Bridgefy installed will pop up under “contacts.” (Just like they way Signal brings up your contacts, if they also have the app installed.

Click on the “Contacts” icon along the bottom of the screen, and it will display:

1) any of your contacts that have the app installed
2) ALL USERS on the network that are “nearby” and can be messaged individually.

Note: Messages between individual users are encrypted, while group chats via the “Broadcast” feature are in CLEAR TEXT.

6. If no one is showing up under “nearby” in “contacts,” the other way of seeing folks on the network – and a good way to kinda “wake up” your system if you’re not seeing anyone on it – is to click on “Broadcast” (in the row of icons along the bottom of the screen).

7. After you click on it, an empty looking “Broadcast” window comes up with a text box at the very bottom where you can text to EVERYONE on the mesh network (IN CLEAR TEXT).

8. While on the “Broadcast” screen, you can find other users on the network by clicking on the upper right corner, where there is a contact-y looking icon with a red number showing you how many other people are on the network. Touch that – and it will give you a list of the people’s handles that are within range, so you can message people individually..

9. Although it’s very easy to text the whole group from the BROADCAST page, remember that it’s in CLEAR TEXT – AND EVEN USERS YOU HAVE BLOCKED CAN SOMETIMES SEE ALL BROADCAST MESSAGES (according to our testing). (Speak up if we’re wrong about this :)

9. So, whether you access your contacts via “contacts” along the bottom (after allowing it to sync to your contacts) – or access a list of “nearby” people you can message by clicking on the contact-ish icon in the upper right of the “Broadcast” window, once you can see a name, you can select it and:

-start a conversation
-delete a conversation
-block that user from getting any texts from you

Okay we think that about covers it. But we are open to adding more details or changing anything we might have gotten wrong. Please email us at

DWeb Camp Q & A with Mozilla’s Liz Henry

DWeb Camp is going on from July 18-21 in Pescadero, CA.

Senior Release Manager, Mozilla
Co-founder, Double Union Feminist Hackerspace

Q: What excites you most about the decentralized web?

A: I like the idea of strengthening peer to peer connections that are hard for well established organizations, like states or corporations or even publishing houses, to control.

I’d rather see a billion small networks than one, or a few, overarching controlled platforms. Or, to put it differently, we might do well to have both – Sidewalks are great, but we need more cracks in the sidewalk for good weeds to flourish and for rain to get into the water table.

Q: What is the need to create a decentralized web critical in nature?

A: Currently there is a strong narrative of the need for control, for taming, for filtering, and rules and that means centralizing a lot of things that may already be a little too controlled and centralized. The decentralized web is a possible counter narrative.

Here are a few examples I don’t see mentioned often in these discussions: we need this for feminist organizing. We already need it and will increasingly need it for information (and organizing) about birth control, menstrual extraction, reproductive health of all kinds, and abortion. We have also learned the value of being able to privately share information in our local communities. We need it to evade destructive and ridiculous copyright laws, as well!

Q: What will you be speaking about at the conference?

A: I’m always happy to speak about those things, or about accessibility and disability justice related issues. But, what I’m actually planning to talk about is the projects I’m working on for the camp — a zine about the history of the land and the farm, which I’ll be handing out at DWeb, and a text adventure game written in Inform7 that’s set in DWeb itself. I have the framework of the game ready and will add to it during the Camp, inviting contributions from others to make it weird, fun, informative, and exciting.

Thanks Danny! See everyone at DWeb Camp on July 18th!

DWeb Camp Preview

By Will Howes

DWeb camp 2019 is less than a week away and with new events being added to the schedule every day (available here) there’s no shortage of things to be excited about.

There is something for everybody. In no particular order of importance, here are just a handful of the events I’m most excited about:

Yisi Liu, CTO, Dimension
Yisi Liu, CTO, Dimension

Yisi Liu – Lightning Talk: Enhanced Privacy with Decentralized Identity

This talk is rather straight-forward: Yisi Liu looks to discuss today’s online privacy and identity issues, and to propose his solution for a privacy-focused internet. A former natural language processing researcher, Liu has seen first hand the double-edged user data can be in the wrong hands. I’m hoping to hear more about how his exciting work on the Maskbook project comes into play, but regardless Liu will no doubt brings an interesting perspective to the privacy debate.

Mark Nadal, Founder, GUN
Mark Nadal, Founder, GUN

Mark Nadal – Lightning Talk: Scaling Decentralization: 2M+ Monthly Users on GUN protocol

The GUN protocol is a decentralized data storage protocol with a specialization in real time data synchronization. Perhaps most importantly, the GUN documentation declares that it “just works” and you know what, I can get behind that. In his talk, Mark Nadal will be giving a rundown of the different technology behind GUN that allows for scalability in a decentralized environment. I hope to come away from the presentation with a better understanding of GUN’s place in the dweb space and where it would make sense to put it to use in a project of my own.

