Relaynet is a computer network where apps can remain connected when the Internet is completely cut off. It was designed to circumvent Internet blackouts caused by repressive regimes, but it can also be used to restore connectivity in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or even connect isolated communities where a traditional Internet infrastructure isn’t cost-effective.

A new generation of networked software will be made possible by Relaynet – Like an alternative to email that is spam-free, phishing-free, uses end-to-end encryption and requires zero servers.

How Relaynet works

When the Internet is unavailable, Relaynet continues to run on alternative networks (such as sneakernets or meshnets) which will eventually connect users to the Internet, and it also provides the basis for making software tolerant to delays lasting anywhere from milliseconds to months. A proof of concept simulating this scenario with Twitter was built to put Relaynet to the test.

When the Internet is available, the use of Relaynet will be absolutely transparent to end users. Except that their apps will be Offline First – Meaning that they’ll finally be able to cope properly with those small yet frequent disruptions that affect every Internet user, even in developed nations.

Organizations building and running distributed systems will benefit the most from using Relaynet. Thanks to the underlying architectural pattern (asynchronous messaging), the following will be possible:

  • Doing server push without long-lived connections or workarounds like polling. Similar to the Push API, without the need to run or pay for a push service.
  • Building peer-to-peer applications without having to run a server to store messages when one of the peers is offline.
  • Broadcasting messages that are fired once and are then propagated to all the relevant apps in the network. Broadcasting this way is more scalable than using blockchain: Messages are deleted as soon as they expire and they’re verified instantly.

Just about any software will benefit from using Relaynet, with the exception of those that stream data in real time (for example, Voice-over-IP, videoconferencing and many online games).

How you can help

Anyone can help by following the project on Twitter and Facebook, and spreading the word on social media.

If you have a background in cryptography, networking and/or software engineering, please provide feedback on the specifications.

Want to discuss other ways of contributing to the project? Join the Gitter community!

Current status

As of December 2019, the implementation of Relaynet is being funded by the Open Technology Fund. The goal of this project is to build the foundation to support Relaynet on desktop and Android. The implementations can be found under the @relaycorp organization on GitHub.

The backstory

Relaynet was designed by Gus Narea at the University of Oxford and its development is now led by Relaycorp, which was founded to support and scale the project whilst keeping it as open and inclusive as possible.