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Key Talks: Interview with Mary Camacho

Technical challenges, key capabilities for a community-oriented P2P web, UX/UI improvements, ensuring interoperability, and building collaborative partnerships.

Mark Galkevich
October 25, 2023
Key Talks
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Executive Director at Holochain

Building a P2P web to support regenerative communities and economies is a pioneering effort. Could you highlight one of the most complex technical hurdles your team has faced in this journey, and describe the innovative solutions or approaches you've explored to overcome it?

Building Holochain required finding a robust solution to a distributed content addressable store with 2 criteria:

1) It must be scalably and dynamically self-healing in terms of storage resilience.

2) it must provide graph-like properties that allows content to be linked to other content, which is beyond standard distributed hash table (DHT) implementations.

To address the first criteria means that the addressable content which is held redundantly across many nodes must be reliably maintained at a set level of redundancy even as those node come and go. Our solution to this challenge, rrdht (more details here) and it’s quantized gossip algorithm is one such innovative pattern. This solution rests on using the public keys of agents as both their transport address on the network, and as an address in the DHT itself. This both allows messages from nodes to be self-authenticating (because they are signed), as well as allows us to create neighborhoods in the DHT’s hash-space for which nodes can advertise accountability for data storage. Our quantized gossip algorithm also makes it very efficient to know what data a node needs to request from other nodes to come up-to-date. To address the second criteria we added the ability to store and retrieve meta-data at content addresses that link those addresses to other addresses in the DHT’s address space. This linking data is what makes it possible to implement robust CRUD solutions in a distributed space without having to rely on consensus algorithms, but rather using CRDT and other eventual consistency approaches.

Your work at Holochain involves creating technical foundations for a P2P web. What key technical capabilities or frameworks do you believe are crucial for enabling the vision of a community-oriented, peer-to-peer web, and how do you plan to implement them?

Well, for us the key framework and technical foundation for a P2P web is Holochain itself. For us some of the key technical capabilities required for a P2P web are

1) The architecture does not introduce inherence centralizing dynamics (e.g. mining and staking).

2) As the number of nodes increases, the capacity of the system to make transactions must increase (i.e. it can’t stay flat as it does in blockchains).

3) It must work local-first, i.e. nodes must be able to make transactions while off-line or in partitioned networks which then can be synchronize later when they come on-line.

4) Each application must be easily segmented from all other applications and not be dependent on a single network to operate.

All of these properties are delivered by Holochain “out-of-the-box”. When you combine our approach of local-state with global visibility, i.e. each agent creating its own cryptographically self-proving ledger of its application transactions that are then shared to and validated and then held by other peers in the application network.

How do you plan to navigate the technical and logistical complexities of ensuring that different P2P web solutions and networks can effectively communicate and collaborate to create a cohesive web experience?

Holochain is built from the ground up to be modular and interoperable. We’re building prototypes and showcases of that to demonstrate how that works. With the game Fractal Tribute for example, we showcased binding to EVMs, gateways to centralised services like Opensea. We are working on other prototypes to enable interoperability like notifications and messaging protocol integration as well. Another example is that we have an approved Holo method on DIDs that we are fleshing out as a standard in addition to all the other identity and key management modules we are supporting.

Can you share insights into how you're building partnerships and fostering a collaborative ecosystem to address the multifaceted challenges of creating a regenerative and resilient P2P web?

We are deeply connected into the dweb space, major sponsors of dweb conference, and actively connected with other dweb technologies and their communities. We attend and sponsor conferences in the Web3 and Blockchain spaces as well as coop and innovation spaces. We also are convening events for social entrepreneurs and the technology community leaders in service of growing the entire ecosystem. Beyond that, we’re partnering with labs, other open source projects, community cooperatives, businesses and investors who share some of the same perspectives about how the audiences of tools, applications and technology can be used for human thriving.

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