Paul Frazee, Co-Creator, Beaker Browser
Paul Frazee, Co-Creator, Beaker Browser

Paul Frazee – Lightning Talk: Web Crawlers in the Browser

I haven’t thought much about what a search engine might look like in a decentralized internet, but Paul Frazee certainly has. One of the beaker browser’s co-founders, Paul will be talking about the power a browser-embedded web crawler can have for personal search engines and beyond. Having read many of Paul’s beaker-related blog posts, I’m excited to learn whatever he has to share with the rest of camp.

Feross Aboukhadijeh, Founder, WebTorrent
Feross Aboukhadijeh, Founder, WebTorrent

Feross Aboukhadijeh – Lightning Talk: What I Learned from WebTorrent

BitTorrent was my first introduction peer-to-peer technology, as I’m sure was the case for many others. So when I heard about WebTorrent, a streaming torrent client written entirely in Javascript, I was smitten. In this talk, WebTorrent-developer Feross Aboukhadijeh will walk the audience through his experience of developing WebTorrent and explain what his project got right (and what it got wrong). With his priority being to help as many people as possible, a deeper look into Feross’ development process will be uniquely insightful and uplifting.

Margaret Warren, Founder, Image Snippets
Margaret Warren, Founder, Image Snippets

Margaret Warren – Build a Linked Data ImageGraph

This project will provide a demonstration of the power of using RDF Graph to map offline spaces. Margaret Warren will be showing participants how they can contribute to a web of images being constructed throughout the event, something she calls an “image graph.” By adhering to the FAIR principles and through the use of RDF graphs, the end result will be a metadata-driven image collection that will share the stories of DWeb camp 2019 long after its completion. Get ready for metadata madness, through and through.

Sergey Ivliev, Director, Cryptoeconomics and Blockchain Systems Lab
Sergey Ivliev, Director, Cryptoeconomics and Blockchain Systems Lab

Sergey Ivliev – Lightning Talk: Formalizing Unique Identity on the Internet

During his talk on digital identity, Sergey Ivliev will not be pulling any punches. He’s going to give the audience an overview of what solutions have been conceptualized, why he considers them to be inadequate and thirdly his own proposal as to how we should identify ourselves in a digital space. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with his perspective, I think Sergey will contribute a lot of important talking points to the discussion as a whole.

Dawn Walker, Hypha Worker Co-operative
Dawn Walker, Hypha Worker Co-operative

Dawn Walker – Lightning Talk: Resourcing Values in Design

Concerned with the morality of technology used by Facebook and Google? If you’re attending DWeb 2019, that’s probably a safe assumption. In her talk, Dawn Walker will offer a brief overview of the strategies one can use when personal values are the driving-force behind technological design, as well as what keeping those values in mind during the design process actually looks like. Being unfamiliar with this approach to design, I’m excited to learn more.

noffle, Cabal
noffle, Cabal

Noffle – Fire by Friction Workshop

Whether you’re a DWeb attendee looking to relax or recently-thawed caveman searching for that next big evolutionary step, the answer is always fire. With their trusty bow drill and a 6000+ year old technique, Noffle is prepared to participants how to turn that cold pile of brush into a roaring flame. Even if I can’t get an ember churning on the first go, I’m looking forward to walking away with an understanding of the physics behind the technique and a respect for the ancient origins of the skill.

Studio Ghibli Movie Nights

Any film lovers in attendance might like to know that, among other activities, a movie will be shown each night in the following order: Thursday is My Neighbor Totoro, Friday is Wall-E and Saturday is Spirited Away. Having (embarrassingly) never seen a Studio Ghibli movie before, I’m excited to finally get the chance.


DWeb Camp Q & A with the EFF’s Danny O’Brien

DWeb Camp is going on from July 18-21 in Pescadero, CA.

Q: What excites you most about the decentralized web?

A: The Internet for me has always been a vision of autonomy among equals — being able to create, share and communicate with your peers as quickly and easily as possible.

Danny O’Brien, Director of Strategy, EFF

Somehow, so much of that communication now goes through a handful of chokepoints: silos where the data of our lives goes in, but never escapes.

Decentralizing — or re-decentralizing — the Web, is about continuing the project, after a brief diversion into the Google/Amazon/Facebook world.

Q: Why is the need to create a distributed web critical in nature?

A: I think if all the world’s communications are filtered through a handful of institutions — whatever those institutions are — it’s going to get distorted. We need to be able to communicate clearly, and as equals.

Q: Will you be speaking at the conference? What about?

A: Well, mainly I’m hoping to listen. But if you grab me, I’ll be talking about the changing tone of public debate (and how it compares to the post-revolutionary America and France), adversarial interoperability, lessons we can learn from the P2P wars, and what happens when regulators aim at Facebook and hit the Dweb.

EFF will be out in force, too — we’ll have folks to speak from all sides of the organization, from tech, law, and activism.

Thanks Danny! See everyone at DWeb Camp on July 18th!