In this blog post, We will discuss about a P2P chat application Qaul.net and look at the importance of protecting our communication in true sense. Also, I will throw some light on what we are planning as a Google Summer of Code 2023 project for this application to make it more accessible, robust and independent from any form of services.
Qaul.net is completely internet independent and Peer to Peer chat application where within a local network, Devices can be connected and the communication can take place. There are no chances of being wiretapped since, It does not work on the internet. Also if you get caught up in situations where the internet services are down deliberately or indeliberately then too you can become part of the network using Qaul. All you need is the working device and the application itself.
There are multiple examples of places where the governments cuts down the communication links over a particular region due to riots or suspicious activities or sometimes due to political playings. With Qaul the aim is to provide local links of communication so no one feels lefted behind. For Example, In India-Pakistan border, there is always tension of riots between the nations for accquiring regions of Kashmir. Due to this, The internet services are blocked and also the communication infrastructure is damaged at times. Here, With qaul the issue can be addressed and people can still utilize communication since it falls under very basic rights of human beings. Another use case arises in a huge crowd events. Recently, My university organized the Techo-Cultural Fest with over 7000+ student gathered in one ground. Due to this large number of people gathered at a single place, We were hardly able to use daily communication services like texting on whatsapp or calling. The base stations went crazy to handle such a huge number of traffic over a particular cell. So, What if we students used qaul to create a network of our devices. This could have helped us in texting and finding lost friends.
Enough of use cases, But you might wonder : How does it works ? Well it uses mix and match of various communication protocols and cryptographic encryptions using which the application is decentralized and internet independent.
Each device is called node and it has a cryptographic id called qaul-id. Now for discovering the peer devices, It used mDNS (Multicast Domain Name System) using which you can get the IP addresses of the peer devices without reaching or using the root DNS server (like .com or .edu or .uk etc) and no data is transfered to anyone outside the local network. The messages stays end-to-end encrypted because of the cryptographic keys used to sign them while sending and are verified on the receiving end. For routing the messages the Distance Vector Routing protocol is used which is based on the Round trip time per connection request. So under the hoods, Every 5 secsonds each device sends ping to neighbour nodes to measure RTT and every 10 seconds each node sends the routing information to all neighbouring nodes. For routing you can use any route. It could be LAN or INTERNET or even BLE (in progress). The protocol will choose the best route and send the message over the network using that route. The device id remains throughout the time even when device is not connected to the network until the application is uninstalled. So, You can easily go offline and come back and get connected over the same local network.
We are going to implement the Matrix Bridge for the Qaul.net this summer. So If you wonder, Why would we need that at first place ? We need it because it will help us to broadcast messages over many mediums of communication which are supported by Matrix. This would allow the messages to be shared from local network to other networks and store it based on user consent. Let’s say, My government forces to not to keep any such application like qaul but luckily they don’t spy on my slack and allows me to keep it. I can simply transfer my messags from qaul to slack using the matrix server. If you remember earlier I said, You can get connected to same local network using qaul-id which get’s lost if you uninstall application. So, If there is a bridge, You will receive the message now in any communication medium. You can communicate from Slack as well. Relay Bridge is the appropriate name for this. But only relay bridge won’t be effective solution because we are using cryptographic encryptions and decryptions for each node or device. So, How would I know your real identity ? There is another kind of bridge which is puppetting. So, You can puppet yourself as old qaul user on the Slack or Telegram instead of a ghost username and then there can be fledged two ways communication. So, In total we need Relay and Double Puppetting (both ended) bridges with Matrix. Further from Matrix other bridges with other applications are already implemented and won’t be an issue.
There is a recent news where Indian Government is banning 14 Messaging Applications. One among the list is Element which is a matrix client which I am using for all my matrix chats. The government don’t understand the difference of banning the decentralized application due to their misconceptions about the technology.
I wish, We can bring qaul to greater reaches and get it working. Even if the government bans qaul from playstore or any downloading mediums, It can still be sent from one device to another by using open networks or application file transfer. But government can never block it from its functioning since it is completely internet independent. It just spreads like a virus and can be used wherever needed.
I would like to thank mentor Mathias Jud for helping very much in explaning and getting the concepts clear about the internal working of the applications, reviewing the proposal and helping in getting the IPv6 addresses to be launced in one of the new beta versions. Looking very much forward to work on this project with lots of enthusiasm and knowledge.