A nuclear exchange; an economic collapse that would go further; a tsunami that destroyed cities and key points; or a meteorite hitting the Earth… The world as we know it could end at any moment. But there are those who are already prepared for it: the preppers. At Magnet we have talked about this curious lifestyle. Fire, food, water: these are the three starting points of a community of people who will not be caught off guard by the end of the world.
But there are those who even go further. An engineer has built an alternative Internet in case of an apocalypse, a new communications protocol resistant to disasters.
The apocalypse, in our heads. Internet is essential, but let’s face it, it can be easily down. Disasters, government interference, and simple technical difficulties often topple the most powerful communication tool ever created. Just googling apocalypse in the search engine to find dozens of comments on Quora or Reddit asking: “Will it be possible to access the Internet when an apocalypse happens?”. Others are more intense: “How long would the internet last in a supposed zombie apocalypse?”
Reticulum, an emergency door. One man wants to fix that and is building what he calls the “prepper version of the Internet.” It’s called the Reticulum Network Stack and it’s designed to exist alongside or on top of the traditional Internet. Reticulum is intended to be a streamlined communications tool that can be rapidly deployed in the event of a systemic telecommunications failure, with minimal push and a strong focus on encryption and privacy.
Everything is built on the foundation of an entirely new protocol that claims to be more resilient than IP, or Internet Protocol, which is a set of software rules that govern the flow of information.
Centralized coordination. “There are a lot of fragmented solutions and limited tools, but in reality, what was really missing was a complete communications stack designed for use by normal people without centralized coordination of any kind,” explained the Reticulum designer, who goes by the name unsignedmark, in a Reddit thread. “A system that would allow anyone to easily build secure and resilient long-range networks with simple, off-the-shelf tools. Systems that would work and enable secure and private communications even when the shit hits the fan.”
Who is unsignedmark? Mark Qvist, a computer engineer who has spent his life building and managing computer networks. “I ran a small-scale rural ISP at one point, bringing high-speed Internet service to one of the many areas that had been completely neglected by the larger service providers,” he explained in this Vice report.
For all audiences. Reticulum can run on just about anything, including the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero. According to Qvist, people with minimal telecommunications and computer skills could set up a long-range messaging system for their community in about an hour using Reticulum, communicating through any number of available channels with their network peers.
“Do you want to extend it to the next city over VHF radio? If you already have a modem and radio, it’s 5 minutes to set up. I made it as flexible as possible while still being very easy to use if you have a bit of computer experience and radio. The real strength of the protocol is that you can use all sorts of different communication media and connect them in a mesh network. You can use transceivers, modems, ham radio, ethernet, WiFi, or even a roll of old copper wire if that’s your thing. what do you have,” he explained.
has not been the only. Qvist is not the first person to create a community-oriented Internet replacement. In New York City, the NYC Mesh project is building a mesh network that provides broadband to people across the city. But what Qvist is building is different. While many mesh projects exist to ultimately connect users to the regular internet, Reticulum is designed to be a support in an essentially post-apocalyptic scenario. It is built with encryption and privacy in mind, is open source, and is designed to route digital information between peers without going through a server or service provider.
a different network. As such, it is not a single network, but a tool for building networks. It is comparable to IP, the Internet protocol stack, which powers the Internet and 99.99% of all other networks in the world. In essence, it solves the same problems that the Internet protocol stack solves, getting digital data from point A to point B, but it does so in a very different way and with very different assumptions.
“We don’t just need one big network, built as an overlay on the Internet, we need a multitude of networks and connecting them in myriad ways. Thousands of networks without automatic switches or control mechanisms, linked together, both across the Internet and outside of it.” We need to give people the tools to build their own networks, anytime, anywhere, and to connect them to each other as they see fit, without arbiters, gatekeepers, or outside control.” Nothing can stop him. Not the apocalypse.