Updates: April 24, 1996
I have decided to take on the creation of the environment described in this paper as a project for FLORA Community WEB. It is my intension to make all the services described in this paper available from FLORA.

The paper has also been updated to reference the new locations of the files. No other modifications to content were made from the version made for New Years 1996.


For New Years, I have decided to put together a paper to describe the vision I have for a future Freenet. The more I talk to various people associated with the Freenet, the more I believe that my vision is not incompatible with their vision, it just shows a different way of looking at the issues we are facing, and technologies we have available to us.

I have been concerned by the recent discussions at the Board of Directors meeting where the WEB was discussed as if it was the entire solution to moving the Freenet into the newer technology. If the WEB is taken as the only distributed tool that is used, the Freenet still risks loosing people as menus and raw information is only a very small part of what makes the Freenet a very useful and necessary part of the electronic community.

The paper has two parts: The first part is a bit of a story that happens in the future - one year into the future to be precise as I believe that the changes necessary are quite possible to accomplish within that time. The second part is a more technical description of the technologies required to make the vision possible.

Please consider taking the time to read and comment on the ideas that I have presented here. It is possible that it is not complete, does not address all the issues and that it needs to be revised. The only way I will know this is if people comment.

I do hope that this will be a start in trying to form a common vision amongst the people working towards the future of the Freenet. I currently see so many people with good ideas and good intensions working at cross-purposes with each other. We need to work together and not waste our energies.

Thank you!

The history of a future yet to come

Jeff is late getting home, with guests arriving for a new-years party any minute. He knows Tim is awaiting at home for him to let him know that he had arrived.

He logs into his PC. The screen goes through it's normal spew of junk, and connects him up to his network. His screen has all the familiar icons on it: his Mailbox with it's flag up indicating that he has new mail, a newspaper sitting in the corner opened to indicate that new news articles have been posted to the areas that he reads, a little spider that enables his WEB client, and a little Telephone that is the tool he has configured to connect to the Freenet IRC server.

First things first: He'll check his Email to see if there is a message from Tim. As he is about to double click on the little mailbox, a ringing noise sounds and the picture of the telephone shows a handset bouncing back and forth. Jeff instead clicks on the phone to answer it.

<Tim> Hi Jeff. I noticed you just logged into your PC. I had a little IRC robot set up here that would let me know when you logged in. A group of us are in channel #newyears5 if you want to join us!

Pulling down a menu on the program, he selects join. He finds his friends Jeff and Anne already on the channel.
<Tim> Glad you could make it Jeff. Anne and I have just been chatting while I was waiting for you.

<Anne> What are you two up to tonight?

<Tim> I am heading over to Jeff's place later to bring in the new year. I have been waiting online for the last while for him to return.

<Anne> Just a moment. I was sent a message from a friend named Julie from work. Would you mind if she joined us?

<Jeff> Sure, sounds great.

<Julie> Hi All. I did a listing of who is online, and found Anne who I know from work. I am very new to the Freenet. I remember hearing about it before, but was told that it was very ancient, did not support a mouse, and was not worth trying to learn.

<Jeff> The old Freenet was all VT100 and required older style terminal programs. It is now what they are calling "distributed". What this means to us is that we can use the capabilities of our own computers, use a mouse if we have it, use whatever computer we want, be connected to the network in any way we want, and still be able to chat very easily.

<Anne> Don't pick on Freenet dial-up and it being an older style. I am still dialing up with a terminal package to the Freenet!

<Julie> I am clicking on my Macintosh and reading. How can you all see what I am typing without having a Mac?

<Anne> Julie, I definitely don't have a Mac. I have an old XT type computer that a friend loaned me. I call the Freenet with this program I load from disk. To do chatting, I go into a place on the Freenet called IRC.

<Jeff> My computer has a wire going downstairs to a house-mate's computer. He is an Internet consultant, a Freenet techie volunteer, and runs his own WEB server. When I turn my computer on, it runs a few different programs that I can click on. I have an Email icon, a News icon, and I am right now using the CHAT icon that we have set up to automatically connect to the Freenet when I turn my PC on.

<Tim> I am not as lucky as Jeff. My computer dials up to a local Internet provider. I use my Freenet address all the time as I keep changing providers. I am always looking for the best price *smile*. I use my Freenet mailbox using something called POP with Eudora, read my newsgroups from the Freenet with Netscape, and use the Freenet IRC server to chat. Since I am doing the most important things with the Freenet, it does not matter which company I use to dial up to.

<Julie> Tim, I am calling using a provider as well. I also have Netscape. How do you read newsgroups with it?

<Tim> In the configuration, there is a section for news. For the news server, just put in 'news.freenet.ottawa.on.ca'. Netscape will ask for your Freenet name and password whenever you ask to read a newsgroup.

<Julie> What name is it going to want: my real name, or the ca341 name?

<Anne> It wants the ca341 name. WOW - 'ca' . I did not know we had so many members already. That is over 100,000 Freenet members. It was only a little more than a year ago when Freenet celebrated having it's 50 ,000'th member.

<Jeff> Freenet grew very quickly once they moved away from requiring people dial into their computers. These computers were always slow with all these TELNET users connected. Now everything is so much faster as the Freenet makes use of your own computer to help with some of the work.

<Jeff> On the topic of Freenet growth, has everyone sent in their donations to keep the Freenet growing?

<Tim> I sent my yearly donation in already. If it were not for the Freenet, I would still be aimlessly surfing the WEB. I would not have met any of you, and would likely have been bored of the net by now. I took one of those "Hook me up" courses at the Freenet Outreach Center. They showed me how to upgrade my Internet Startup Kit to include chat, and showed me how to set things up to work with the Freenet.

<Anne> I took a course as well, but it was special for us VT100 dial-up users. There are different classes for people who use dial-up on cheap computers, and people who have different computers that can use mice and things. I am a little low on funds right now, but I feel good about the new year *smile*. Maybe I will take a different course when I buy my own computer.

<Jeff> Tim, are you still coming over? It is getting close to midnight!

<Tim> I am on my way. Can Anne come too? She is downtown as well.

<Julie> I am on Summerset. Where are you?

<Jeff> You are all invited. I am at 214 Flora St. See you all soon, and have a Happy New Year!

<Anne> Hope 1997 is as exciting as 1996 was! See you all soon!

<Tim> Bye!

<Julie> See you all in a few minutes. Bye!

My Vision for the Future of the National Capital Freenet
Technical enablers for this vision.